Resort Officials, Ad Firm Reveal Rebranding Campaign

Resort Officials, Ad Firm Reveal Rebranding Campaign
Ocean City’s new logo, “Somewhere To Smile About,” will be part of rebranding efforts. Submitted Image

OCEAN CITY – While the new campaign won’t be officially rolled out until the spring, resort officials and stakeholders last week got a sneak peak of sorts for the town’s new rebranding and marketing strategy.

Last December, the Mayor and Council confirmed BVK Advertising as the successful bidder in a months-long process to find a new firm after 10 years and the company hit the ground running earlier this year. In the months since, BVK Advertising has been working with the town’s tourism and marketing departments and private-sector stakeholders on efforts to rebrand Ocean City and develop strategies on how to retain its current visitors and attract new ones.

Last Thursday, the BVK Advertising team and resort tourism and marketing department officials provided a sneak preview of the rebranding effort for Ocean City, which will officially be rolled out in the spring, at the Performing Arts Center in the convention center. The simplistic campaign draws on what attracts visitors to Ocean City, including the beach and Boardwalk, the nightlife, golf, fishing and the myriad of other options for vacationers.

The rebranding campaign essentially encourages visitors to leave the stress of their daily lives behind when they arrive in Ocean City and embrace the resort’s “carefree” lifestyle. Carefree was a word used often during last Thursday presentation, a word used nearly as much as “smile.” The new slogan is “Ocean City: Somewhere To Smile About,” and the new logo is a simple but effective smiley face with the letter “O” for one eye and the letter “C” as the other eye with a smile underneath. The logo is somewhat reminiscent of the popular smiley face that adorned nearly everything in the 1970s.

Ocean City has had different marketing strategies over the years. There was the popular “Rodney the Lifeguard” campaign and the “Don’t Lose your Vacation Days” campaign, for example, each effective in its own way.

Business and Tourism Development Director Tom Perlozzo said the new partnership with BVK Advertising promises something new and fresh. The BVK Advertising rebranding effort is more than just a new slogan and logo. The firm is bringing its expertise in identifying new markets, nurturing the town’s historic markets and careful research into the town’s target audience.

“This is a very special day,” he said. “This is very powerful in nature. We’re changing the brand and we’re changing the direction the town is going for the next 20 years.”

Perlozzo said since he has taken the position, he has been working with the town’s tourism and marketing team to develop an attitude in the efforts to retain existing visitors and attract new ones. He said BVK Advertising shares that vision with its rebranding efforts.

“One thing I’ve tried to do since I got here is develop a mindset,” he said. “We don’t want to lose. We believe we can achieve anything. These folks are out here every day.”

Perlozzo said the town’s own staff, in working with the BVK Advertising team, is already achieving those goals with the new campaign and rebranding effort.

“We’re developing a sense of place,” he said. “What is it people love about Ocean City? We have a little momentum now and I’m excited about that. For the first time in years, we have momentum with our advertising agency. We’re going to be able to do things we haven’t been able to do in decades.”

Perlozzo did not waste the opportunity to plug a proposed youth sports complex in the resort area as part of the larger rebranding effort.

“Everybody in this room is affected by sports,” he said. “There are so many kids in Pocomoke, in Snow Hill, even in Ocean City, that need help. This is a game-changer. This can change the game for Ocean City for years to come.”

For their part, the BVK Advertising team has been working for months in Ocean City, determining the town’s best attributes for attracting visitors while working with local residents and business owners to determine the best strategy for the rebranding efforts, according to BVK’s Matt Stiker.

“We’re incredibly psyched to be in Ocean City,” he said. “This seems like a momentous day for us, and for Ocean City. We’re steeped in the tourism industry, and we understand the visitors’ mindset.”

Stiker briefly outlined the new marketing strategy, which will go beyond the traditional television, radio and print mediums and branch out more into social media and other innovative ways to reach potential visitors.

“Where are we going to put these messages?” he said. “We’re moving Ocean City’s advertising into the future. People really want to engage in the brand. We’re going to focus on zip codes and where the people who spend are coming from.”

BVK’s Stephanie Barkow said the firm is cognizant of the rich traditions that have brought visitors back year after year for generations, but also explored what sets Ocean City apart from other destinations.

“We worked hard to leverage the town’s historic assets and its core values,” she said. “The values are who we are. We wanted people to connect with that emotion. That was the goal. We met with 30 stakeholders to help us understand what makes Ocean City special.”

Barkow said the BVK campaign embraces Ocean City’s time-honored traditions and its greatest assets while encouraging visitors to enjoy the carefree lifestyle while they are here.

“We want to make sure we stand out and be fresh,” she said. “We want to position Ocean City so it’s relevant with where society is going. Ocean City has a rich tradition, but it’s also evolving for the future. It has deep roots in hospitality and that puts people at ease. It allows people to get in the mood and relax.”

Barkow said the message in the rebranding campaign will be clear.

“The message here is carefree,” she said. “It’s like a weight being lifted when you get here. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s also the core values we all want in our lives.”

BVK’s Kevin Kriehn agreed the rebranding effort for Ocean City embraces the town’s greatest assets. He said the somewhat simplistic new logo is an example of that.

“What you have here in Ocean City is truly one of a kind,” he said. “There are three basic things- the people, the place and the perception. We’ve all had those ‘aha’ moments in our lives. For us, it was landing on this logo mark. We know this is the right fit for Ocean City’s brand. It speaks to the carefree spirit symbolic of this entire community. How great is it to be the place than inspires everyone to live the carefree life? This brand has that potential.”

In closing, Perlozzo said the combined efforts of his team and the BVK team resulted in a new campaign and rebranding effort that will truly separate Ocean City from its competitors in the region and beyond.

“Where this campaign is going is fun, carefree and a little bit of swagger,” he said. “That’s what we’re really all about here. It’s all about smiling and it’s about the people. It’s about that smiles that we make.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

Alternative Text

Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.