072717 Tourism: Hammock Coast brand under review
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Tourism: Hammock Coast brand under review


By
Nikki Best
Coastal Observer

Where exactly is the Hammock Coast?

It’s definitely not Myrtle Beach. It’s not Charleston. It’s not Pawleys Island. Or is it?

The Tourism Management Commission is taking another look at the impact of the Hammock Coast brand that was adopted seven years ago for marketing Georgetown County.

“I’m getting a handle on what is the Hammock Coast,” Jennifer Norman, newly hired tourism development director for the county, said. She says she wants to examine how the brand is performing and if people are understanding it.

Commission member Drew Streett thinks the brand needs a defined physical boundary because such a high percentage of visitors arrive by car versus airplane. “If you’re driving to the Hammock Coast, then when you enter the Hammock Coast there should be neon lights saying welcome,” he said.

Maybe not neon lights. That probably wouldn’t conform with sign ordinances.

The Hammock Coast moniker was created by Rawle Murdy Associates in Charleston, an agency the commission contracted with before hiring its first marketing director in 2011. The account director from Rawle Murdy asked the commission members in 2010 if they wanted to put up a sign that read Welcome to the Hammock Coast. They agreed to think it over. There is still no sign seven years later.

“You don’t see T-shirt shops selling Hammock Coast, S.C., merchandise,” commission chairman Bob Seganti said. He understands the struggle of trying to identify as an individual brand while falling under the umbrella of a juggernaut. “We struggle with this on the golf side with Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday. It’s a huge co-op.”

“There’s been very little reinforcement of it,” commission member Bob Jewell said. “There was controversy, I believe, around the time that it was selected, and it just appears to me, as an outsider then, there was some energy behind it for awhile and it seems to have dissipated.”

Norman believes the brand is performing well outside the area, but that more support needs to come from local merchants. Especially the rental companies. The Lachicotte Co. will hand out Hammock Coast cups to renters who check-in the Saturday before the Aug. 21 solar eclipse. “You know how people want to go home and brag about their vacations, so let’s give them something to brag with,” she said.

That’s one way to boost the brand with the visitors, but the locals are the ones who should be championing it. It’s a challenge for the commission to fiscally support that kind of thing, they’re legally required to spend money outside of the of the area, Seganti said. “How do we get folks living in the market to be promoters outside of the market,” he asked. “They’ll be our best promoters.”

If locals came on board the brand could work, but it still may not. It’s time for a review. “I think it’s a good time, we needed to put fresh eyes on it, and to get y’all’s opinion on if it’s working,” Norman said. She wants to know if a business is not using it in its branding, why not? “Ultimately we would hope that the locals would use it.”

It’s her third week on the job. The brand is one of many things Norman must go over in the coming weeks, but the commission was excited about getting the brand out in front again.

“So it’s your job to light the fire,” commission member Will Dieter said to Norman. “Welcome.”

To the Hammock Coast.

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