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One Big Idea: Summer Dreams

January 29, 2016

| Bill Gullan |

When summer comes, everyone has a particular place that is ‘their’ beach town, but how do places separated by mere miles stand apart so drastically in the minds of consumers? On this week’s episode we look inward at a recent branding project with the borough of Wildwood Crest, New Jersey. If you like our podcast, please subscribe and leave us a rating!

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Bill Gullan: Greetings one and all. This is Real-World Branding. I’m Bill Gullan, President of Finch Brands, a premiere boutique branding agency, and this is One Big Idea. We record this on Wednesday the 27th of January, 2016 in a region decimated by the fourth largest snow storm on record. At least Philadelphia was, I’m north and west of the city so we had a couple of extra inches. It is not quite as cold outside but it is certainly wintertime and what better thing to think about than summer.

On today’s One Big Idea we’re going to do something that we like to do from time to time which is talk about a project that we think holds within it interesting lessons about building brands and building organizations. We chose this particular project because it was for the borough of Wildwood Crest, New Jersey, an amazing, wonderful, warm, both in terms of interpersonal relationships, but also the summer times in Wildwood Crest that have become so legendary. We chose this because of the fact that I think we would all love to be there and love for it to be summer right now.

Here we are, Wednesday, the snow was Saturday. I’m still on a two-hour delay with my kids. Of course, all that matters is love and safety so I won’t even think about how disruptive that has been to the schedule. In any case, another thing we’re doing today that is a little bit different for One Big Idea is we have a special guest. I’d like to welcome Mandy Rippert, Brand Analyst of Finch Brands who was instrumental in the project that we’re going to talk about today. Mandy, so glad to have you.

Mandy Rippert: Thanks Bill. Happy to be here. Thanks for inviting me.

Bill: Indeed. Indeed. In the spirit of summer and in the spirit of this recent project completed for Wildwood Crest, let’s talk a little it about The Crest. You were not only of great value in all that we do with clients, but in this particular case I know that you were pretty excited about it. Tell us why that was.

Mandy: Absolutely. I have been going to The Crest for a quarter of a century now, since I was a baby, I believe it was my second summer. My family has always gone there. We’ve bounced back and forth between a few different hotels that we grew attachments to. Friends of the family also have a house down there. We just love it. It has a special feeling. It’s different from not only other shore towns, but other boroughs of Wildwood. Wildwood Proper, West Wildwood, North Wildwood. It just has its own special feeling.

Bill: No question. That was something that you knew and that the rest of our team learned along the way. A little bit of back story here, the borough of Wildwood Crest does exist on the same island with Wildwood Proper, with North Wildwood, with other destinations that have their own assets, their own feels, their own aesthetics. One of the interesting things that led up to this, the commissioners of the borough of Wildwood Crest, I think, certainly spurred on by residents and business leaders in that town, did feel a need to think a little bit about distinctiveness. Even though sharing that island with other communities and obviously their close relationships there, Wildwood Crest does have assets and a feel all its own, to your point Mandy. They decided we need to try to express that difference through a logo and tagline and other work that we’re in the process of doing, but the logo and tagline are public, that really does represent the uniqueness of Wildwood Crest as a place to live and as a place to visit.

As we went about this process, there were some interesting balances that we needed to strike here. One of which, and Mandy I’ll ask for your input on this, heritage and progress. For those who are in this region or who have been there know that there’s a really unique style of architecture called Doo Wop, that really references in many ways the Bobby Rydell and Wildwood’s past – the ’50s and ’60s style of architecture that’s very distinctive. Then again, we’re in 2016 so people are looking about creating roots for themselves and their families. When you think about that balance between some of the history and what the future today looks like, how did you and the team think about this as we embarked upon the work?

Mandy: Personally as a visitor I had to be very careful of not playing into the retro aspect of it too much. As I mentioned, my family has gone down there ever since my grandmother was a little younger than me. She was taking trains and buses, back when you could get to Wildwood that way. Doo Wop was very important to her and I always had a special grip onto that. I think I had to be pulled back a little bit. Our creative director, Jordan, wanted this really modern feel. There is a strong attribute in the modernity of it because families are getting younger. Families, even couples my age, 20’s, 30’s, are really trying to figure out where to place their roots. We need to make sure that we have this modern feel and that we’re not trapped in the ’50s and ’60s, but at the same time appreciate it.

