Ocean City Council Endorses Rebranding Process

Ocean City Council Endorses Rebranding Process
The Boardwalk is pictured last Sunday during the OC Air Show. Photo by Chris Parypa

OCEAN CITY — A plan to develop a strategy to rebrand Ocean City’s image received a rousing endorsement from the elected officials.

Last week, Ocean City Tourism and Business Development Director Tom Perlozzo presented his ambitious plan to dive into research and data collection on a path to begin rebranding Ocean City’s image to the town’s Tourism Commission. On Monday, Perlozzo presented the same plan to the Mayor and Council. Perlozzo was appointed to the newly-created position in April and began June 1.

The four-phase plan presented to the Mayor and Council on Monday includes research and data collection. The plan calls for collecting more visitor data and research and implementing a strategy to drive more visitors to the resort. The research phase focuses not only on those visitors who already come to Ocean City, but perhaps more importantly, those who have never been or choose to vacation elsewhere.

Essentially, the plan calls for retaining the traditional customer base, while attracting new visitors. While it does not suggest a major departure from the town’s image as a traditional family vacation destination, the plan suggests there are opportunities to expand on that image.

“Destination branding is the foundation of a location’s marketing strategy,” said Perlozzo. “The branding process identifies our unique identity and defines what remains in visitors’ minds and memories.”

west o bottle shop

Perlozzo said his plan included four phases. The first is planning and research, the second is outreach and analysis, the third is designing the creative and testing it, and, finally, adoption and activation.

Perlozzo said a key element to his plan is research and data collection, an area that has been lacking over the years. For example, in recent years the town and its ad agency MGH have attempted to collect visitor information including zip codes with varying degrees of success through visitor surveys and hotel booking information. Perlozzo said there is technology available to collect better visitor data.

The proposal calls for carrying over funds left over from the fiscal year 2021 budget tourism and marketing line item to provide seed money for the ambitious four-phase rebranding plan. Funding for the later phases could be included in the fiscal year 2022 advertising budget.

When pressed on how much funding could be carried over from the fiscal year 2021 budget, Perlozzo said the figure is likely around $490,000. However, he said not all of that funding would be dedicated to his four-phase rebranding plan.

For example, if the convention center was courting a large group and they were looking for some concessions on fees, funding could be used to offset that in order to attract the group. Perlozzo also said the funds could be used for focused marketing, or geo-marketing or geo-fencing, for example.

The council ultimately voted to approve the four-phase plan to allow Perlozzo and his crew to begin implementing it. Mayor Rich Meehan said the plan represented why the new position was created in the first place.

“You’ve brought forward a plan and that’s exactly what we’re looking for,” he said. “We can reinvent what we’re doing, and I think we’ve done a lot of good things.”

Meehan said it was a good time to get a fresh look at the town’s marketing strategy.

“It’s 2021 and we have to go above and beyond,” he said. “That’s why you were hired, and I think you’ve brought us something that’s strategic and well thought-out. I think it’s the direction we need to go.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.