ANNA MARIA -- When people think about the Bradenton area, they remember its turquoise water and sapphire-blue sky, and that's what officials used in their new rebranding campaign, hoping it will attract more tourists.
"People are looking to exhale," explained Dave Di Maggio, president of Aqua Marketing & Communications, Inc., the St. Petersburg firm that studied and researched how best to explain the area's beauty to those who might want to come here.
What Bradenton, Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key have in common is "a relaxed, laid-back environment that is real and authentic," he told a group of about 30 Wednesday at the Anna Maria Island Community Center.
With people bombarded by an estimated 3,000 paid messages each day, it was important that the rebranding campaign distinguish Manatee County from all other destinations, he said.
This part of Florida's west coast is not overbuilt with huge skyscrapers, is not pretentious, big-citified or in any way artificial, which is what his studies said people were looking for in a vacation destination, he said.
While the area is still growing, its growth is in keeping with the past.
"It's growing, but is still inviting," he added.
The destination's new name and logo will appear with its reinforcing slogan: "Real. Authentic. Florida."
The logo features colors that visitors recalled fondly from their vacations: "Bradenton, Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key" are featured on a turquoise background, along with the phrase "Florida's West Coast."
Geographically, tourists are confused about where they are when they come here, Di Maggio said.
His research showed clearly that the most effective locator for visitors -- so crucial to drawing them here -- was the word "Bradenton."
"'Bradenton Area'" gets better traction in the market," he
explained, which also is why the county's newly-renovated convention center was renamed "The Bradenton Area Convention Center," even though it is in Palmetto.
The redevelopment of downtown Bradenton will help other parts of the county because, even though people want to unplug when they vacation, they still like lots of different kinds of fun things to do, Di Maggio said.
Some visitors might even stay at the Pink Palace, a historic hotel under renovation in downtown Bradenton, and commute to the beach, he predicted.
Sara Kennedy, Herald Staff Writer, can be reached at 941-745-7031.