“It was 1989, my thoughts were short, my hair was long,
Caught somewhere between a boy and man;
She was 17, and she was far from in-between,
It was summertime in Northern Michigan.“
-- Kid Rock, ‘All Summer Long‘
Have you seen the new television commercials promoting the state of Utah? They feature a funky, old beater truck loaded with kayaks, mountain bikes, surfboards, tents, beach gear. You see a family driving around to all of the spectacular sights in Utah, having a blast. Theyre hiking through canyons, biking across desert plateaus, white-water rafting down a raging river -- the works.
Backed by a heart-pumping rock soundtrack, the Utah Elevated campaign makes you want to jump out of your chair and zoom off to Utah with the pedal to the metal to see one of the most beautiful states in the country.
Compare that to our states Pure Michigan campaign, which is so snoozy it might serve as a substitute for Lunesta. The commercials feature tepid images of golf courses, lighthouses and lake scenes of the On Golden Pond variety with a flat narration that is eerily similar to the guy who does the Ketchup commercials on Prairie Home Companion (if you dont know them, substitute Wilford Brimley in the Country Time Lemonade ads).
Michigan is home to some of the most exciting music in the world, but our commercials feature a piano sonata soundtrack that makes you think of a time when ladies wearing white gloves and big hats festooned with passenger pigeon feathers sipped tea at 4 p.m. out on the veranda of some sepia-toned inn from the 1890s.
Oh, the commercials are “nice“ enough, but in a ho-hum, predictable way. You can only imagine viewers deciding to give Michigan a pass on their vacation plans -- our state clearly being such a dull place and all.
This is the state that gave the world Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Madonna, Kid Rock, Michael Moore, The White Stripes, Marvin Gaye, Eminem, Iggy Pop, Alice Cooper and Ted Nugent. Detroit is still considered one of the incubators of the best rock, soul, rap and electronic music in the world -- going head-to-head with places like London, Berlin and Los Angeles.
Michigan is the land of the greatest freshwater seas in the entire world. The Pictured Rocks and Sleeping Bear Dunes are among the most spectacular geographical features in the entire country. We have more than 11,000 lakes and hundreds of miles of bike trails, snowmobile trails, hiking. We have some of the best beaches on Earth.
I mean, come on!
Some of the above is mentioned by the Pure Michigan campaign, but mostly in the form of a laundry list with zero ‘sex appeal‘ compared to Utah‘s freewheeling commercials.
Doesnt it stand to reason that with all of our state‘s talent and attractions, Michigan could do a better job of selling itself? Especially when unemployment is over 12 percent in our state? Shouldnt we be able to kick some tourist ass our way, at least on par with Utah?
The problem here, perhaps, is Lansing, which I assume is where the State of Michigans travel and tourism offices are located. Our state capital was established in 1879 at what was then the small crossroads village of Lansing to avoid the taint and sway of politicians in Detroit or Grand Rapids.
The problem then, as now, is that Lansing is a dreadfully dull place in the middle of nowhere. And, as the States official Pure Michigan campaign clearly shows, tourism officials in Lansing seem to suffer from a lack of imagination in regard to selling what Michigan has to offer.
As noted in last weeks Express in the article on Silent Sports by Rick Coates, Michigan is literally “missing the boat“ on billions of dollars as a global destination for kayaking, hiking, biking, windsurfing, kiteboarding, birding... Weve got the steak here, but not the sizzle.
Solution? For starters, our tourist officials should call the filmmakers who did those Utah commercials. Then, get out of the way and let someone who knows how to have fun market our state.
Perhaps they could build a commercial around Kid Rock‘s mega hit, “All Summer Long,“ which is packed with imagery about the good times in Northern Michigan. Now there‘s a guy who knows how to get to the heart of Michigan and why we‘re worth a visit.