Cheers to 25 Years

A Branding Experience: Atlantic Bay’s 25-Year Marketing Journey

From pre-social media days to a full-blown digital brand experience, Atlantic Bay has used intentional design to create successful brand recognition in various markets.

Nov 15, 20215 minute read

When a few young guys came together in 1996 to start a mortgage business, the pressure was on to find a name that was catchy but also taken seriously by folks making one of the biggest decisions of their lives. Suits and ties weren’t going to do all the talking, so 20-something CEO Brian Holland had to hit the drawing boards and determine how he wanted to position his company.

Getting Our Name Out There

Have you ever heard of the Yellow Pages? If not, then this will make zero sense to you, and if you have, well, you’d be pretty impressed. Back in the 90s, digital marketing was not a thing, so Brian got creative. He wanted to be sure that homebuyers picked his company over others when they were flipping through business listings, so he went with Atlantic Bay Mortgage Group as his company’s name … and here we are 25 years later.

“A is the first letter of the alphabet. So, when folks looked up mortgage companies, I knew ours would be one of the first on the list of many,” Brian said.

Not too shabby for a guy relatively fresh out of college.

Another big push Brian did early on to get Atlantic Bay’s name out there was to apply for local awards in Hampton Roads and throughout Virginia.

“The Best of the Beach Awards were really big at the time, and I knew we needed to win one of those things in order for people to take us seriously,” Brian said.

Atlantic Bay ended up winning the award for several years consecutively.

“It was a snowball effect, and we actually won the award 10 years in a row! It definitely helped to get our name out there and let the community know we were trustworthy and good at what we do, even if we were ‘the little guys’ at the time,” he said.

Sorry, Greg Isn’t Here...

Brian said he took his marketing techniques to the next level with government-looking mailers back in the day.

“We always said they came from Greg Bishop, so that we could track which mailer the person received … if they asked to speak to Greg, we knew they got that specific mailer. We didn’t have a team member named Greg, so it worked,” Brian chuckled as he recalled.

But that’s not where the creativity ended.

After the success of the Greg Bishop mail campaign, Brian decided to try some other print marketing techniques, and they worked great, until there was a misprint by a local paper.

“When they reprinted the ad, they got the number wrong by a digit. I called the number, and it was a sweet older woman. I knew the ad was going to work, so I hired her more or less! I asked if she was going to be home for the next few days. When she said yes, I told her I’d give her $10 for every person you send over to our correct office number,” Brian remembered. “She did! And she made about $3,000 that week. Plus, we got a free additional reprint from the paper. It was awesome!”

A Well-Thought-Out Brand Experience

While the early-day marketing techniques were really the catalyst to Atlantic Bay’s current marketing successes, the branding journey of the company has been intentionally thought out every step of the way to ensure our brand experience connects with our people and the communities we serve. Vice President of Digital and Brand Experience, Jessica Swink, offered some additional insight on the extensive consideration that has gone into the branding experience since the start.

“Our visual identity in the Hampton Roads market has always been very memorable, which is important to remain top of mind. The blue palette reflecting sky and sea is calming and nods to the area we got our start 25 years ago,” Jessica said.

What’s Really Important When It Comes to Branding

A brand is much more than just a logo – it’s a living, evolving shared experience. That feeling when you walk through the door, or you see a number pop up on your phone when it’s ringing. A brand is a promise of what you can expect, and ours has always evolved around lending peace of mind – and feeling like home, like family.

“Since I’ve been here, we’ve always remained true to who we are as company. The values on which Brian and Stan built this company haven’t changed. What has evolved, though, and what will continue is how we tell that story,” Jessica encouraged.

When anyone visits our website or sees a post on social media from our corporate brand account or one of our team members, the goal is for people to immediately know who we are and what our promise is to them without having to wonder. We’re continuously looking for opportunities to ‘Show, not tell’ when we communicate our story.

So Much More than a Logo

Beyond the logo, the goal has always been to communicate Atlantic Bay’s very family-forward brand, with a warm and inviting tone.

“This was obvious from the day I first walked through the door as an employee too. Everyone puts so much consideration into taking care of our borrowers, from mortgage professionals to our corporate support – but that culture comes from within and helping one another as colleagues as well. We’re a family business in nearly every sense of the phrase,” Jessica shared.

And while the actual look of the brand has evolved over the years, we’ve always strived for it to remain true to the high-quality services we offer.

“Our currently utilized monogram A was designed to show both steadiness and movement – representing our flexible and disarming nature while also illustrating our steady commitment. As we continue to grow as a business in each of our markets, my hope is that this logo continues to be a beacon that is memorable and continues to provide positive feelings about who we are,” Jessica further explained.

Our Best Brand Representation

A brand is only as strong as the experiences delivered. And after all, our team members are the best brand ambassadors we have.

“What has been really amazing to watch over the past couple of years is how our employees have evangelized our company and what it means to them through community events and on their social channels. Everyone has a unique Atlantic Bay story to tell while there’s a common thread of our core values as a constant,” Jessica suggested.

When core values are a big part of the brand experience and DNA of a company, it shines through the team members – even without mentioning the company or core values at all.

“The marketing is great … the logos are great, but the best part is our people – and they’re truly the best example of what Atlantic Bay is about,” Brian beamed.

So, whether you got snail mail from Greg Bishop or caught a glimpse of our logo while scrolling through social media, we hope that your experience allowed you to feel more connected to the work we do in mortgage and beyond.

Above all, we want people to remember that we’re a family built and run business, made with families in mind. Our borrowers aren’t just files and loan numbers to us – and our brand experience should always be an illustration of that commitment.