Georgetown County to visitors: Don't come

Georgetown County tourism leaders plan to attract visitors to their county by suggesting they not come.

Why? Because a survey of 400 former guests of the county determined that's what those people wanted: a place to visit that they could enjoy and would love to keep as their own secret.

Georgetown County Council heard plans Tuesday for the campaign, intended to give the county an image of home. The branding effort will roll out on May 13.

The initiative for both a tourism moniker and an advertising campaign will christen Georgetown County as the Hammock Coast.

John Kautz, brand and relationship manager for Rawle Murdy Associates, a Charleston marketing communications firm, presented the concept to County Council members at their meeting Tuesday. Kautz said work on the campaign began last fall with a survey of past visitors.

"They told us it was the most relaxing place in the world," Kautz said. "They were into discovering new things, people who want to be in the forefront to find those hidden gems ... but they kind of want to keep it to themselves."

Kautz said most of these people - many who live in Charlotte and other areas of North Carolina, Atlanta and Greenville - recognize subdestinations such as Pawleys Island and Murrells Inlet, but they don't associate the words "Georgetown County" with a place to vacation.

He said his firm's mission was to leverage those findings and develop a message to bring more visitors to the county.

"We need something that means something to people emotionally," Kautz said.

The Hammock Coast logo shows a hammock stretched between two trees with a crescent moon in the top corner.

Kautz said the word "hammock" evokes a spot that is relaxed. He said the name also had to be timeless, that "it's simple by design, so it will stand the test of time."

The advertising campaign describes Georgetown County as "South Carolina's secret spot," an undiscovered vacation destination, and features a man with a sign that reads, "Please don't come to Hammock Coast."

The advertising message, which will be part of public relations and social media as well, also came from research results, he said. Respondents said the area is not overbuilt, has a laidback attitude, and it's a place where they "don't want you to let anyone else in," he said.

The ad's character is "an interesting, funny guy who embodies that ... 'I don't want you to come here because I don't want it to change,'" Kautz said. "It gets people's attention because it's unorthodox."

The creative message and the brand has been approved by the county's Tourism Management Commission, said Annette Fisher with the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce.

The tourism Web site is being revamped, and the concept will be revealed to the public May 13 "to really show off to the community what this actually looks like," she said.