By Maddy Vitale
Even Ocean City, voted Happiest Seaside Town in America and Best Beach in America by Coastal Living magazine, continues to look for ways to rebrand or repackage its wide array of offerings for visitors and residents.
Top beaches, family-friendly attractions, amusements, fine dining and boutique-style shopping might be enough for some vacationers.
Others need to be lured away – perhaps from another Ocean City – albeit in another state. Or even lured a few more miles south while skipping other beaches along the coastline a bit closer to North Jersey.
Ocean City’s Tourism Development Commission members are considering those issues, which is why they laid out an e-marketing plan with their marketing strategist, Xander Becket, of Webpage FX. During a meeting Thursday, the team highlighted ways to showcase “America’s Greatest Resort.”
The commission spoke about how to advertise Ocean City through a variety of channels. They discussed forms of marketing from traditional to web-based utilizing different social media platforms.
The message is clear: providing information on an abundance of activities to keep locals entertained year-round and present a fun-filled, memorable vacation resort for visitors that will keep families coming back year after year.
Becket said the plan is threefold: promoting Ocean City to attract new visitors, bringing visitors back for the offseason and promoting the island while people are here on vacation.
Some of the discussion focused on opening up the advertising to other areas. Ocean City visitors primarily come from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia and New York.
Commission Chairman Burton Wilkins wanted to know how Ocean City does as far as the e-marketing figures go in Northern New Jersey.
Michele Gillian, executive director of the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce, asked about focusing a bit more in Delaware, Maryland and the District of Columbia.
“We seem to always do well there,” she said. “We definitely should concentrate on that area.”
Commission member Wes Kazmarck, who represents the Boardwalk businesses, said what he has found is Northern New Jersey families tend to shop.
“Being boots on the ground in my store, I feel when they do come, they spend a lot,” he noted.
Gillian said concentrating on North Jersey, Maryland and Delaware would be a good idea and still keep up the marketing campaign in Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, Pa.
Becket said he could target those areas. He said overall, the plan for 2019 will be similar to 2018, with the aim at attracting all ages to the resort.
He highlighted some of the demographics through last year’s campaign.
“Demographics are based on all traffic sources,” Becket pointed out. He said much of the information comes through looking at the numbers and information yielded by Google searches, which, he said, accounts for about 65 percent of the figures looked at.
“Almost two-thirds of the traffic coming into the website are women,” he said. “There are two markets here. The parents and the grandparents are visiting the website.”
The primary age groups are 25-44 and 45-64, he noted.
Gillian said the online advertising campaign is off to a good start.
Advertisements on Google, Facebook and YouTube continue to attract people of all ages, Becket said during his presentation. Traditional forms of advertising, such as direct mail, brochures, billboards, magazines, newspapers and vacation guides continue to be used as well.
Gillian told the board that the billboards on I-95 and on the Walt Whitman Bridge in Philadelphia are huge attractors to Ocean City.
The commission also discussed the addition of some newer advertising tools on social media platform such as YouTube, which is in the works.
The main difference in the marketing plan this year, Becket emphasized, is the idea of opening up the e-marketing campaign to include November and December.
“Right now, the bulk of the online campaign is now through the (summer) season,” he said. “It would be easy to branch out a bit.”
Becket said this way, families could look into how they want to spend their summer vacation over the holidays.
“We need to get out in front of them,” he said.
“We haven’t done this yet,” Wilkins responded. “It is a great idea.”
Gillian echoed Wilkins’ sentiment, saying, “That is when people make their decisions, at the Thanksgiving table.”
In addition to hearing about the marketing plan, the commission members approved several resolutions Thursday for a variety of services, including the distribution of marketing materials at welcome centers, professional service contracts for billboards and contracts for companies to do the marketing campaign.
For more about Ocean City visit www.oceancityvacation.com.