Ocean City is “America’s Greatest Family Resort.” Avalon is “Cooler by a Mile.” Ventnor is “Shorely the Best!” And on Wednesday, Somers Point unveiled its new slogan: “The Shore Starts Here.”
In a tourism market filled with dozens of Jersey Shore towns, a city has to try to stand out — and for many towns, that means creating or continuing a brand, by marketing and promoting a catchy slogan and/or logo that briskly encapsulates a town’s image of itself.
The question is: Does a town’s branding really have an impact on the hearts and minds (and wallets) of tourists?
The Somers Point Business Association hosted the announcement of the new slogan Wednesday night at Greate Bay Country Club, where more than 100 people gathered to watch the yellow, blue and green logo be unveiled.
Michael Bray, chairman of the Somers Point Economic Development Advisory Commission, said before the event that Somers Point “has such a rich history and thriving economic climate, but it really doesn’t have a consistent image. We wanted a brand identity and story we could communicate on a larger scale.”
Following two years of discussions and meetings with committee members and native marketing firm Suasion Communications, the concept of “The Shore Starts Here” was developed in part because of the city’s location at the busy Exit 30 on the Garden State Parkway, which leads to Somers Point as well as Ocean City and the Downbeach towns.
“It’s a great new slogan for Somers Point,” Mayor Jack Glasser said. “It actually tells a story. The shore does start here in Somers Point.”
The city had an older slogan, “Small Town Charm on the Bay,” he said, “But it was time to change, time to move on, time to improve.”
After the controversy with the state “Stronger Than the Storm” campaign, in which the politically connected public relations firm MWW billed the state $4.7 million — about $2 million more than the runner-up firm planned to charge — the cost of marketing has become a touchy subject.
The “Do AC” campaign, meanwhile, had the $30 million cost of its first year paid for entirely privately by the Atlantic City Alliance and its member businesses and casinos.
The Economic Development Advisory Commission was awarded $25,000 from the city for two years, and out of that Suasion was hired on a $20,000-a-year retainer. Bray said no additional funds have been used in the creation and rollout of the slogan and logo, and member businesses such as Greate Bay are also contributing in other ways, such as the country club’s hosting of Wednesday’s unveiling.
Bray also said it would allow the various city groups behind the Good Old Days festival and Bayfest to be able to use a “universal” symbol for their marketing.
“It’s an icon that can stand alone,” Bray said. “But it’s one thing to create something, it’s another to actually follow through and do what’s necessary to market the brand and connect the dots.”
In Ocean City, the slogan “America’s Greatest Family Resort” has been in use for “85 to 90 years,” said Michele Gillian, executive director of the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce. The slogan and the city “are married,” she said. “It is the brand of Ocean City.”
But it was only about 10 years ago, she said, “that we really started using it more. Whenever you see an advertisement, you see ‘America’s Greatest Family Resort’ somewhere in the advertisement. ... Five or six years ago, we did a study with a marketing team. People would tell us we are America’s greatest family resort. It clearly identifies who we are. When you have those sort of descriptions and slogans about your town — if they fit, wear them.”
In Avalon, the slogan “Cooler by a Mile” has been in place for decades, borough Public Information Officer Scott Wahl said — partly due to its location, slightly farther out into the ocean than neighboring towns — but its logo was updated in the past decade.
“It used to be in cursive script, with a seabird in it,” Wahl said. “Now, it’s a blue oval, and it’s really used on everything. (Tourism expert) Roger Brooks said it was important to be really consistent with everything you do. So Avalon went with the navy blue approach on streetlights and hardscaping, the same blue used in the logo. And it’s used on all vehicles. Whatever the branding and baseline is, go with that forever.”
Longport has had two slogans, Mayor Nick Russo said, “The Pearl of Absecon Island” and “Longport: The Best Port,” the latter of which was painted on its water tower — until recently, when an unfinished painting project resulted in both the slogan and the iconic smily face being removed.
Ventnor’s slogan, “Shorely the Best!” still graces the Ventnor Heights water tower, a remnant of a marketing campaign from about a decade ago. Former Mayor Tim Kreischer said the slogan was the idea of a local doctor, who promoted it with his own stickers and buttons until a marketing team hired by the city decided to officially endorse it.
“I don’t think it’s being used as much as it could be,” Kreischer said. “It is on the website, but I haven’t seen too much marketing. It’s lasted the test of time, but it could be used more.”
For some people, though, a shore town slogan is more of a symbol that they’ve arrived back in a favorite place. “Smile! You’re in Sea Isle City” has a similar back story to other Cape May County slogans, arising decades ago — in this case, in the lyrics of a song, Mayor Len Desiderio said — and becoming more actively promoted since the 1990s.
“It was my suggestion to put it on the water tower,” Desiderio said. “I’m pretty amazed. I know people that come in late at night and take a picture of ‘Smile! You’re in Sea Isle,’ and send it to their family to let them know they’re here. I think people smile when they see it.”
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