Seabrook Island’s New Branding Initiative

Seabrook Island – Make It Uniquely YoursSM

Seabrook Uniquely Yours Brand Image

How do you describe the qualities and benefits of Seabrook Island to potential visitors and future property owners in just a few words?  And do so in a manner that is not only telling, but also distinctive, inviting, and differentiated from other oceanfront communities in the southeast?  Just as BMW has ‘The Ultimate Driving Machine’, Seabrook Island needed to develop a tagline and associated advertising that would effectively communicate its unique value to the outside world.  That was the challenge that was commissioned by the leadership of the three key constituencies of the island – the Town, SIPOA, and the Club – to develop and launch a new branding initiative for Seabrook Island.

The desire to develop a new brand for Seabrook Island sprung from recognition that our external communications could be much more effective if we all spoke with “one voice”.  Previously, each of the three island entities had developed their own advertising.  At best, each had to be effective on their own without the benefit of being able to leverage the communications of the others.  At worst, there was a risk of presenting inconsistent messaging across the three.  “The leadership of the island recognized that it was imperative to have communications about Seabrook Island that were unified and integrated, reflecting an agreed-to central brand position,” recalled Eric Strobel, who was instrumental in getting the new branding initiative underway.

The first step in the two-step process of developing the new branding was to develop the “Brand Positioning” that would serve as the strategic compass for the eventual branding execution.  Brand positioning helps define to whom you will be directing your message, the scope of the space in which you’re competing, the most important and differentiating benefit you are promising, and the key reasons to believe that promise.  Sound simple?  Not at all.

The team tasked with developing the new brand positioning was put together by co-chairs Eric Strobel and Jerry Brown.  It included members with relevant marketing backgrounds and a history of active engagement on the island: David Allen, Steven Bottcher, Sue Eckenrode, Pat Greubel, Tina Mayland, Stuart Rumph, and Kristina Skalak.  Eric and Jerry named the team the “Seabrook Island Branding Coalition” because it truly represented a coalition of cross-island representation focused on meeting the branding needs of all three key constituencies.

The SI Branding Coalition began the process by compiling a list of over 50 characteristics that could be associated with Seabrook Island.  To boil these down to the most important few for use in a brand positioning was difficult.  The team developed a number of alternative options for the brand positioning and then recruited the assistance of a focus group made up of current Seabrook Island residents, many of whom were relatively new purchasers on the island.  The discussion from that session proved to be one of the most valuable steps in the process.  It became apparent to all involved that the characteristic that makes Seabrook Island most unique is not just its natural beauty, or its beautiful beaches, or its high-quality amenities, or its endless range of activities, or its proximity to Charleston, or its private, warm, and welcoming community.  It’s the fact that Seabrook Island residents and visitors have access to ALL of these benefits, which allows them to configure a lifestyle that best meets their specific needs and dreams.  It was this differentiating value proposition that best defined the Seabrook Island brand positioning and set the stage for step two in the process.

Once the brand positioning had been defined and approved by the island’s leadership, the reins were turned over to a Branding Launch Team to put the strategic concept into practice.  The Launch Team was made up of representatives from each of the island’s core constituencies best suited to execute on the new strategy.  Their members included: Terry Ahearn, David Allen, Caleb Elledge, Tina Mayland, Joe Salvo, Kristina Skalak, and John Thompson.  The team also tapped the expertise of Obviouslee Marketing, a local public relations and advertising firm with Seabrook Island experience.  “Our charge was to develop what the outside world would actually see in our external communications,” explained David Allen, chair of the Launch Team.  “With the brand positioning defined, we were now ready to develop Seabrook Island’s tagline and associated advertising; our equivalent to BMW’s ‘The Ultimate Driving Machine’.”

But executing on the new brand positioning again proved to be no easy endeavor.  The key to an effective print advertising campaign is first to catch the attention of the reader, then to maximize the potential that they will actually read the ad, and finally to stimulate their interest to learn more.  To achieve this, the new tagline and associated advertising had to be concise, distinctive, differentiated, inviting, informative, and of course consistent with the approved brand positioning.  This proved to be a highly iterative process.  The Launch Team bounced ideas back and forth among themselves and the specialists at Obviouslee Marketing.  Many iterations for both the advertising concept and the eventual tagline were considered, each building upon the other until a breakthrough was achieved for each.

The Results: Seabrook Island will communicate its value proposition of being able to configure one’s own lifestyle from the diversity of options that is Seabrook Island in three ways:

(1) Through an advertising concept that depicts three activities from a resident’s or visitor’s personal agenda showing some of the diverse options they chose to make up their day.  The three agenda items will overlay the picture in the ad, with the picture relating to one of the three agenda items.  The actual agenda items used will change with each iteration of the ad, but the overall layout and format of the ad will remain the same, providing a common ‘look and feel’ over time.  And with the wide variety of activities available as options for agenda items, the variations in potential application of this advertising concept are endless and can be tailored to the target audience of each publication.

(2) Through wording, or “advertising copy”, that conveys in a concise and compelling way the reasons to believe in the value being promised:

Miles of pristine beaches. Minutes from Charleston. Endless amenities and activities.
And the inexplicable feeling of knowing you’re exactly where you should be.

(3) And through a tagline that delivers the promise in an inviting and distinctive manner:

Seabrook Island – Make It Uniquely YoursSM

Reaction to the new branding has been extremely positive, and the island’s leadership at the time could not have been more pleased.  “This is a message that will resonate with visitors as well as current and future residents of the island,” observed Bill Holtz, past Mayor of the Town of Seabrook Island.  “We now have a message that all parts of the island can believe in, utilize, and rally behind,” commented Ray Gorski, past President of SIPOA.  “Seabrook Island truly is a unique jewel.  Those of us who live and visit here know that.  This new unified branding will help us effectively communicate this to those who don’t,” concluded Ken Ingram, past President of the Seabrook Island Club.

–David Allen