Southwest Airlines Marketing Working

One of the cool things about bringing in Southwest Airlines to the new Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport was that we get to take advantage of SWA’s amazing marketing success. This proven track record of creating an immense brand awareness so far has proven invaluable so far in marketing Panama City Beach, and it couldn’t come at a better time.

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The Difference Between "Real Fun Beach" and "Summer White Sale"

Here are 5 reasons why “Real Fun Beach” will work and 2008’s “Summer White Sale” wasted a lot of money.

1. “Real Fun Beach” (RFB) tells you exactly what Panama City Beach is, has been, and will always be.

It is what “the Beach Lovers Beach” was trying to be, but never was.

It replaces the long time, halfway official “world’s most beautiful beaches.” Claiming to be the world’s most beautiful beaches is a little too broad and boastful to hang your hat on, even though it’s a very true claim to me and thousands of others who love it here.

2. They got the domain name! YAY! “” is a beautiful, easy to remember, easy to type, tells-you-what-it-is domain name.

3. The sub-concept — I’ll call it “Yesterday: Real, Today: Fun” since I don’t know what the staff and agencies call it — is equally brilliant. Its message says “one day you’re in your real world: worker, parent, student, etc., and today you can be in the fun world at the Real Fun Beach. This is perfect bait for fishing in PCB’s honey hole, Atlanta. A fast five hour drive from the real world to the fun world.

4. The “Yesterday/Today” idea can be used and reinvented in so many great ways. This is a concept that can grow and thrive for years, because it’s so flexible in letting us compare real world vs. fun world.

5. The offline campaign ties in perfectly to the online campaign. Go figure. Read Jason‘s article on the online campaign for more info.

And the “Summer White Sale”? It had none of this. Nothing to differentiate PCB, nothing to transform the mindset of the consumer about PCB (it actually reinforced negative perceptions of being a cheap, lower-class destination). Nothing that could grow and live on as a brand, nothing that could really help us move forward with a new image. It never had a chance.

A few concerns (only 3!) with this new campaign:

Real. Fun. Beach.
Using. Periods. For. Emphasis. In. Headlines.
Way. Over. Done.
But. Maybe. It. Still. Works.
Heck. I’ve. Done. It. Before.

2. The cute little names for our tourists, Sandy Bottom Bunch, Soul Searcher, etc., are clever and can be expanded to define more types of visitors. Another great concept that could live on for years.

But since local tourism businesses will now have the ability to target these segments directly through the CVB site, who’s to say a big bar can’t clutter my “Soul Searcher” page when I expect only “relaxed and laid” back results for my vacation planning? Perhaps the CVB has a plan in place for this, but then they’re walking a fine line by telling one business that they do not qualify to market to the “Sandy Bottom Bunch.” This is another perfect example of why government entities and tax dollars should not be used to run business and marketing campaigns such as this one. This campaign, in a perfect world, would have been developed by one of the large accomodation providers or a coalition of private businesses such as the Greater PCB Chamber.

3. I am convinced that Jennifer Barbee and company will accurately measure online traffic through all the major channels, and probably help with offline measurement as well. With all this new data coming and being properly measured, don’t we all get to have a copy of that information? All bed tax dollars are spent equally and fairly for the benefit of the Bay County tourism industry, right? And since it’s run by the county, all citizens get access, right? And even tourists – who suffer the burden of the tax equally with the collectors – should get a peek since they helped fund it, right?

One last thing. The team did some research for this campaign in Atlanta. The professionals discovered what this hack in Lynn Haven has been telling you for 3 years: Atlanta does not know us, and the Atlantians who think they know us don’t know the real us. The fact that they’re already our number one market is irrelevant. Here’s something I’ll bet on in 2009 and 2010…there are many more potential visitors in Atlanta, Georgia (repeat visits included, of course) than there are the rest of the world. Call me crazy, but that’s just how it is when you add a little real world common sense to all the marketing research and data.

Now, with Real Fun Beach, I suggest all of you bed tax collectors jump on board with this idea, aim 5 easy hours up the road to Atlanta, use “Real Fun Beach” in your advertising, call your guests “Soggy Bottom Bunch” or “Dark Sharks” or whatever is being promoted on the web site and REALLY BUY INTO THIS THING TO MAKE IT WORK.

The Fall is Over, so how did the White Sale go?

I suppose it has been quite some time since I’ve shared a highly opinionated piece on how we market our area.  Maybe too much criticism, or maybe I’ve been really busy, but nevertheless here we go.

Right to the point.

The Extended White Sale, as it has been dubbed was an extension of the “Wildly Successful” Summer White Sale.  It was decided that the Summer White Sale had gone so amazingly well, that it was prudent to extend the promotions into the fall, so people could download coupons to Shipwreck Island Waterpark that actually closed first week in September.  Please note the sarcasm.

The numbers.

It total, the entire campaign saw 95,780 visits on (now forwarded to and 23,890 total coupon downloads.  The entire cost rang in at a whopping $575,000.  That’s right, the comma IS in the right place.  Looking at previously reported numbers, that would leave 15,718 visits and 3,945 coupon downloads for the Extended White Sale.  The extension cost $80,000.

I would really love to see a breakdown of what cost what – I’m wondering how the bill got up to almost $600k.

So, with the total coupon downloads being at 23,890 and a total cost of $575,000, the TDC paid $24 per coupon download.  The TDC paid 24 dollars per coupon downloaded.

I have an interesting question:  How far would the businesses get if THEY were given $24 for every coupon of theirs downloaded?  Just curious how you think they would have fared had they been given that money, instead of a creative agency.  They could do with it whatever they please – keep it on the books, use it for advertising, use it to subsidize lower rates for everyone that comes in their doors, whatever.

I mean, what if Shipwreck Island was to use that money to subsidize entrance fees giving the first random/unannounced number of people each day Monday – Wednesday (or whatever notoriously slow part of the week during the summer) 50% off all summer long.  Imagine the lines of people that would be at the front gates in the morning and all the people that would stay and pay full price because they were already there with the kids.

What if Captain Jacks used their share to have Buy One Get One Free Tuesday Nights all summer long.  How many more people would eat there when they were in town.

The ideas are only limited by your creativity (I have little, I know).

Look, I think we all learned a hard lesson this year.  With that huge sucking noise we hear coming out of Washington as the economy falls more and more into a recession is effecting all of us – we are all scurrying to keep money in our pockets to pay the bills.

I believe rash decisions were made that turned out to be bad decisions, and hopefully next season, we will have a greater understanding as to how we need to move forward with all marketing campaigns.