Michigan Wine is Now Pure Michigan
Glance at the cars parked at wineries like Chateau Chantal on Michigan’s Old Mission Peninsula this summer, and you’ll increasingly find plates from Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, and New York.
Marketing director Marie Chantal-Dalese thinks it’s no accident that she’s seeing more and more visitors from other states. A ‘Pure Michigan” marketing campaign that launched in 2006 has again gone national for the fourth year in a row–airing ads like ‘Harvest” (see video below) in all 50 states, even Hawaii. In more than one national spot, viewers get a glimpse of Chateau Chantal owner Bob Begin as he holds a handful of grapes to the sun for inspection. In others, a glass of wine poured in a sunny tasting room fills a screen, or as the camera scrolls over rolling vineyards, the piano tune ‘The Cider House Rules” builds and Tim Allen chats about savoring the simple things in life.
Wineries have been a natural Pure Michigan promotional tool, according to George Zimmermann, vice president for Travel Michigan at the Michigan Economic Development Council. They’re an integral part of the culinary tourism industry, something especially strong and promotable in Michigan, he said. “Wineries are geographically diverse–increasingly located throughout the state,” Zimmerman added. ‘The fact wineries keep popping up shows how much consumer interest there is for this type of tourism,” Zimmermann said. ‘That’s why we promote it as we do.”
This April, the Michigan Grape and Wine Council became more involved in the Pure Michigan cachet and its resulting tourism impact. That’s when the Wine Council became an official state campaign partner, one of 42, that contributes half the cost of a specially targeted campaign. In return, the Wine Council gets a script penned by the creative team at McCann Erickson in Detroit with the campaign’s trademark music and with Tim Allen’s voice-over.
Development of the wine-specific spots started with hours of brainstorming on everything that makes Michigan’s wine regions–and a trip there–special or one of a kind. The ad agency’s creative team intentionally opted to focus not on what a consumer would taste, or on numbers of competition medals, but on the feelings such a trip might evoke, said Mark Canavan, vice president and group creative director for McCann Erickson, creator of the Pure Michigan campaign. “The website and eventual visits would take care of the rest,” he said.
‘We tried to put a warmth into that first script that was inviting to the listener,” Canavan said. ‘Hopefully someone, including those from out of state, might hear about Michigan wines and say, ‘I don’t know much about them but I feel good about them, even though I’m not sure why.'”
A uniform face on a diverse industry
This year’s $30,000 budget limited the ads to wine-specific radio audiences in Midwestern markets. That money comes from the Wine Council’s budget, provided by non-retail liquor license fees transferred to the Michigan Department of Agriculture to support economic development within the wine industry. Starting in April and running through August, ‘Michigan Wine Month” beckons listeners in weekend drive markets like Ft. Wayne, South Bend, Grand Rapids and Toledo to wander through lush vineyards, discover hidden treasures in vast cellars, and renew themselves in a comfortable tasting room. ‘Let’s all raise a glass,” they’re told. ‘Let’s gather our closest friends and become even closer, because taking time to toast the beauty and bounty of life is Pure Michigan.”
Linda Jones, the council’s executive director, says the ad is a great complement to other promotional tools like its annual ‘Wine Country” magazine which has a distribution of 200, 000 copies annually. Jones said that the ads reach a target demographic–young people who’ve not yet formed wine preferences and also presents the Michigan wine experience as unpretentious and unintimidating.
The ads also put a uniform public face on the Michigan wine industry, an important part of coordinating the state’s four wine trails. The fact the ads all encourage visits to Michigan.org is another plus. There, under a featured partner link, the Wine Council can post Michigan wine events, wine trails, and even every state restaurant with at least four Michigan wines on the menu.
From May 2011 to May 2012, website traffic increased five-fold. In May 2011, about 400 people visited the michiganwines.com website through Michigan.org. In May 2012, that number was 2,000, according to Jones.
Finally, the campaign represents another way the industry has found success in marketing jointly. Michigan formed its first successful wine trails promotion in the early 2000s. New trails have since been added, along with new organizations like the Michigan Wine Producers Association and Michigan Wine Foundation. ‘Michigan’s wine industry certainly has its share of passionate independent personalities,” Jones said, ‘but most recognize that in order to reach their goals, they need to work together with a shared voice on certain issues.”
Building a brand
It’s hard to argue with the success of the Pure Michigan campaign (now some 100 or so spots and counting.) It has been named top state advertising campaign for several years running. In 2009, ‘Forbes” ranked it number six in a list of the top 10 tourism promotional campaigns of all time, and it’s credited with so far motivating 3.2 million trips to Michigan.
The campaign began with a brainstorming session, recalls Zimmermann, who was named 2011 State Tourism Director of the Year. During the initial meeting, a member of the creative team looked at a map of Michigan surrounded by water and said ‘pure.” Spontaneously, another creative in the room said, ‘What about ‘Pure Michigan?'” he recalls. To craft the subsequent scripts, writers like Canavan drew upon personal vacation experiences like a family station wagon trip headed “up North.”
New ideas for ads came as they shot on location and had a chance to ‘feel and taste” at scenic locales like Chateau Chantal and Black Star Farms, another Traverse City area winery. ‘There’s a connective quality you sense there,” he said. ‘We live in this world where we over-schedule our kids and we under-schedule ourselves for quality time. A different lens goes on when you get into the right place in Michigan and you can kind of see more clearly.”