This wasn’t just another family vacation.
This was our first vacation in three years with minimal Covid concerns. This was our first summer vacation at Sunset Chaser, our new beach house/vacation rental property on the bay side of Cape May County. And this was our first visit to Sunset Chaser without a giant to-do list.
As a bonus, our next renter pushed back their check-in by a day, so we got to enjoy an extra night of vacation!
The stars were aligned for a great vacation. And a great vacation it was.
Multiple visits to Cape May beaches. Multiple visits to Morey’s Pier in Wildwood. The Ocean Oasis waterpark. Rail biking through the Nature Conservancy with Revolution Rail Co. A trip on Cape May – Lewes Ferry to Delaware. New restaurants discovered daily. Many hours swimming in the Sunset Chaser pool.
And breathtaking sunsets every night at our local beach in the quiet, residential community of Del Haven, and at the appropriately named Sunset Beach in Cape May.
I wonder if people truly appreciate the treasures we have nearby in Cape May County. Beyond the beaches and boardwalks, you have rich history. You have nature preserves, wildlife, and the best birding in the country. You have more than a dozen breweries, wineries, and distilleries. You have Victorian mansions.
Each destination has a story to tell and sights to see. I can’t recommend this area strongly enough.
Of course, I can’t completely remove my marketing nerd hat when I’m on vacation. Over the course of eight days, I snapped pictures when observing various forms of marketing and advertising, or if something was simply unique and clever.
Here are a few things I noticed.
Steady Traffic from Fly-By Ads
Fly-by ads pulled by airplanes have been a staple of New Jersey beach life for decades. Not every beachgoer is constantly staring at the sky, but if you look up and see a plane, you can’t help but look at the ad its pulling.
Savvy advertisers use fly-by ads to deliver their message to a captive audience without disrupting their day at the beach. Thanks to mobile, people can instantly respond or take a picture of an ad that interests them.
Here are some of my faves and not-so-faves.
Favorite fly-by ads:
Simplicity wins. State the need, state the offer, provide a call-to-action. But do not use an apostrophe when making something plural! It’s RNs, not RN’s.
Apologies for the fuzzy picture. It was far.
They’re not all sales pitches! A powerful, simple advocacy message.
High-contrast colors and a relevant, timely message.
Branding and a public service message in one fly-by!
Not-so-favorite fly-by ads:
Love the uncluttered layout, but tough to read at that distance without high-contrast colors.
The Beavis and Butthead logo in the middle is a red blob. Is it even necessary when you include their pictures? Bigger fonts, please.
Good fly-by, but I didn’t like how that Phillies-Mets series turned out. So it goes on this list. Sorry not sorry.
Billboards: Side-by-Side Comparisons
On the left, thin and small fonts make it tough to read. I can’t make out the middle image and I’m not sure what “A Higher Form of Realty” means. The billboard on the right is the opposite – big, bold, clear, specific.
These billboards both nail it. The one on the left has a compelling, one-word message: OCEANFRONT. On the right, if I want to go to a brewery in Wildwood, this billboard makes it clear that I have one option, although the font on the bottom could be bigger. When you approach the brewery, you can’t miss the giant signage.
Other than the big beach balls, does anything scream Wildwood like the big retro Wawa sign once you’ve made it over the bridge? Great job adapting but not abandoning the brand to suit the environment.
There’s a reason why you see Meadow and Anthony Soprano in commercials for the Silverado EV. People love taking a trip down memory lane. Although not as famous as New Jersey’s favorite TV crime family, Jumbo’s in Wildwood clearly takes pride in its history and story. Here are two examples – one from the bar and one from a dining table.
Here’s a simple nod to Cape May’s heritage. I love that we have this kind of history here in New Jersey!
Print Is Alive!
This is the perfect use of print and the perfect venue choice – a casual, neighborhood café – for this front-and-back newsletter from a little town on the bay side of Cape May County.
The Coolest Place We’ve Visited in the Cape May Area
This is Exit Zero Filling Station, a former gas station that has been transformed into an outdoor restaurant. Indoor seating is also available. The gas attendant booth is now a bar. Cleverly designed Airstreams and trailers serve as private dining areas for small parties. And the branding is an homage to the venue’s blue-collar history.
We were lucky enough to get a reservation in one of the Airstreams right next to Camille Peruto, an amazing performer who scored big points by playing my daughters’ request for music from The Greatest Showman. The killer Indian and Thai food made the whole experience a home run.
Creative Use of Customer Reviews
Everyone asks for customer reviews. Cape May – Lewes Ferry asks, “What’s your ferry tale?” It’s a clever way to show and request reviews in a single display.
A Quick Outdoor Bar Sign Rewrite
You’re not open daily if you’re closed Tuesdays. “Existing” is an unnecessary word unless you want to differentiate from non-existing bars. And why not put the more interesting information on top?
WILDWOOD’S OLDEST BAR
OPEN AT NOON. CLOSED TUESDAYS.
TMI? Not Really.
These two brochures promise to inform readers. Are the insides of the brochures text-heavy? Yes. Does this allow them to deliver on the promise of the cover? Absolutely. Imagery on the outside, packed with information on the inside.
I always say people will read if you give them something worth reading, especially if you’ve set expectations appropriately with your headline and cover.
My Phone Was Listening!
These Facebook ads kept popping up based on, I assume, my social media and browsing activity. Neither landed a sale, but both were relevant and timely. We did go to a different waterpark but some sensitive tummies prevented another boat trip.
Using highly targeted social media advertising, especially when coupled with traditional advertising like fly-by ads and billboards, can provide the repetition you need to increase brand recall.
A Golden Age of Photo Ops
With a camera and social media never more than an arm’s length away, photo ops can take your brand to new audiences quickly. The key is to make them fun and interesting without being overtly salesy. Here are a few of my faves from our vacation.
The last two photo ops are from Sunset Chaser. We put them there for this specific purpose, although things can get a little crazy when cousins visit.
Every Vacation Rental Property Can Have Its Own Brand
There are hundreds of vacation rentals in Cape May County. Now that we own one, I’m way more familiar with them than I used to be.
But I’ve always remembered the rental properties that have names, logos, and signs out front. When I arrive at these properties, the sign reinforces the vibe of the property that says, “I’m on vacation.”
Here are a few examples. We haven’t invested in an ornate wooden sign yet like many of the more established properties, but our front yard flag does the job for now.
This is just one way to build a brand for a vacation rental property. What’s your vibe? What’s your story? What kind of experience do you and your property promise to deliver to guests? What differentiates you from other properties? How are these things conveyed through your website, logo, social media pages, and emails? What steps are you taking to build relationships with guests?
Good branding is valuable to any business. Operating a vacation rental property is definitely a business.
Anyone can put up a listing on VRBO, Airbnb, or a real estate agency website. I firmly believe that every property should develop its own brand to build awareness and connections with real people, even when using various listing sites and ad platforms. Especially when using various listing sites and ad platforms.
In the next few weeks, I’ll be introducing services to help property owners in the New Jersey vacation rental community fill their calendars with bookings by showing off what people love about their properties. Stay tuned.
By the way, we’ve tried to do this with Sunset Chaser in a very short, chaotic timeframe. As a result, our calendar has been full, most of our bookings have been direct, and we’ve been able to develop a rapport with most of our guests.
Even if they don’t come back every year, we’ll always be on their radar and they’ll refer us to friends and family because they know, like, and trust us. That’s a big win.
And yes, we even put the Sunset Chaser logo on our coffee mugs. Man, I want to go back.
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