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New downtown branding effort unveiled in Ocean City

 

Main Street Ocean City launches new marketing campaign

Ocean City downtown brandingShop. Dine. Unwind. Year round.

It’s only a few words, but when linked together and combined with a new, specially designed logo local marketing officials hope they become a powerful force capable of promoting Ocean City’s unique downtown.

A new marketing campaign was unveiled at a Thursday evening, June 21 gathering at the Ocean City Tabernacle.

Main Street Ocean City, a community organization dedicated to improving the appearance, image and economy of the city’s downtown, was selected in January to receive a 2011 Digital Design and Branding Service Grant provided by Main Street New Jersey. Ocean City was one of two South Jersey communities to receive marketing services valued at $20,000. 

Sitting under a tent on a warm evening, local merchants listened as Main Street’s Director, Marcia Shallcross and invited marketing experts explained what the selective grant meant for the downtown.

Cindy Williams, a contracted Main Street consultant, chronicled the detailed 24-week long process leading up to the creation of the campaign. Williams, who works with state programs in New Jersey, Oregon and Michigan, to create the requisite visioning, downtown brand identity and website design, said a steering committee formed to assist in the process decided it was most important to convey that Ocean City is a year round shopping destination for shopping and dining.

“We set out to accomplish that,” she said, adding that Main Street’s purpose is to create a vital, thriving city center appealing to people who live, own, work and vacation here. Other goals include providing existing startups with the tools necessary to be successful, market the downtown to locals, property owners, vacationers, employees and surrounding communities, attract investment to the downtown, enhance the appearance and highlight eclectic design attributes and provide and intimate and distinctive shopping experience.

The seven-member steering committee, she noted, comprised local merchants and interested parties with marketing experience and was assisted by six volunteers.

Everything about the campaign, down to each word, Williams said, means something.

The logo, including a colorful shopping bag portraying all the fun things about downtown shopping is buffered by the words “Downtown Ocean City” with green and blue waves – land and sea – and the location – between the beach and bay, 6th to 11th on Asbury and 9th Street Gateway.

The committee selected among 60,000 font styles in numerous sizes to create something on which they can “build on and grow.”

“It’s very exciting,” said Shallcross, adding that the large turnout “created a great vibe.” Shallcross said the marketing campaign was “just getting started” and she hoped that Williams would continue working with the steering committee.

Marketing material contains carefully-selected verbiage. “Over 100 independently owned and operated coastal stores, shops and restaurants.” The scenery and message changes with the season; in the spring and fall, it’s all about the block parties. Leading up to Thanksgiving, it’s all about the “Earlier than the Bird” promotion. Christmas means an old-fashioned downtown comes to life with carolers and carriage rides. On New Year’s Eve, First Night is the star.

As each holiday approaches, the “shopping bag” changes color and design, though it retains its boxy façade and u-shaped handle. The Christmas and New Year’s version are elegant and classy, with bold colors. Other times the bag’s message is lighter, more whimsical and fun.

Sometimes the message is a simple “Discover the new old city of Ocean City, brush off the sand and step by the place where summer never ends.”

Williams said the committee pinpointed the audience, defined the city’s cultural heritage, past, present and future with the design. The process, she said, was “exhausting” but the effort worthwhile as the end result was “airy, upbeat and trendy.”

“You communicate not always with words,” Williams noted. “Sometimes you use symbols.”

The idea, she said, is to “grow a style and an attitude, find the right walk and the right talk.” The use of the proper colors to convey a message was important, she noted. The message could change with the season, whether it was fun and whimsical, hang-loose or sophisticated, she said, but it had to stay within the framework. “It’s not what you wear it’s how you wear it.”

The list of what the committee wanted to promote “went on and on,” she said. The committee ultimately created the shopping bag made up of icons. The bag could be white, black or a variety of colors. Black, she said, lends an element of sophistication.

The thought, “what’s in the bag?” attracts a would-be shopper. The logo is now featured on a billboard entering Ocean City along Roosevelt Blvd. in Marmora.

Shallcross said the logo would be utilized on brochures and banners, too.

“We feel very privileged to have received this grant,” said Shallcross.

A downtown website is in the works, Shallcross noted, and will offer details about each of the more than 100 shops.

“This is wonderful,” said businessman Tom Heist of Heist Insurance. “It’s another draw, another reason to come downtown.

“Ocean City is getting sophisticated,” Heist noted.

Businessman Mike Hinchman said the branding effort was impressive and asked Williams if she would offer the presentation for a larger audience.

“The language is fabulous,” he said. “We should have a public forum, invite the whole town to see this first class work.”

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This entry was posted on June 28, 2012 by in Uncategorized.
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