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The Making of a Great Brand

As I recently enjoyed a family vacation at the fabulous Sea Pines Resort on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina, I was reminded of the building blocks of a great brand. In this case, the brand is The Salty Dog, and it is indeed a great brand that is loved by many because it: 1) is grounded in great, authentic storytelling, 2) consistently demonstrates a commitment to product quality and customer satisfaction, and 3) uses multiple communication outlets and brand extensions to provide for more meaningful consumer engagement opportunities. If you have ever been to Hilton Head, you have surely seen, and likely consumed this brand in some shape, form, or fashion. Let’s examine what makes the Salty Dog brand such a great one.

Great Storytelling

The Salty Dog brand stems from the mythical story about a dog named Jake who rescued his master, John Braddock after their fishing boat, the Salty Dog, was sunk by a sudden storm off the shores of Hilton Head island. As the story goes, Jake saved his master’s life by swimming for three days safely back to shore with John holding onto Jake’s collar. This engaging mythical story has become the foundation for the brand, and various chapters of the story are cleverly shared with consumers as they engage with different components of the brand.

Clearly, the central figure of the story is Jake, the dog that saved the day. Jake has, rightfully so, become the central icon of the brand and is the primary element of the brand’s visual identity. Jake’s image is adorned on everything from restaurant logos and menus, to those famous t-shirts and hats that almost every visitor to Hilton Head leaves with, and all kinds of dog and beach-related accessories. And, the story of The Salty Dog is consistently told with each and every interaction with the brand.

The Salty Dog team has done a masterful job of engaging consumers in the story of Jake and have, smartly, invited consumers to extend the myth by sharing their own stories and pictures of their pets wearing Salty Dog gear. It is safe to say that the story of the Salty Dog extends well beyond the beaches of Hilton Head Island.

Commitment to Customer Satisfaction

While authentic storytelling is core to the brand, the Salty Dog team understands that great brands must also consistently deliver against the promise of product quality, customer satisfaction, and surprise and delight. There are numerous proof points here, starting with the invitation from Jake himself for consumers to easily provide feedback about their experience with the brand at The Salty Dog team also consistently uses special contests and sweepstakes, like the “Lucky Receipt Contest” which rewards random consumers who have purchased something with full refunds, or the “Lucky 8’s Contest” which rewards random consumers who have engaged with the brand via numerous digital outlets with 8 free t-shirts! And, of course, they offer a money-back guarantee on all purchases and make returns and exchanges “easy and fuss free”. These are all examples of standing behind the brand and inventing ways to surprise and delight consumers to drive further engagement.

Smart Brand Extensions

What started as a single t-shirt design and one local café operated at South Beach has grown into an absolute “destination” for visitors to Hilton Head Island, and a globally accessible brand via the web. The Salty Dog is now synonymous certainly with South Beach in Sea Pines Plantation, and arguably with that of Hilton Head Island at large. This is thanks to very smart brand extensions into numerous restaurants, shopping, and entertainment solutions for vacationers. The original Salty Dog Café has been pleasing guests for 31 years with great lunch and dinner solutions featuring Salty Dog and Jake-branded favorites, in an unbeatable setting along the docks of Braddock Cove. The outdoor tropical bar complete with live entertainment and famous Salty Dog branded cocktails is always a crowd pleaser. The brand has extended its offering over the years to satisfy demand with a second eatery called “The Wreck of the Salty Dog Café” which continues the great storytelling that made the brand what it is. And, there’s Jake’s Salty Dog Pizza and the Salty Dog Ice Cream Factory to meet those consumer needs. When it comes to shopping, the Salty Dog T-Shirt Factory is the destination in South Beach. It is a small venue but packs a tremendous selection of those famous Salty Dog t-shirts, sweatshirts, and accessories for the beach, dog, and home. There’s a second retail store called Jake’s Cargo which is a bit bigger and offers an expanded selection of Salty Dog merchandise, as well as more storytelling via live macaws named Captain, Cherokee, and Kiwi. Lastly, the brand offers a variety of daily Salty Dog Music cruises on a 63-foot catamaran complete with a full bard, island-inspired cuisine, and live music.

No matter where you turn or what your needs or interests are, the Salty Dog is there to deliver with great solutions and storytelling. I can speak from experience that no visit to Hilton Head Island is complete without at least one engagement with the Salty Dog brand, and, of course, one more t-shirt, sweatshirt, beach towel or hat to add to the collection!

In conclusion, the Salty Dog is a great brand that is loved and consumed by many thanks to great storytelling, a commitment to deliver an extraordinary customer experience and satisfaction, and multiple venues to engage both physically and virtually with the brand to help extend the brand’s story!

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