The Doo Wop was more of a Wildwood thing but it also encompasses Wildwood Crest, because they do get put together a lot. I really think that we did a great job of showing how Wildwood Crest can be fresh and how we can attract new visitors, but also show the ones who have been visiting us for years how much we really have to offer.

Bill: Right. The campaign that’s been ongoing for quite a while for the Wildwoods as a whole, has emphasized the tradition, love those Wildwood Days, and the songs playing, the Bobby Rydell Doo Wop feel of the past. To your point for folks who may not have roots, like you and in shore towns like this, it’s important that it seems to have a contemporary expression of what a destination may have to offer.

Mandy: Absolutely. I feel like I’m an old soul because I really did appreciate it. When the website, when the Wildwood Proper website, had Wildwood Days as the background music, I used to refresh the page just so I could see it. So I am an old soul. We really do need to think about people that are not only new to the area, but perhaps even new to Philly. Philly with a lot of businesses coming in here, Comcast is bringing in a ton of new jobs so there are a lot of people from other cities and they’re really gripping on to the Jersey Shore as that summer aspect. We want to show them that we have a lot to offer.

Now Wildwood Crest is more residential, there are hotels, but what you might call a party scene is down toward Wildwood. They have the boardwalk. Wildwood Crest is a dry town. That’s something you need to think about, especially the young families, that they may like to pull back toward the end of the night where they can have their young families and not worry about any partiers or people coming out of bars or any sort of traffic incidents that come along with that.

Bill: To your point, another balance we needed to strike here was between Wildwood Crest as a neighbor to Wildwood Proper, but also as sort of a breed unto itself. I think the night life as you mentioned, the boardwalk and all of the attractions and rides, and everything else, the bustling scene that is associated with Wildwood, it seems that visitors to The Crest, residents in The Crest, probably find a lot of value in being close enough to do that when they want to do that, but then coming home, or to a home away from home, every night that is a bit more quite, a bit more family oriented, that was an important thing to get across.

Mandy: Absolutely. It was definitely an important thing when my family was choosing where to go. We have visited other shore towns. I visited other shore towns as a teenager, but nothing quite felt like Wildwood Crest, just because you did have that uniqueness of look, you can have the nightlife and the parties when you want them, but then you come back and you can feel like it’s peaceful and relaxing. With people’s busy lives they want to be able to have a nice serene environment.

It’s very different in the winter. One of our contacts, Brian, at Wildwood Crest, he mentioned that it’s like Mayberry in the winter. That’s really something that we wanted to capture, that it is this small town feel and it’s this great little American small town.

Bill: Right. No question. The balance, ultimately, because you mentioned folks who may be new to the Philadelphia region for whom the Jersey Shore is sort of a birthright, it’s a rite of passage, it’s a summer time thing. The Jersey Shore successfully recruits travelers from all over, up into Canada, throughout the eastern part of the U.S. and beyond. I know that one of the issues that was important here was frankly when you use the word Wildwood and when you don’t, folks in The Crest call it The Crest and feel a great deal of pride in the distinctive qualities of Wildwood Crest, compared to anywhere else in the world, but certainly compared to their neighbors. At the same time, it seems when you’re dealing with folks who may not have that geographic point of reference to know that The Crest is really the borough of Wildwood Crest and its right next door so that all that nightlife is convenient if one desires. It seems like the logo system, the identity system that we developed, needed to have that kind of flexibility.

Mandy: Yeah, I think it’s great. We’ve developed a really awesome set of logos, putting Wildwood in it for billboards and a lot of outdoor advertising to show we are close enough to it so you will have the action. Although you said we have what we call the marketing logo for The Crest that we can’t wait to use on promotional items, bags and car magnets, so our residents and visitors can really grasp onto the brand and know that they are attached to this place, The Crest.

Bill: When you’re down there or if you’re someone who has the family history that you do with Wildwood Crest and you really want to wear it proudly, or if you’re down there traversing the island and you cross geographic boundaries and all of a sudden the signs and the trashcans and everything else you see, the banners suggest that you’re in a new place geographically. You’re now in The Crest.

