Cape May County’s marketing shows how businesses can grow revenue
For most of the United States, Labor Day’s the unofficial end of summer. In the Philadelphia area, it’s also the unofficial end of shore season.
That sucks for shore communities that rely on visitor spending. But it’s not a unique problem.
Many businesses have one very successful product but have trouble selling their other offerings. For shore locales, summer sells great, but fall, winter and spring are disappointing.
In that sense, Cape May County offers an interesting case study in diversifying revenue.
It’s basically the Florida of New Jersey. It’s always been dependent on tourism, and it founded a public affairs department in 1940. Its first ad campaign, promoting the health benefits of salt water, was in the long-gone Philadelphia Bulletin.
Map of Cape May County from 1948. Surrounded by water, it’s always relied on tourism.
In 1970, the county opened a tourism office in Quebec, becoming the first U.S. county to open a tourism office in a foreign country. (French Canadians love the area’s campgrounds and warmer waters.)
Combined with the success of their “sub-brands,” e.g. Ocean City, Sea Isle, Wildwood, etc., Cape May County’s created a great core product. The population of the peninsula swells from 95,000 in the winter to 824,000 in the summer, and 90 percent of visitors are recurring customers.
Cape May County promotes their whole region as “The Jersey Cape” in advertising.
But the county’s only become more dependent on visitors as the year-round population has declined recently.
The answer has been expanding interest in underutilized products by levering existing strengths.
Promoting ecotourism, like birding and fishing, agritourism, like wine tours and farm-to-table dining, and events, such as fall festivals and spring sales, have boosted their “shoulder seasons.”
“This has all contributed to redefining our brand and growing the season,” reads a 2017 report from the county tourism department.
Long story short: Cape May County shows smart, consistent, holistic marketing can expand interest in underwhelming products.