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Every major city between here and the Florida state line has a huge, memorable brand.

You may think Myrtle Beach is touristy and cheesy, but there’s no question what you’ll get when you visit. Shopping, shows, a plethora of miniature and big-boy golf plus a long “Grand Strand” of beaches and surf. It’s not an overstatement… there’s something for everyone to do in Myrtle Beach.

Then you’ve got Charleston, which is a bit more sophisticated with its Revolutionary and Civil War history. Church steeples dot the skyline while quaint shops and restaurants line city streets. And the “Low Country” boasts some of the best shrimp and grits recipes in the world.

Travel a little farther south, and you’ve got Savannah. Cute, historic Savannah. Home of “Goodnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” Paula Deen and one heckuva St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

And then you’ve got Wilmington, epicenter of the Cape Fear Coast, right? Well, not any more. The brain trust at the Brandon Agency, an ad company in Myrtle Beach, thinks we should be called “Wilmington: River District and Island Beaches” now. Snazzy huh? Puts me right to sleep.

I can’t think of calling our fair area anything more vanilla or generic. What in “Wilmington: River District and Island Beaches” would make anyone want to visit here. “Hey Martha, let’s check out Wilmington! It’s got a river… and beaches!!” “Well I would have never imagined that, Rufus,” says Martha. “Let’s go right now!”

It’s like calling the Battleship North Carolina a “big boat on the river” or The Oceanic “a place to eat on the beach” or Jason Thompson “an outgoing county commissioner.” Well no kidding!

Cape Fear is a huge brand we’re now choosing to throw away like last weekend’s leftovers. To some it may bring to mind pirates and shipwrecks and crazy killers on boats, but at least it’s memorable. When the Weather Channel says a hurricane is headed for the Cape Fear Coast, everyone knows where that is.

And we PAID for that new moniker? Surely if we had opened it up to people living here they could have come up with something more creative for less than the tens of thousands we spent on this.

All because the beach towns felt left out of “Cape Fear Coast.” So we lose our generations-old uniqueness, but at least now everyone’s happy.


Comment on this Story

  • Guesttoo

    There are eleven states that have a city or town named Wilmington. Eleven. What a way to go from uniqueness to mediocracy! Even SENCland would be better than the suggested moniker. Hey!, how about “Cape Fear Coast”?…oh, wait a minute…

  • Connie Nelson-PR Director WCFCCVB

    First and foremost, this exciting new campaign is a work in progress. It will evolve as more visitor research and tourism partner/stakeholder input crystallizes. It will become final in late August after it has been presented to and approved by the TDA Board. In September, the TDA will present the campaign to the tourism industry, at which time we will provide local travel partners with a marketing “package” that will include logo, files and a branding, positioning and messaging usage guide to ensure marketing consistency across the tourism industry.

    As the official destination marketing organization for New Hanover County, it is the Tourism Development Authority’s (TDA) responsibility to promote four distinct entities. In destination marketing, the primary objective is to promote the destination from a geographical perspective. The secondary objective is to create a sense of place in the mind of the visitors. In this day of GPS technology, it is imperative to lead with an actual destination name over that of an obscure brand name. The beach towns have graciously set aside individual destination marketing to allow the dominant destination brand – Wilmington – to take center stage. For the first time in more than 20 years, Wilmington is being positioned as the lead “portal” through which vacationers locate, consider and eventually experience our vacation paradise. Name recognition is exponentially enhanced by branding the single destination “Wilmington, NC”, versus an obscure name like ‘Cape Fear Coast’.

    The tag ‘Historic River District & Island Beaches’ elevates value by suggesting in one place – Wilmington, NC – a visitor can experience a unique collection of tourist assets from the river to the sea. This tagline is meant to more clearly define the area when advertising and marketing to reach visitors in a cluttered communications and digital age and to position against competitors who use the dominant city’s own name for marketing. Defining the single destination with the tag of ‘Historic River District & Island Beaches’ as opposed to ‘Cape Fear Coast’ quickly indicates an historic and entertainment district located on the river and multiple beaches that offer multiple vacation opportunities. The destination website and marketing materials will further extend the messaging to detail all product assets. In a spirit of cooperation and unity, the TDA Board, which includes elected officials from the three beach towns and the City of Wilmington and New Hanover County, have agreed on an umbrella brand that will add their considerable coastal assets to Wilmington’s ‘portfolio’.

