The season for giving thanks...

We at Pure Michigan have so much to be thankful for this year, and we wanted to make sure that everyone knows it.  In an effort to show our appreciation for all of you that have given so much to us this year, we sat down with our Vice President, George Zimmermann, and asked him a few questions.

Fall colors reflection from the river. Taken at Bonanza Falls just on the easern side of The Porkies.

Fall colors reflection from the river. Taken at Bonanza Falls just on the eastern side of The Porkies.

Michigan has had a tough year, but the Pure Michigan campaign has been a bright star in all of the darkness.  What has made it so successful?

Pure Michigan works because it has the attributes of every successful brand – it’s authentic and it’s compelling.   Those of us who know Michigan as a destination – from iconic attractions such as Hitsville and The Henry Ford to our stunning landscapes and waterways – relate to the emotional appeal of the Pure Michigan campaign because we know it to be true.  That is what McCann Erickson, our advertising agency which created Pure Michigan, did so brilliantly.  They captured the magic and majesty of Michigan and its travel experiences and presented them in a way that consumers relate to and connect with at a deep level.

And for Michiganders and all with affection for the state, I think the fact that the state is going through a tough time makes the allure of Pure Michigan even stronger.   We have received countless emails from Michigan residents thanking us for the campaign, often with a message like:  “thank you for reminding me why we love Michigan so much, and why we hang in here even during difficult times.”  Receiving such emails is an added bonus for us at Travel Michigan, knowing our work is having such an impact on Michigan residents at a time when we all need a boost.

What has the explosion in fan support meant to Pure Michigan this year?

The very positive consumer reaction to the Pure Michigan social media network we launched this year is, to me, another example of how Pure Michigan connects with consumers.   I often point out in speeches that our Facebook fans are not signing up to be fans of Travel Michigan, our organization.   They are signing up to be fans of Pure Michigan, and everything Pure Michigan means to them.  And the outpouring of travel suggestions, photos, videos and recommendations from consumers across all of our social media channels is both impressive and gratifying.

Besides your internal team, who else deserves credit for the success of the campaign?

An evening swim at Wampler's Lake in the Irish Hills of Michigan.

An evening swim at Wampler's Lake in the Irish Hills of Michigan.

We are blessed to have great Michigan business partners which all are contributing to the growth and expansion of Pure Michigan.   Of course the Birmingham, Michigan office of McCann Erickson is at the top of the list, for their work in creating the brand and executing it in award-winning television and radio commercials, print ads and bus wraps, you name it!  But there are a host of others just as important to the effort.  Fluency Media in Ann Arbor is promoting Pure Michigan via search engine optimization, pay per click ad campaigns, email campaigns and a number of our social media channels.   Sojourn Communications, our public relations team, is spreading the gospel of Pure Michigan via a wide variety of media outlets, in-state, regionally, nationally and internationally.    Gammet Interactive helps us organize online e-specials, while Fusion Media is focused specifically on the promotion of golf.

We meet monthly as a group with this creative team of people, to review past results, plan future initiatives and brainstorm new opportunities for Pure Michigan.   These are fun and productive sessions, where new ideas are explored, debated and decided.

Speaking of the Travel Michigan staff…

When I was hired as the Vice President for Travel Michigan at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation in 2001, the Lansing staff of Travel Michigan numbered 26, plus our Welcome Center staff around the state at the 14 Michigan Welcome Centers we manage.  Today, after retirements and budget reductions, the Lansing staff is 13 very busy people.   So, although we are a smaller team than we were eight years ago, these are the people who are making Pure Michigan shine.

What do you see as the future for Michigan, and what role do you think Pure Michigan will play in it?

As we all know, Michigan is at a crossroads.  And as the public and private sectors work diligently to diversify the state’s economy, we believe that tourism and Pure Michigan stand ready to play a significant role in that diversification.  In 2009, we ran the first-ever national promotion of Michigan in the form of a $10 million cable television advertising campaign.  We know for tens of millions of Americans – in the East, West and South, who have never lived in the Great Lakes region, this was their first exposure to how great a destination Michigan is for visitors and vacations.  Those of us who live here or in the region probably know well the national-quality tourism product we have on our two great peninsulas.  But for millions of people outside our region, before this year’s national Pure Michigan campaign, there only image of Michigan might well be based on negative news coverage of the auto industry.  Obviously this is not the kind of media coverage which is likely to result in interest in vacationing here.

Those of us who know Michigan know we are, in fact, one of the best places in America for a summer vacation.  Our combination of vibrant cities, crystal-clear lakes and streams, majestic woods, outstanding golf and outdoor recreation, the ultimate Great Lakes sightseeing experience and moderate summer temperatures give us huge upside potential to attract new visitors, especially those tens of millions of Americans who live south of us and bake and swelter all summer long.

Ludington lighthouse in winter

Ludington lighthouse in winter

For these reasons, if the Pure Michigan national advertising effort is funded for 2010 and beyond, we believe the result will be millions of new visitors to Michigan from all of the U.S., visitors who will spend billions of dollars at Michigan businesses, spending which will create tens of thousands of jobs statewide and provide a needed boost in state tax revenues.  The advertising return on investment studies we have commissioned every year since 2004 have proven year after year that Pure Michigan advertising pays for itself and more.   In fact, from 2004 to 2008, for each dollar we spent on out-of-state Pure Michigan advertising, the advertising stimulated enough new travel to Michigan to create $40 of visitor spending at Michigan businesses and put $2.86 back in the state treasury in new incremental taxes paid by those out-of-state visitors.

Pure Michigan is at a tipping point.  There is a proposal before the legislature which will provide a permanent funding stream for Pure Michigan, to maintain the national advertising campaign in 2010 and beyond.  Passage of this proposal will dramatically increase the number of out-of-state visitors who come to Michigan.  It will mean increased revenues for Michigan businesses, more jobs in every county of the state and more income for the state treasury.  And Michigan will finally be recognized for what it is:  one of America’s top vacation destinations.

Overall, if you had to pick the 5 things that Pure Michigan is most thankful for this year, what would they be?

Pere Marqette Lighthouse

Pere Marqette Lighthouse

We are thankful:

5.  That the beautiful music from the film “The Cider House Rules”  works so well in our Pure Michigan radio and television commercials.

4.  That Tim Allen is the voice of Pure Michigan commercials.

3.  That the creative team of our Travel Michigan staff and our agency partners constantly find new ways to advance the cause of Pure Michigan.

2.  That we had the funding in 2009 to promote Pure Michigan nationally for the first time ever, with a $10 million national cable television buy which resulted in 7,900 Pure Michigan commercials airing nationally, commercials which were seen by an estimated 60 million Americans from coast to coast.

1.  That the “product” we market via Pure Michigan is one we love, Michigan.


The whole team at Pure Michigan would like to thank all of you for your loyalty and support.  We are truly grateful for all of you, and wish everyone a safe and very happy Thanksgiving!