Naming Nothing

The Challenge

Cartagena is a beautiful, historic city on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. Long a top national tourism destination, international attention is growing for the romantic and accessible destination not yet mobbed by American tourists. The city was also, as of the summer of 2019, without a luxury resort. Our clients, Latin American luxury leaders Sinergo, wanted to change that. With that idea and a strip of land just outside the city, it was our task to create a compelling and evocative brand to provide a vision for investors, architects and designers as they bring the resort to life. Among many other things, Cartagena is setting for Gabriel García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera as well as the writer’s long-time home. For the fiction writer in me this was a dream assignment.

The Tasks

Site Visit
As the strategy director on this project, I was responsible for designing a research plan, a challenge for a brand without product or history. Working closely with our clients I planned a three-day emersion in Cartagena that included historic and cultural tours, culinary adventures, visits to the cities top hotels and a horseback trek to the proposed development site. In addition, we conducted extensive interviews with local politicians, luxury real estate experts, tourism professionals, cultural leaders, and more. With the support of Design Director Daniel Irizarry, I conducted a brand workshop with stakeholders in Colombia to explore themes and reflect on the opportunities for differentiation.

Brand Story
This story needed to live at the intersection of culture, history and luxury; reflecting an authentic visitor experience, while celebrating the artistic and cultural history of the region.


Building on this story we generated hundreds of names and then I lead a collaborative vetting and selection process to select Calacarta.


Cala means Cove in Spanish, referencing the private beach among dreamy mangroves on site.

Carta means Letters or Map in Spanish, a reference to Cartagena’s literary history and the spirit of exploration.

Brand Book
Tactically, this project was aimed at helping our clients secure investment and development partners. To this end, we developed a beautiful and inspirational brand book to drive engagement. I’m pleased to report that the last I heard the project was moving along quickly, as I look forward to an excuse to visit Cartagena again.


  • Client: Calacarta Resort
  • Agency: Carbone Smolan Agency
  • Role: Strategy Director
  • Methodologies: Stakeholder Interviews, Site Visit, Desk Research, Competitive Audit, Workshop
  • Launch: Fall 2019