Who comes to Ocean City? What type of economic class finds this beach town appealing? How much in household income should the resort target with ad campaigns? Should it be $75,000, $100,000 or more?
Those were some questions asked this week in general terms during a discussion involving the renewal of the city’s advertising vendor contract.
These are easy questions to answer in general terms, but it’s practically impossible to get detailed answers to these questions because this sort of information is not readily provided by visitors.
In anecdotal terms, there is a simple answer to who comes to Ocean City — all types. During the summer months, Ocean City is a melting pot, and we think that’s what makes it so appealing. For proof of this, all one who has to do is go to the beach on a summer day or head to the Boardwalk during a summer night. If you observe and listen, you will conclude Ocean City appeals to a broad range of people.
There are small families and large families, each with their own various socio-economic backgrounds. They are here to participate in all the traditional activities families have for years — the beach, swimming in the ocean, parasailing, renting pontoon boats, hitting the miniature golf courses and indulging in the amusement parks. There are single people here to enjoy the nightlife with friends after a day on the beach or maybe skip the beach go right to the bar in the morning. Couples are here to enjoy the nice hotels and dinner at any of the quality restaurants. There are second homeowners who spend most of their summer leisure time in their home away from home.
Everybody is here for their own reasons because they have disparate backgrounds and interests. Ocean City appeals to many for different reasons. That’s why it’s tough to answer concerns raised by Ocean City Councilman Wayne Hartman this week with data.
“We have a lot of new amenities in town and we have a lot of new hotels that could help us attract a different audience,” he said. “What makes people choose Ocean City or not choose Ocean City? Is it too much alcohol or not enough of something else? You hear we’re losing families, but when was the last time we did any market research?”
This conversation has come up numerous times over the years. Ocean City Tourism Director Donna Abbott said efforts have been made on that front in recent years, explaining MGH Advertising — the town’s contracted marketing company — is directed to target certain vacationers.
“We do give them parameters for the audience we’re seeking,” she said. “At one time, the median household income for our target audience was lowered to $50,000 by the then-council. That’s pretty low. As the economy has improved, we’ve raised the median household income target to $100,000-plus.”
That’s all well and good, but the fact remains the majority of people we see on the beach and Boardwalk are most likely not in that demographic. It’s impossible to say for sure, but general observations tend to confirm. That doesn’t mean much from a marketing perspective. The city can target whatever age group and economic class it wants with its marketing, but the appeal is varied and there’s no way to truly know whether messages are found to be appealing to $100,000-and-over households or $250,000-and-over households.
Our guess is most of the vacationers in Ocean City on any given summer week are not in the $100,000-and-over median income category. We base this largely on visual judgments and it’s therefore unscientific. We are not sure it really matters, however. The beauty of Ocean City in the summer season is its socio-economic diversity. Quantifying this in numbers and figures have proven fruitless for the most part in the past.