Strategic Marketing Lessons From Paradise

"It's OK... I'm with the brand!" 

In strategic marketing circles it's often said that "the product" is about what's in the box, but "the brand" is about how the customer feels when they use it.  The product tells potential users what functional benefits they will receive, while the brand allows them to understand whether they are a good emotional match. Everyone knows what a computer or a car can do functionally. But branding is how a Mac user knows they are not a PC buyer and how a BMW owner identifies themselves as someone who wants the ultimate driving machine.  

Because of this, it's critically important for any marketer to have a compelling brand promise that they can clearly and succinctly convey to their target audience through any communication vehicle.   In the case of the tiny Caribbean island of Bonaire, the vehicle that best conveys the island's brand promise... actually IS a vehicle.

A brand promise so compelling, they've emblazoned it on their license plates.

A brand promise so compelling, they've emblazoned it on their license plates.

Can a country actually have a "Brand Promise"? 

If you're not a scuba diver you may have never heard of Bonaire. But if you are a scuba diver - or know any scuba divers - you probably know a lot about Bonaire. (You may even know that, technically speaking, it's not actually country but rather a "special municipality" within the Caribbean Netherlands.)  And what anyone who knows anything about Bonaire knows is that it is all about scuba diving.    In fact, the main type of diving done on Bonaire is shore diving.  Divers load their gear and tanks into rented pick-up trucks, drive around the island (literally... it's only 24 miles long by 5 miles wide at the widest) and pull over and dive.  On Bonaire diving is available to scuba divers whenever and wherever the fancy strikes them.  

Ray Purkis Raymond Purkis Bonaire Mirror

Sure, there are lots of islands in the Caribbean that offer scuba diving.   The Cayman Islands, Turks & Caicos, the Bahamas, and many others are known for diving.  But Bonaire is different... it is essentially known for NOTHING BUT scuba diving.    If you're not a scuba diver that probably sounds very limiting. However if you are a scuba diver - or a marketing strategist - the single-minded idea of "a Diver's Paradise"  probably sounds like a dream come true.  

Well-defined Audience, Single-Minded Brand Promise 

According to DEMA (The Diving Equipment & Marketing Association) there are approximately 3 million active scuba divers in the US, and as many as 6 million worldwide.  While that's certainly not a huge marketplace, with a well-above-average mean household income and a high willingness/desire to travel it is definitely an attractive audience... especially for any destination promising a "Diver's Paradise" to all those who visit.

There are many "signs" that remind divers that they are in the right place on Bonaire.

There are many "signs" that remind divers that they are in the right place on Bonaire.

Living The Brand

Many people believe that branding is simply a matter of interesting logos and compelling taglines. However, successful marketers know that the brand needs to permeate everything an organization does. According to David Aaker - one of the foremost authorities on branding - "living the brand" is not only the most crucial element to success, it's also the most difficult.

Based on a recent survey of scuba divers, Bonaire seems to be doing a pretty good job communicating a brand promise that resonates with divers, >50% of whom report that they are likely to visit the island at some point in the future.  And the idea of being a Diver's Paradise not only attracts divers... it keeps them coming back time and time again with "repeat consumption" metrics that would make any brand envious.

Ray Purkis Raymond Purkis Montgomery NJ Bonaire 79

Of course, there are many beautiful islands in the Caribbean, and if you want to learn about scuba diving (or golf, or tennis, or sailing, or hiking, or fishing, etc) you'll probably be fine visiting almost any one of them.

But if you also want to learn about the value of a single-minded brand promise that resonates with a well-defined target audience I suggest you pack your mask and fins and head to the Diver's Paradise of Bonaire!