When the Myrtle Beach mayor, the City Council and the chamber of commerce canceled the spring bike rallies, they failed to consider the most basic marketing principle: word-of-mouth advertising.
Myrtle Beach grew into the largest drive-to destination in the eastern United States precisely because of abundant word-of-mouth advertising. Apparently, the leadership doesn't understand why people actually come to Myrtle Beach.
When Northerners think of themselves at the beach, most likely it is in Florida. We must rely on word-of-mouth advertising to get them here.
The old system worked perfectly. Each May, half a million bikers came to town, put on their bike week T-shirts and went back to their home cities, broadcasting what a great time they had in Myrtle Beach. Where we used to get so much word-of-mouth advertising for free; now, the Myrtle Beach power establishment is taking millions out of the local economy with a sales tax for the purpose of purchasing TV ads in Northern cities. They hope to attract higher income families with these ads.
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This brings us to another marketing principle that they fail to grasp:
TV watching decreases as incomes go up.
The campaign said "Take Back May"; but was there ever really a May to begin with? Did the Myrtle Beach leadership bother to examine the occupancy rates for other beach towns in May? Obvious but doubtful. May is the time when Northern families plant flowers. It is not a normal vacation time.
Research economist Don Schunk of Coastal Carolina was recently quoted in The Sun News as saying that local business activity is down 23 percent along the Grand Strand, and it seems that the retirees in Myrtle Beach could care less. With an unemployment rate of 16.5 percent, the hard working people of Horry County sure could use the hundreds of millions that the bikers spent annually.
And let's not forget about their word-of-mouth advertising.
So, what now? We have a local business community that is more divided than ever, and a leadership that hasn't a clue how to enhance our brand image as a tourist destination.
Branson, Mo., is another successful tourist destination; however, it is not blessed with a beach. Branson simply draws on its heritage of mountain music and the hillbilly culture to draw millions every year. Hillbilly humor is central to the success of the nearly 100 live music shows there.
Contrast this to Myrtle Beach. Here we fail to exploit our Southern and/or redneck heritage. How about an amusement park set with a plantation theme, or something that capitalizes on the huge popularity of redneck humor? After all, this is the Redneck Riviera. How about a redneck week or a Redneck Olympics?
Freestyle Music Park? Is that the name that some Russian investor came up with? Let's try a new name: Myrtle Beach Music Park. Put "music" and "beach" in the same phrase and you have a winner. This Southern/redneck stuff might not fly with the powers that be, so they need to be taught yet another principle from marketing school:
Management's favorite is never the customers' favorite.
The writer lives in Conway.