“People have an awareness issue about Bermuda,” lamented Jamari Douglas, the recently appointed vice president of marketing and communications for the Bermuda Tourism Authority. “We’re grouped in with all the Caribbean islands, but that’s not what we are. Yes, most of us here have Caribbean and African roots, and then we’re a British territory, but we’re closer to the US than the UK. We’re a subtropical island in the North Atlantic.”
That’s just the tip of the jetty when it comes to confusion swirling about Bermuda. Then there’s the perception that the island offers nothing but pink sand beaches and haughty Brits in shorts and knee socks. The island’s image needed help, an extreme makeover, and that’s where the hero of our story stepped in. Meet Daren Bascome, managing director at the design, branding, and marketing firm Proverb. His South End-based company works with destinations, and a host of companies and organizations, in an effort to clarify and shore up their identities to the world.
Bascome works with destinations to help them send a meaningful message to the masses that extends beyond tourism clichés. His team is charged with distilling the quiddity of a place and clarifying it. Bermuda, as it turns out, needed a lot of brand buttressing.
“The reality is that if you’re just looking for beach days, Bermuda has fewer beach days,” Bascome said. “But what Bermuda has is an experience that doesn’t just need to be confined to the edges of the island.”
In many ways, Bascome was the perfect man for the job. He was born in Bermuda, grew up there, and could offer an insider’s perspective. He also now lives in one of Bermuda’s largest feeder markets. Studies about what travelers think of the island were commissioned. They’re helpful, but what’s equally helpful is a native son.
“There’s an identity associated with the island that centers on country clubs, rum swizzle, and pink beaches,” Bascome said. “That imagery has been in the market for a hundred years, and it’s all completely true. What we’ve tried to do is round it out. There’s a swagger and sophistication that Bermuda hasn’t historically promoted.”
It’s not entirely unlike what Bascome did when he was tasked with a rebranding campaign for Boston in 2021. He didn’t ignore some of the city’s traditional imagery, but he also wanted to move away from tricorne hats and the Dropkick Murphys. The campaign, called “All Inclusive Boston,” featured a video narrated by Boston poet laureate Porsha Olayiwola and focused on communities of color, the LGBTQ+ community, along with neighborhoods that seldom appear in advertising to promote the city.
“People, neighborhoods, and businesses that never felt like they were a part of destination marketing and the visitor economy now felt very involved,” said Dave O’Donnell, vice president of strategic communications for the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau. “And that their voices were being shared.”
O’Donnell said the city won’t know if it’s been successful at attracting a new set of diverse tourists until next year, but he said there have been 2 million views of the first video that Proverb produced for the campaign last year, along with a shorter clip produced earlier this year called “This Is My Boston Accent.”
Similarly, Bermuda won’t know how successful its new campaign is for at least another year. It only launched two months ago. Among the differences between the Boston and the Bermuda campaigns is that Bermuda hopes to conjure an air of mystery about the island with the slogan “Lost Yet Found.” The message is that tourists will communicate with locals to bring in more authentic experiences, something studies found tourists were looking for in their vacations.
“Our first official tourist arrived in 1883, and since then, Bermuda has had an image shaped by others,” Bascome said. “‘Lost Yet Found’ really leans into a certain mystery around the island that we wanted to embrace. You can roam freely, but there’s a real community there to receive you. We even wanted to utilize something like the mysteriousness of the [Bermuda] Triangle, which had previously been avoided at all costs.”
The triangle is now incorporated as a stylized “A” in the new logo for the overseas British territory, as BERMUDΔ.
Bermuda’s perception problems are very clearly spelled out in a survey culled from another branding company called Heart+Mind (they were behind the “What happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas campaign). It found that what Bermuda offers, and what people think Bermuda offers, doesn’t often match. Vacationers are looking for adventure travel, culinary travel, nature, and history. However, they don’t think of Bermuda when planning trips focused on these activities. Research found that when they think of Bermuda, they think of golf.
Instead of creating a campaign that whacks travelers over the head with what the country offers, Bascome and his team went subtle. To demonstrate adventure travel, and Bermuda’s proximity to the United States, there’s an advertisement featuring a man leaping from a cliff into the ocean with the caption “You don’t have to fly far to feel far away.” The campaign is not all mystery and subtlety. A new website guides visitors to traditional activities (such as golf and beaches), but also highlights the 21-square-mile island’s culinary offerings, plus cultural and historical sites.
For Bascome, the Boston and Bermuda campaigns are close to his heart, and not simply because of his close association with both places.
“I’ve gotten so much out of travel and international travel in particular,” he said. “I think it’s probably had as big of an impact on my view of the world as my education or maybe even my parents. I believe that a large part of why people travel is to change themselves and how they see the world. I’m hoping by highlighting new perspectives on these two places we can be a part of that.”