Manahawkin-Based Creative Design Firm Grabs Buyers’ Eyes Worldwide

Projects Include Star Wars Memorabilia and Packaging for Ice Cream Company With Local Connection
By MARIA SCANDALE | Sep 11, 2019
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Manahawkin — Picture packages of Tic Tac Chill sugar-free mints whose impactful colors blast forth the flavor of Paradise Mint or Exotic Cherry. Crisp lettering in the word “Chill” grabs the calculated amount of attention as well. Finish the impression with a glance at the tempting fruit or the mint along the bottom.

Coining dynamic ideas and crafting lasting impressions is what marketing/advertising/design is about.

Mark Mancini, president of Sea4 Creative, has worked for some of the world’s most successful companies over the last 30 years. His own full-service marketing and design company is now located in Manahawkin and it started in Surf City. The Tic Tac Chill package was just one project.

“The name of the game in package design is to stand out on the shelf relative to competing brands in the category,” Mancini explained. “At the same time, a given color scheme must be consistent with the category itself, and customers’ expectation of colors within the category.”

The Sea4 Creative leader and his team have developed creative solutions for companies such as LucasFilm Ltd., Twinings Teas, Ferrero Rocher, Nutella, Delacre, McVitie’s, Microsoft, Intel, QuickBooks, Comcast, J.D. Power & Associates, Entenmann’s and Downey’s. Among professional honors, the Sea4 team has earned the prestigious International Echo Award.

The SandPaper found out about Mancini through work he has done closer to home. A client, Island Realty, mentioned a recent project that Mancini enjoyed: re-branding Nelson’s, a 100-year-old Pennsylvania ice cream company.

Mancini is a classically trained painter who studied marketing at Wharton School of Business. The talents may sound opposite as purple and yellow on the color wheel, but they do complement each other.

Design is indeed serious business.

Intuit Quickbooks’ Frank Harms, a marketing director, credited Sea4’s creativity in projects as “one of the key factors leading to direct marketing revenue growth of almost 80%.”

Kevin Keegan, an independent adviser for JDPower and Associates in Los Angeles, wrote that Mancini’s group “has a unique way of controlling messaging hierarchy,” combining text and images “to convey benefits with great clarity and impact.”

Just as dramatically, Star Wars fans might own memorabilia that Mancini designed.

“The Force is definitely with him!” proclaimed Chris Spitale, senior manager of Global Product Development for Lucas Licensing.

“Mark originally painted core illustrations for Chinch’s 1983 line of Return of the Jedi tins,” Spitale said, in a testimonial for Sea4 Creative. “Almost 30 years later, Lucasfilm Ltd. reached out to Mark to revisit his artwork, adding it to the Star Wars style guide, and placing it once again on product exclusively for Star Wars Celebration (Lucasfilm’s official fan convention). Of particular note was never-before-seen concept art finally applied to Lucasfilm merchandise.”

“I worked as an illustrator throughout the 1980s, and was selected to produce illustrations for LucasFilm’s “Return of the Jedi” and “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” Mancini explained. “Much of the artwork for Jedi was designed to print on metal, so I became familiar with the specifics of printing litho on steel early on.”

Yes, hands-on work has its place alongside digital technology, even today.

The Delacre biscuit company’s Crepes au Chocolate wrapper is a work of art with silver-edging around gorgeous crimson leaves. Even rabid chocolate lovers might pause before ripping open this wrapper.

While at the University of Pennsylvania, Mancini studied fine art under Rackstraw Downes, a renowned British-born realist painter. Downes might be surprised at where the inspiration would end up.

“The Crepes design was one of my favorite pieces,” Mancini reflected this week. “We created what emulated a stained glass window by embossing the leaded areas between panes as well as the border and leaving them metallic, while printing the interiors of the leaded areas directly onto the metal (no white backing), achieving a very reflective translucent effect. The remainder of the tin (the areas outside the stained glass ‘window’) had a matte white undercoat, making the color much flatter and producing the contrast.”

Back to the more cerebral side of advertising art, some psychology is involved.

Product photography is another of Sea4 Creative’s services, often done in-house to facilitate faster turnarounds, greater cost efficiency and superior design control.

The studio vignette for an ad for the 300th anniversary of Twinings tea would make any hand reach into the picture to grasp the cup. Warm colors (think warm ginger tea) and diffused lighting (imagine English manor house or windowed Wisconsin breakfast nook) were some subliminal suggestions.

Back “home” again, the Nelson’s Ice Cream makeover elevated the product’s traditional image to one of a gourmet creme de la creme treat.

But the new carton kept the vision of the product’s Amish Country horse and buggy roots as well. And the redesign topped the carton off with a gold rim around the carton lid, and color pictures of the “gourmet rich vanilla swirled with sweet butterscotch” ice cream on both the front and the lid, backed in elegant black.

Nelson’s Ice Cream has been the pride of Lancaster County for more than 100 years. In 2014, the company was purchased by Jay Vigdor of Plymouth Meeting, Pa., a retired commercial real estate developer. Vigdor began his working career as a Beach Haven police officer many decades ago. He and his family still own property in Holgate.

And so the connection to LBI begins.

Nelson’s Ice Cream had already been a perennial favorite throughout Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Jersey prior to the company’s change of ownership. Still, Vigdor’s vision was to update the Nelson’s image and expand the brand’s reach in terms of distribution density as well as geography.

“Their old image featuring white half-gallon buckets with red and green type simply wasn’t going to get it done,” Mancini remembers agreeing.

For a little more on that thought, Mancini’s elaboration gives consumers a look into the kind of thinking that goes on behind the marketing scenes:

“The old containers were really nasty looking. First of all, they were a full half-gallon, which priced them out of many markets. Second, they were round (cylindrical) which made them pack inefficiently as compared the ‘scround’ shape (square round) that you see in most freezer cases. Finally, they were basically white plastic tubs with horrendous red and green line art that looked kinda like Christmas all year long. It would actually have been difficult to screw this one up! Making them any worse would have been a bigger challenge!”

But back to the job’s other LBI connections, enter Sureway Printing & Graphics of Princeton, called in by Vigdor. Sureway’s co-owner, George Bilgrav, of Manahawkin, had worked with Sea4 Creative to create branding conventions (practices) and package design for another client a few years earlier. So he sought out Sea4 again.

Until that time, his only contact with Sea4 had been by working remotely through online channels, so he had no idea of the agency’s actual location. It wasn’t until he contacted Sea4 to request a branding and design proposal for Nelson’s that he realized the agency was located in Surf City, 10 minutes from his home. (The agency later moved to its current location in Manahawkin.)

The team worked throughout 2018 and early 2019 to reconstruct the Nelson’s image, creating new branding conventions, packaging, catalogs and sales material for more than 30 different varieties. The product is sold at Acme markets and also is the exclusive ice cream at Scoop City parlor in Surf City.

In-house capabilities include strategic planning, branding, general advertising, design, copywriting, B2B direct response advertising, B2C direct response advertising, social media, web development, product photography, illustration and audio/video production.

A service that may be of interest to the average person is photo restoration by Sea4 RESTORE.

“When a piece of your family history has been damaged by time, mold or other forces beyond your control, you’ll want a restoration service you can trust,” says the website. “The ability to repair badly damaged or missing pieces of a photograph demands more than technical expertise with computer software, it requires true artistic capability to literally recreate sections that no longer exist.”

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