St. Maarten was blessed with a strong commercial branding in its early years of tourism development. This branding was achieved by a natural talent by its people in the field of hosting, marketing by a range of commercial interests, a collaborative government and a smart choice of content: “The Friendly Island” together with the French-Dutch story.
In those early years, competitive destinations were not yet spending money developing their brands. There were also less active tourist destinations. Today, destinations are competing more actively and more financially in promoting themselves.
We have also learnt that in the case of pure commercial branding there have been many lessons learnt about brands declining as they are not actively supported. We have learnt that brands decline in recognition numbers as they are left unattended, and not supported by regular support activity. There are many commercial examples.
We are all dependent on the brand “St. Maarten” in all its forms. Everyone on the entire island is dependent on the strength of this brand, because it is a factor in the choice of potential visitors that could trend both up and down.
It is a brand that is grounded as a geographical reference, but, that by itself does not make it a brand (The Falkland Islands are well known but not as a tourist destination.) For the branding to be effective for us, the brand “St. Maarten” needs to link to the potential visitors’ concept of what is attractive for a tourist. Our communal task is to ensure that the brand “St. Maarten” holds all the positive associations that will ensure a strong tourist economy.
There are many ways to keep this branding at a high level. The most cost-effective ways will be found by creative parties with a good understanding of the communication issues. It can be achieved through media purchase, media management, events, content management and a fast-evolving variety of methods that online options have precipitated. Branding is like a plant; it needs care and stimulation.
Are we ensuring our valuable and crucial brand remains strong?