Sealand: An Evolving Brand Rooted in Human Emotion

By Ariel Frias Ducoudray, who works to enable SME's to trade throughout the Americas through electronic tools. He is the Head of Online Sales at Sealand - a Maersk Company, a TMSA Corporate member.

It all started with a phone call.

That Thursday afternoon on December 2013 I was already daydreaming about my upcoming Christmas holidays, on a beach in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, a place I look forward to visiting with my family every year. 

Little did I know that this phone call would change my career (and postpone the aforementioned vacations). The call came from my friend Timothy Simpson (then Head of Marketing for Maersk Line in North America). He wanted my help to build a new shipping brand for the Americas, with a small caveat: the new company would inherit the name of the founder of the category, Sealand. And so, without hesitation, the chair under the palm tree in the Caribbean would had to wait. We had plenty of work to do.

From that day on, our job was to build a brand that could stand on its own, leveraging the heritage of the original Sealand, infused by the innovative spirit of Malcolm McLean, but with a new purpose: bringing to the forefront the people, the products, the countries and territories we serve. A strong departure from the asset heavy branding that our industry is used to project.

For the brand launch I used an image of a senior farmer working on a lettuce field in the early hours of January 1st, 2014. The lone worker walked the fields, tools in hand, the mountains and blue sky expanded in the background. It was an image that spoke of dreams, hard work, perseverance, can do attitude, humbleness, attributes that we wanted to instill into a brand designed for an audience with a vast majority of small and medium sized customers (SME's).

In order to reach the customer base, to speak their language, to state our value clearly, they had to “get us” and we had to let them know we “got them”. We had to work together. We had to go together, everywhere they needed their products to be. That made the brand development process so easy. Vamos Juntos! became our motto. It all made sense.

For the past 4 years I’ve worked side by side with our CEO, with our commercial leaders, our customer service agents and our Maersk colleagues in supporting functions to strengthen the Sealand name: opening and branding offices, talking to the press, developing campaigns, preparing face to face customer experiences, and specially capturing stories, from the small coffee producer in Colombia to the oldest coffee roaster in Brooklyn.

Regardless of the products we showcased (flowers, bananas, apparel, cocoa, poultry or one of our community projects), each customer/partner story followed a common thread: their livelihood is cemented in the hard work and dedication of their people, and the passion they had on their business was contagious.

Customers really echoed with our value proposition and our business flourished. Vamos Juntos became a reality, not just something we hanged in the walls or signed our emails with. Like every startup we had some setbacks, but we learned from our mistakes, licked our wounds and carried on. Our leadership was relentless in the pursuit of our objective: planting our flag in the Americas marketplace.

Recently, the Maersk brand landscape was simplified to facilitate the interaction with our customers. The intra-regional brand portfolio was part of that review.

As result, it was recently announced that Seago Line and MCC Transport (Europe and Asia intra-regional carriers within the Maersk Group) changed their brand to the Sealand name, being rebranded as Sealand – A Maersk Company. The new identity is anchored on 3 pillars: Speed, Agility and Care, which are represented by 3 sails in the new logo.

To signal the change, our leadership team participated of a fun and competitive regatta challenge in Miami. The sailing experience brought everything full circle: it was fast, required great focus, gave us a strong sense of peace and ended on safe harbor. The same experience we aspire to provide every day to our customers.

An AP Moller Maersk Executive Vice President said this some days ago about the decision to use the Sealand name for the 3 intra-regional brands: “We did a study with different customers and looked at how the different brands resonated with them. And whether it is because Sealand has a long history as being an independent company or because the current Sealand is doing a really great job at branding themselves, I don’t know, but Sealand resonates, has a lot more awareness and a lot more buy-in from customers than the (other brands), so it kind of gave itself, that if we had to build around this differentiation, that Sealand was the brand that could carry it the best for us.“

I was moved by his words. The reaffirmation was also a tribute to everyone that helped build the Sealand brand and to those that will take it to the next level. You know who you are. We must have done something right!

I’m super excited about the direction the new brand is taking. Starting this past October, strong winds lead Sealand to new locations. I’m glad we listened to the customers’ needs and continue to do so in the new Sealand. In my new role I focus on the future of our trades, fostering digitization and leveling the playing field for small customers, enabling them to manage their shipments online. After all, empowering them on water, land and fiber optic is what we do.

I’m so glad I answered that phone call and accepted the challenge. And I am confident our people feels the same every day, taking that call in Chile, Croatia or Cambodia. Sealand continues to grow and prosper. Our promise hasn't changed. That's why we say Vamos Juntos! We go with you.

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