has shouted to anyone within earshot, great brands are more than logos, taglines, slogans, and clever advertising copy. Great brands assert ownership of an idea – a compelling, credible idea that drives preference and customer loyalty. Great brands are relentless and consistent about bringing that idea to life, and at their best, employ bold gestures to reinforce their relevance.
The same holds true with great destination brands. As regular devotees of this blog know, we’re not above throwing stones at contrived, lukewarm destination branding “strategies” including those we pillory in our Destination Blanding
post. But on a recent Hilton Head summer excursion, BrandCultureTalk couldn’t help but appreciate the white sand beaches dotted with signature blue umbrellas. As All Get Aways
notes, “Despite the hearty development, the island sports an underlying tastefulness. The blue beach umbrellas, available for rental, are lined up in orderly rows
This bold, commonly-embraced practice is not simply a result of monkey-see, monkey do, but an outward and visible destination branding imprimatur developed from and inextricably interwoven with the island’s indigenous history. As Margaret Greer, author of The Sands of Time, A History of Hilton Head Island, notes, “Summer was for farming, winter was for harvesting oysters and in the fall the ‘blue crab’ was caught
The “low country” region’s iconic “blue crab” is the quintessential icon of the coastal shores of Georgia and South Carolina. The uniform blue umbrellas pick up and play off this regional delicacy.
What’s particularly compelling is how well Hilton Head has embraced and extended its blue umbrellas across its entire beach line and with the full support of an eclectic mix of iconic hotel brands including Westin
, and Marriott
. The ability of the destination to unite its diverse representation around a consistent and cohesive bold -- yet simple -- gesture serves as a visible touchstone to reflect the unique regional character and hospitality. It is also a testament to the destination’s world-class status that transcends that of any individual hotel brand – the Holy Grail in destination branding.
At Hilton Head, the components express their unique brands and personalities within the framework of the destination’s singular idea, creating a gestalt that is greater than the simple sum of the constituent parts.
[caption id="attachment_310" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Adjacent Marriott and Westin Hotels on Hilton Head Island United by Shared Blue Umbrellas"]
Tapping into the singular characteristics and vitality of a destination while uniting disparate views and competing businesses around a singular idea is one of the greatest challenges and opportunities in destination branding. With the simple, shared iconic symbol of the ubiquitous blue umbrella, Hilton Head pulls it off with enduring, timeless aplomb.