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Maritime Marketing: Branding Lessons From the Boardwalk

By Jessica Brown

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I had the pleasure of spending Thursday through Sunday of last week in beautiful and lively Ocean City, Maryland. Surrounded by sand and sea, it only makes sense that the thing on my mind was… marketing? I may have had my work email off for the weekend, but a marketer’s mind never truly shuts off.

Areas prone to tourists give you an example of marketing tactics around every corner, and while you might think of the boardwalk as a place to have fun and relax with friends and family, business owners see it as more of a billboard for getting business. Here are a few lessons on marketing that you can get along with your tan:

Quality Matters

I wanted to get some friends some salt-water taffy on my trip, so I visited every candy store I saw. I found one store that offered 3 boxes of salt-water taffy from a brand I’d never heard of for $5. What a great deal, right?! But when I went to check out, I found out that the store required a minimum purchase of $10. Unable to find something I valued enough to pay for, I walked out of the store empty handed, and instead chose to buy more expensive taffy from a company I knew.

You need to provide value to your customers. If they choose to read your blog, follow you on Twitter, or join your email list and they don’t think that the value you are providing is worth your time (or in my example, money), they might decide that they don’t want to read ANY of your content. Always write and post with purpose!

Everyone Gets Burned

As my sister and I headed out to lie out on the beach, she whispered to me, “Don’t tell mom I’m not wearing sunscreen.” When we got comfortable, I whipped out my SPF and covered myself from head to toe, vowing to keep my sister’s lack of preparation a secret.Screen Shot 2013-08-05 at 4.11.42 PM

But by the time we packed up to go home for the weekend, my mom was helping to nurse two sunburns – my sister’s and mine. Sometimes even when you do EVERYTHING right, you end up getting burned. This applies to marketing when it comes to negative customer feedback. It’s important to keep in mind that you won’t be able to please everyone. Take negative feedback as an opportunity to improve!

Headlines and Titles Are Important

Almost every store on the boardwalk is selling the same “Ocean City” branded merchandise. So how do you choose which one to enter to buy a lighthearted t-shirt or beer coozie? You end up looking at the names of the store and signs at the storefront. While I walked past stores like “New York Fashionz” and “Souvenir 2,” I strolled along into “Surf Shop” which had signs for sales out front.

First impressions mean a lot, so when you are writing headlines and titles on your site, keep in mind that they may be what makes the difference between your customers making a purchase and strolling on by.

Cover What You Need to Cover

On the beach, you see a wide variety of apparel. You have those people wearing long sleeved shirts to block the sun but stay cool, kids in classic one-piece swimsuits, and those tiny Speedos that leave nothing to the imagination.

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Just like on vacation, there is no right amount of content needed to cover your business on your website. You know your business best, so be sure to say what you need to say and then review in order to see if there are any superfluous sentences you might be able to remove.

Waves are Unpredictable

As I tried to catch up on my summer reading while lazily sprawled out under a beach umbrella, my sister ran over, spitting and rubbing her eyes. “That wave came out of nowhere!”

Traffic to your site and social media pages can be just like ocean waves – completely unpredictable. You will have ups and downs, and it is very common for those who are new to social media to experience waters that are more calm than you would like. Be consistent with posting and promoting, and eventually business for you will be as great as a day at the beach.

Despite whether your marketing has been smooth sailing or choppy waters, keep these tips in mind and dive right into better interaction with your customers.