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Pure Genius

Monday, June 24, 2013

What Small Businesses Can Learn from the State Up North

Say what you want about the state of Michigan, but there is one place that they are winning the big game: tourism marketing.

You cannot turn on the radio or take a drive on a major highway in Central Ohio right now without hearing about “Pure Michigan” – a marketing campaign that can only be described as pure genius.

The beautifully woven tales, told by celebrity Tim Allen, help the listener imagine a simpler time during childhood and how “we all need a little recess now and then.” He encourages us to “Put away our deadlines and assignments … the recess bell is ringing, time to come out and play, in Pure Michigan.”

The gorgeous scenery on the billboards shows colorful trees and amazing shores of the Great Lakes.

Love Michigan or hate it, you’ve got to admit, they have got the golden ticket when it comes to marketing.

So, what can small business learn from their marketing campaign? You don’t have a multi-million dollar budget to bring people to you, and you probably can’t afford to hire Mr. Allen to voice your commercials. No matter, the principles are simple techniques that we can apply to any marketing campaign, regardless of size and scope.

First, CONSISTENCY: It’s everywhere. Radio, billboards, social media … even on the signs as you enter the state! The font they use is flowing and yet easy to read, and they use it every time the same way. Pure Michigan is a consistent brand image and slogan that are carried throughout the entire campaign. You can bet everyone involved in creating and executing the campaign is tired of hearing it. They have heard and seen it over and over again in their work. Many times, business owners think they need to “change things up” because THEY are tired of the branding, but the fact is, for their audience, this is just about the time the brand is starting to get legs and take off. Don’t rush out of an effective campaign … let it ride a bit and see how far it can take you.

Second, SIMPLE MESSAGE: “Pure Michigan.” Two words that, because of the effective marketing, evoke relaxation and fun in a beautiful environment. The message is simple and easy to remember. Like the old greasy spoon signs that say “RESTAURANT,” the beauty is in the simplicity and effectiveness of the message. Pure Michigan gets the job done without a lot of fancy-schmancy language. Bottom line: It works. Alexis de Toequeville said, “The public will believe a simple lie rather than a complex truth,” and my addition to that quote has always been “… so keep the truth simple.” The simple truth of “Pure Michigan” is what makes it so effective.

Third, VOICE: Michigan’s campaign has a perfect voice behind it – the voice of Tim Allen, a well-known Michigan sports enthusiast who spent much of his youth and all of his college years in Michigan. For my generation, Tim is not only the fun-loving, “manly-man” Toolman from the TV show Home Improvement, but also the voice of Buzz Lightyear, hero to many of our children. He has something to offer for the whole family … and provides an authentic voice to the campaign. For businesses, you need to ensure that you have a face and voice for your marketing – whether it’s one person or a select group – speaking the same language and serving as a genuine representation of your company’s values and culture.

Lastly, TIMING: Michigan is not trying to sell you on visiting in the dead of winter – six-foot snow, icy roads and dreary gray days. They are advertising in April and May, and talking about sun, lakes and dune buggy riding in the sand. They have timed their sales pitch for a time when they have the most to offer. Instead of trying to drive traffic to your business at a time when you know you’re going to be slow, no matter what, try to drive more sales during your peak times and make the peaks higher. Logic would tell you the opposite, but try selling snow cones during a blizzard vs. selling snow cones in the dead of summer, and you’ll understand what I mean!

Bottom line, Pure Michigan has everything that a marketing campaign should – simple message, consistency of brand, a perfect voice and ideal timing. It’s pure genius.

Angela Krile, who is expecting to travel frequently to Pure Michigan in the near future to visit her soon-to-arrive niece, is President of Krile Communications, a strategy, marketing and public relations firm based in Lancaster, Ohio.