The results are in, and Michigan’s ‘Pure Michigan’ campaign is proving to be pure gold. The popular ad campaign generated more than four million trips and an economic impact of $1.2 billion in 2013. That year, Michigan drew 2.4 million visitors from the Great Lakes region (up from 2.3 million in 2012) and 1.6 million from other US regions (up from 1.5 million).

According to Longwoods International, when it was hired by Travel Michigan in 2004 to evaluate the state’s tourism branding, Michigan’s reputation amongst those who had not visited the state was largely unfavorable. The firm believes that the previous campaign, “Great Lakes. Great times.” focused too much of the state’s facilities, while failing to target families.

The “Pure Michigan” campaign debuted regionally in 2006 and then nationally in 2009. The ads position Michigan as a destination for families and highlight the state’s natural beauty with help from famous Michigan native, actor Tim Allen.

Fast forward five years to 2014, and the now ubiquitous “Pure Michigan” campaign launched on March 17 with a $13 million budget. TV spots are slated to air more than 5,000 times on more than 20 cable channels, including two new spots, “Open Road” and “Summer Breeze.”

What It Means
Americans are big domestic travelers, with nearly two thirds having traveled 100+ miles from home (within the US) in the past 12 months. According to Mintel research, 59% of those travelers went away for vacation rather than for business only (10%). The top destinations were Florida (21%) California (16%), and Texas (12%), with Michigan coming in at 5%.

By reminding viewers of simpler times, the “Pure Michigan” campaign has found success by evoking a keen sense of nostalgia. Unlike the “Visit California” campaign, which taps celebrities to highlight the state’s many attractions, Michigan’s campaign focuses on relaxing and connecting with nature. Furthermore, the campaign emphasizes family and taking time to unplug, which should appeal to the 84% of consumers who are looking for “somewhere that I can spend quality time focused on my family.”

Creating ads that resonate with consumers on an emotional level rather than highlighting a myriad of attractions is one way that tourism campaigns can be used to differentiate themselves. For Michigan, it’s been pure genius.

Lauren Bonetto is a consumer analyst at Mintel with expertise across  a wide variety of sectors and topics, ranging from food & drink to travel.

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