Guest blog: Creative Marketing – Award-Winning Tourism Campaign

8 May

Teresa Housel, Communications Advisor, Environmental Protection Authority.

Michigan and New Zealand surprisingly share a few traits. Both have an overall friendly nature and fantastic local foods. They also have tourist campaign taglines that include the word “pure.”

With the Northern summer tourist season approaching, targeted American and international audiences will encounter “Pure Michigan” highway billboards, television commercials and print ads. This is not the first tourism organization to adopt the overall phrase (New Zealand’s “100% Pure” campaign has existed since 1999), but the ads spotlight the state’s lovely natural features.

Pure Michigan1

Images sourced: facebook.com/puremichigan

The “Pure Michigan” campaign reflects how a creative marketing strategy can positively impact a region’s economy and public perceptions. Michigan has a negative media reputation outside the state because of its struggling economy following the auto industry’s near-collapse in 2009. Before my family moved to Wellington, we lived in West Michigan for eight years. Like many, I was surprised to discover the state’s beautiful landscapes.

Pure Michigan3

A Detroit-area advertising agency, McCann Erickson, created “Pure Michigan” to market the state as a tourism destination. The campaign was launched in 2006 by Travel Michigan, a division of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC).

The campaign’s ads convey relaxation, pleasure, and reflection by featuring scenes such as fruit orchards, coasts and lighthouses, spectacular winter scenery, wineries, inland lakes, golf courses and historical landmarks. As one of my former students in Michigan told me, “The ads bring to mind everything that is good about Michigan.”

In 2008, former Governor Jennifer Granholm approved $45 million to increase the campaign’s outreach. Campaign ads appear on more than 25 cable channels. Internationally, the campaign is marketed in southwest Ontario, Germany, Britain and China.

Image source: facebook.com/puremichiganThe campaign has successful financial returns. According to a March 2014 report from Longwoods International, a tourism research firm, the campaign generated 4 million out-of-state visitors who spent more than $1.2 billion in Michigan in 2013. The report further indicated that Michigan gained return on investment of $6.66 for every $1 spent on the $13 billion budget for out-of-state advertising.

Although we are enjoying our Wellington home, I am sometimes nostalgic for the bright “Pure Michigan” billboards that greet drivers as they enter the state. Michigan struggles to diversify its economy and stem the numbers of university graduates who leave the state. However, the “Pure Michigan” campaign reflects how a region can use a creative and forward-thinking marketing strategy to capitalise on its existing strengths.

Prior to moving to Wellington last year, Teresa was a journalist and Associate Professor of Communication at Hope, an undergraduate university in Holland, Michigan. She taught journalism, cultural studies, and general communications courses at Hope.

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