If we’re talking about broader, advertising and marketing to folks who may not know the configuration of the Barrier Islands and the south Jersey shore, to understand that Wildwood Crest is adjacent or at least super close to what one may want from Wildwood seems to be important, so we built a flexible identity system that will enable folks who are making decisions about external communications to determine which is the right rendering to use it in at any given time, well obviously they both have the same level of power and consistency, they both are built on the same color palate and iconography. One of them has Wildwood Crest type set, the other just has The Crest typeset.

We have on our website going live simultaneous to this is a blog post which talks a little bit more about this project and shows the images and the identities themselves. Understanding the limitations of the podcast medium, do you want to, Mandy, speak for a moment about the logo itself and some of the stuff that’s going on there, the process to get there and things like that?

Mandy: Absolutely. The logo has a very distinctive C for The Crest obviously. What’s awesome about the colors of that is that the top half represents the sunrise and the bottom represents the sunset.

Bill: What’s the significance of that? It made a big impression on us.

Mandy: You can see the sunset from Sunset Lake and the sunrise over the beach. You can experience two amazing views within Wildwood Crest.

Bill: That’s distinctive to The Crest, [being able to see the sunrise and sunset over water], isn’t it?

Mandy: Yes it is. It’s something that residents love, visitors love and most importantly the key stakeholders that we met with they really wanted to put this across. This was a story that we were really excited to tell. One thing about that C is that it is like a stamp, so it’s very distinctive on our advertising, on our promotional materials.

Going through the center of the C, we have an awesome wave to show you this is a beach town. If you’re unfamiliar with it, from out of town, or maybe a little further south of here, you’ll understand that this is a beach destination.

We also, I’m sure Bill you’ll probably want to speak to this as well, we introduced a new tagline for them.

Bill: Yeah. Tell us. Don’t leave us in suspense.

Mandy: All right, here it is. ‘It’s Better in The Crest.’

Bill: It sure is. Tell us about how that came about and what it means.

Mandy: The latter half of that, The Crest, is another way to really put through The Crest and put that name into visitors minds. We thought about ‘It’s better in The Crest’ because there are just so many different aspects of life that are better in The Crest. The beaches. Recreation. Of course, you could just use that word I said before, life is better in The Crest. We really love the variety of uses.

We’re also applying it to some of the other departments of Wildwood Crest. The Wildwood running club is going to have a similar logo. Wildwood Crest running club, that is. A similar logo and tagline. We’re building these brands based around the Wildwood Crest’s new logo.

Bill: Back really quickly to the logo, it really is an abstract rendering of sunrise and sunset and the unique ability that folks in The Crest have to see them both over water, which really I do believe is unique in the Jersey Shore and well beyond. The C as noted becomes this recognizable form that underlines the uniqueness of Wildwood Crest compared to anywhere else in the world. The wave shape yes, it signifies a beach town, but I know that we struggled mightily to resist the predictable beach town iconography. Your flip flops and here’s your flying bird and here’s your sun. While we do have some of the beach town feel in the identity, at the same time it was important for us that we didn’t do it in the same way that everyone else wants to do it.

Mandy: Absolutely. We really wanted a sophisticated style. We didn’t want it to look cartoonish at all, or common place. It’s a very thin, classic wave that we think is timeless for the Wildwood Crest.

Bill: Interestingly during the process, in the how the sausage is made type part of the conversation, at least it was interesting for us, early on the wave form that we were using in community meetings and others, there was a minority, but still enough voices that indicated that they thought it looked a little bit more like a mustache. Obviously, that’s not what you’re going for. You don’t want the logo to be confused. Even if you did a test and three out of a hundred said a mustache, three is too many.

I know we went back to the drawing board and it is perhaps not as easy to understand without doing it, how many different wave forms we needed to test to find one that worked. I know that one of the things that kept happening is even when we liked waves, different sort of ways of illustrating a wave, sometimes it would make the C look like a G, which was the exact opposite, again, of what was intended. Finally finding a wave that had the right kind of feel and recognizability, but also maintaining the discrete C, that is an important part of the icon, it was quite a process, wasn’t it?

Mandy: It was quite a process. We heard the Facebook comments and everyone’s opinions and we were glad to hear them, this is a logo that they will see for a long time. I think that in the end, I’m very glad that we got pushed to where we stand now. It’s a great, classic logo and things turned out great in the end and we ended up in a really good place.

