Santa Barbara is a gem on California’s Central Coast. With pristine beaches, chaparral-covered mountains, and gorgeous Spanish architecture, how could it not be? This small city on the coast is also known for its diverse art and culture scene. Which makes digital marketing in Santa Barbara all the more exciting and, sometimes, competitive. As Savy’s second location, we know a thing or two about marketing in SB. Namely, how to sell sunshine. What do we mean by that? Read on. 


Capturing Santa Barbara’s vibe 

If you own a small business in Santa Barbara, you know that the city is a unique blend of culture, art, and history. Nicknamed the American Riviera, locals and tourists can see the influence of the original Spanish settlers from the 16th century. It’s present in everything from the architecture to the food. 

Part of what makes the city special is the large arts and culture scene. Which is displayed through the many galleries, theaters, live performances, and murals. From the people who live in Santa Barbara to the businesses that make up the city, there is an unquestionable beach-meets-luxury vibe. 


Small business storytelling 

For a small business in this city, speaking to this vibe is not enough. You must capture it, live it, and authentically showcase it in your brand. After all, Santa Barbara is nothing if not authentic. To successfully market in Santa Barbara (and other beach-side cities like it), your digital marketing needs to sell a lifestyle through storytelling. 


How to sell a lifestyle 

Part of telling a story with your marketing means understanding your audience fully. Which is a key characteristic of lifestyle marketing. Selling a lifestyle means that you’re focused more on your customer’s wants, needs, and dislikes than how you can profit off them. Mainly, “to connect with buyers requires a sort of intimacy with the consumer.” If you’re marketing in Santa Barbara, you need to know what makes folks tick. What gets them out of bed in the morning? Where do they go to unwind? Where are the hottest clubs and best family-friendly restaurants? Whether they’re soaking up the sun on Leadbetter Beach or trekking to the top of Inspiration Point, you want to make sure your message connects with them on a deeply personal level. After all, brands should be an extension of their communities. 

This is where storytelling comes in. When you know your audience, you can market your product or service as a genuine part of the community. Take Salt and Straw for example. The national ice cream shop began scooping out of Portland, Oregon with the goal of cultivating interesting ice cream flavors and creating a “community gathering place.” The ice cream shop responded to the community’s unique taste and integrated local artisans and locally grown and sourced ingredients. Not to mention that in each location the shop has opened since then––from Seattle to Miami––features its own unique flavors and vibe.

Essentially, Salt and Straw tells the story of their communities through their product. Taking the time to research both the people and local lifestyle means that you can seamlessly integrate yourself into the local community. Storytelling should become the backbone of your brand which, in turn, relates to and enhances the community its part of.  


Speaking to unique audiences 

Like any city, Santa Barbara has multiple unique audiences with different wants, needs, and points of interest. For any brand, target marketing is an essential step. It helps you connect with the correct audience, build loyalty, and differentiate your brand from competitors. 

The biggest components to consider are marketing by demographics, psychographics, behaviors, or geography. Before you even draft your content, consider your audience’s age, education, values, personalities, purchasing habits, and even where they or your business resides in Santa Barbara. Remember that the digital tools you use need concrete research to land in front of the right people. 


Speak their language

Sometimes, we mean this literally. If you want to engage with the Hispanic population in Santa Barbara, offer enticing content in Spanish as well as English. In other words, make your brand part of the culture and the city’s story. 

Speaking to unique audiences also involves storytelling and tone. What does your audience care about? Are they foodies looking for the most innovative eats the city has to offer? Or are they more interested in fine art? Your type of business will also inform this. Branding for a luxury hotel is different from a Main Street boutique or ice cream shop, for example. 


Digital channels that resonate 

Selling a lifestyle is arguably easier in the digital age. Digital marketing helps marketers for big and small brands alike reach even the most niche audiences. Before utilizing your digital tools as a Santa Barbara business, you must first understand its demographics. 

Among Santa Barbara’s 97K residents, the median age is 37.9 with a median household income of $71K. The most common ethnic groups in the city consist of White (Non-Hispanic), White (Hispanic), and Some Other Race (Hispanic). As a university town, Santa Barbara also has a large student population. All this to say that your digital communications must reflect the city’s demographics, or you’ll find yourself marketing to the void. 


Utilize local SEO 

Local SEO is at the top of our list for a reason. Becoming a master at this will help you define your brand and reach the people you want to in your local community. To begin, you need to create an engaging website and do your research on effective keywords. From there, you can use “SEO techniques to get more visitors from Google and other search engines.”

Best practices for local SEO include optimizing your Google My Business profile, incorporating your keywords across multiple listings, and getting local coverage (and adding it to your site). You should also make sure your website’s internal link structure and title tags are optimized and work toward your marketing objectives. Lastly, be authentic and provide your online presence with your business information, custom imagery, and accurate descriptions.

Be social  

Utilizing social media lets you meet your audience where they already are. To do this effectively in a city like Santa Barbara, you need to reflect the city’s vibe. Post things with cultural relevance, join the art conversation, or engage the student community. And post on the platforms that people are using. Think about it this way: you want content that will resonate and “create a community they want to belong to.” 

Curate enticing content 

Content no longer only means an ad in the local paper or a flyer at an event. Now, your brand should be posting regular social and website content like blogs to engage your audience and join a relevant conversation. Tell stories and highlight those whose stories align with your brand. Not to mention, “great content marketing can paint a picture of the lifestyle your audience wants to achieve.” For Santa Barbara, make sure you’re capturing the city’s unique history and culture in your content or it’s at risk of falling flat. 

Examples we love 

Santa Barbara is home to one of our Savy locations and we love marketing in this unique community. Two of our most current case studies help to showcase how marketing a lifestyle in the digital landscape can make all the difference.  


Swell Clubs

Swell Athletic Club in Santa Barbara is maybe best defined by its tagline: “you join other clubs, but you belong here.” Savy’s ongoing work with Swell includes monthly SEO blogs that capture all aspects of the quintessential Santa Barbara lifestyle. Just as the club sells more than fitness facilities, Swell’s content speaks to community members with topics and ideas that are engaging and relevant. 

800 Santa Barbara St. 

800 Santa Barbara St. represents Santa Barbara marketing at its finest. The development company responsible for creating luxury mixed-use spaces downtown came to Savy for effective local marketing to reach their target demographic. The brand capitalizes on the casual luxury vibe that Santa Barbara offers by selling their upscale building in the historic district. As such, our work focuses on marketing the luxury beach life that resonates with residents. 


All’s fair in art and marketing  

Brands are an extension of their communities. If your marketing does not resonate with your audience members, it might be time to consider if you’re selling a lifestyle or a product. And if you’re utilizing your digital tools to the fullest. In a historically unique and vibrant city like Santa Barbara, you must understand the people and the place before you can market to them. Need some help? Savy’s got you covered.