    Overall, both tourist and stakeholder support of the new campaign/brand direction has been statistically and overwhelmingly positive, providing the TDA clear and powerful direction for marketing the collective destination.

    We love the residents of Wilmington and the Beaches and we value their passion and pride. However, and with the utmost respect, the target audience is the visitor (a.k.a. our customer) and how they would most relate to a more clearly defined brand and tag line.

  • Guest PR person

    The WCFCCVB is afraid the name “Cafe Fear” will scare a few dollars away yet they scratched out a phat check to an out of state advertising/marketing agency to handle the job of promoting our unique region.

    Ms. Nelson, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” much too much.

  • Guester


  • Guester

    no, this company doesn’t handle the Wilmington Convention Center’s business. There are actually people who live in Wilmington that work there and have offices there. They don’t ship people up here to work in the convention center from Myrtle Beach.

  • Doris Reiner Poulot

    I moved to France from Wilmington 11 years ago. When I have to explain to a local where I come from, two things make their ears perk up: Michael Jordan’s hometown and The Cape Fear. River district and Island Beaches? Isn’t that pretty much ANY town on the east coast?

  • Guest569887

    when I first heard of this, I told my husband that was the stupidest idea I have ever heard of….we all need to tell the TDA that this is stupid. “Cape Fear Coast” does indicate beaches….if the area beaches want differnt brandning let them come up with the money….by changing the name you are taking away a strong history….we have been the cape fear region for eons….we are not some cheesy place like myrtle beach….this AD agency needs a new muse, b/c their creativity is suffering

  • Cape Fear Fred

    We’ll always be known as the Cape Fear Coast. Those in beach towns who feel left out, fail to understand the meaning of the phrase. And it sounds like our local government is spending money based on their ignorance. The region and the river is named after the Cape itself, a marine feature. Cape Fear is a large obvious geographic point jutting seaward just like Capes Hatteras and Lookout. So it’s an obvious moniker for our region that is not bias away from beach towns. What shameful waste of money to cowtow to those who, like little children, truelly don’t understand what they are upset about and who have little enough reverence for our historic region as to want change its name. Rarely do you see such arrogance and ignorance combined into action.

  • albrightt

    I don’t care what a company from South Carolina wants to call it – It was Cape Fear, is Cape Fear and will always be Cape Fear. Maybe we should call them the rename everything company – It’s our history, ask a local not a foreigner.

  • Guestknows

    Just check out our drivers. Highest accident rate in the State.

  • SurfCityTom

    omitted one important piece of information.

    What was the cost for this display of advertising dynamics?

  • Wilmywoody

    Just stop spending money on these sort of things along with the mini-vacations for school officials,…Frivolous spending needs to come to a screeching halt before our entire country completely crashes because of it.

    We don’t need to be rebranded by some folks that don’t live here or just got here. This area has done just fine attracting people, look around. Wilmington is on the Cape Fear River near Carolina, Kure and Wrightsville Beaches. Seems this area is trying to get too big for it’s britches and ruining the very thing that attracted people here in the first place.

  • S’port

    Doesn’t the “River Beaches and Island District” River flow into The “Big Eastern Puddle of Salt Water” somewhere near here?

  • stoopid taxpayer

    Not only is this absolutely a bad idea to mess with the Cape Fear moniker, but to pay an OUT OF STATE agency to do it for us. This agency also handles out convention center business.

    Next time I see council spend money out of the area Im moving to where ever it is they seem to find all these experts.

  • KrisC

    If it’s a Myrtle Beach, sounds like they’re promoting the Grand Strand instead. It will always be the Cape Fear region to anybody in the know.

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