Bill: When you go down next summer for your 27th year, most likely one week at a time, two weeks at a time, what do you hope people are saying about this identity, when we look forward, how do we want people to feel about it?

Mandy: We want them to feel excited in that they have a place that they really belong to. I think that we felt it internally and they might know how to verbalize it, but now they can see it visually. I imagine in the beginning of the summer there will be a lot of talk about this new logo, when did they do this? I wonder who did that? Maybe in a few summers from now they’ll just think of it as something they wear like a badge of honor.

Bill: Sure. ‘It’s ours.’ We want people to feel ultimately that they have a piece of ownership of it. It represents and symbolizes a place that they love, a life style that they’ve chosen their way into. That often, as in the case of your family Mandy, they choose again and again, and certainly in the case of folks who live there year round, they’ve chosen to make it their home.

Wildwood Crest branding project, very honored on behalf of our company to have played a role in it. Interesting process, as always, in terms of strategic and creative elements. On the strategic side we certainly needed to balance heritage and progress, we also need to balance the reality of the borough Wildwood Crest having an obvious and appropriate association with Wildwood Proper, which in many ways is very, very different. Maintaining and nourishing that association, while at the same time striking out in a distinctive way to symbolize and express those things that make Wildwood Crest so unique, and so special, and so valuable. That balance being struck creatively.

Then you get into the process, this was because of the way that the municipality makes decisions both by law as well as just the general sort of style of the commissioners with whom we were working, all of this was done in public or much of it was. We were able to see small government in action. We were able to receive very immediate and passionate feedback at every stage here. Like you, maybe, I’m super proud of where things ended up and can’t wait to see this start to be on bumper stickers and beach bags and banners and everywhere else that we know that they intend to place it to represent Wildwood Crest the borough.

There’s also a seal version which we hadn’t mentioned that will be used in official capacities from the seal of the borough. It will sit in the courtroom, which also doubled as the official meeting room in Wildwood Crest. It’ll be on the wall there. It’ll be involved with law enforcement, different official uses. There’s multiple versions of this thing but they all are designed to convey that unique thing about what makes Wildwood Crest so special and as the taglines say, why it’s truly better in The Crest. Mandy, any closing thoughts before we adjourn?

Mandy: I’m just really proud to work on this project and really happy that we delivered a really great product for these folks, not only for the town but for the commissioners we worked with. We love them all and are really happy to have completed this first phase of the project.

Bill: Absolutely. Thank you Mandy, to you and to the rest of the Finch team for working so hard and so well on this. I know that we’re all proud of this and excited, honored to have been entrusted with it and then excited to see where it goes as well as to play a role in it taking the marketplace by storm.

That’s One Big Idea this week. As noted, from time to time we try to pick a story, tell a story of a project, some of the things that were relevant to it on a messaging or strategic level and then talk a little bit about where the creative may have ultimately landed.

The Wildwood Crest logo and tagline were approved in public right around the holidays, so it is fairly new even though we have inches and inches of snow on the ground still, we can’t help but think about summer so we’re gratified to tell the story. If you do want more information, if you go to the Finch Post blog has a post, as well as some images of the logo and tagline. As always, we love your feedback.

There’s really three ways to support us here, making sure you subscribe so that it pops into your inbox. It’s 100% free. It also makes sure that you don’t miss a one of these. We would love, as always, the second way is to keep the dialogue going on Twitter @FinchBrands, @BillGullan, other social media and ways. We always love feedback, ideas for future guests, future shows, future topics, etc. Then lastly, again, of course if we deserve it, we’d love a rating in the app store of your choice. It helps our own marketing in making sure that those who will find value from this podcast are able to locate it easily within how ever they search for things to please their earbuds.

That is it from here. Every one bundle up. We’re moving slowly but surely into February and then that’ll mean spring training soon, final four, Wrestle Mania, a lot of great things happening in February, March and April and then of course, we’re back into summer time and it’s love those Wildwood days for Mandy and family. Signing off from the Cradle of Liberty.

About The Author: Bill Gullan

Bill Gullan is the President of Finch Brands. His nearly 30-year (ugh!) career in branding has revolved around naming, messaging, M&A brand integration, and qualitative research. He has been with Finch Brands since 2001.

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