Fly Out Of Michigan And Take A Taste Of It With You

Michigan Musings

I'm either brilliant or batty, you tell me… I can take it.

Published on: April 11, 2013

Few would argue Michigan's Pure Michigan campaign has been nothing but a tremendous boon for the state. With Tim Allen's soothing commentaries and those scenes of tranquility followed by coffee shops and kids frolicking on Michigan's beaches, who wouldn't want to visit our Great Lakes state?

The Michigan legislature has spent millions of dollars on billboards, pamphlets, and radio and television advertising. And, if you've been to Chicago lately, I'm sure you've seen the public transport buses plastered with Pure Michigan messaging. Even when many of the state's cities have bankruptcy looming, the state is spending millions to reel in visitors who will make the mitten their travel destination. It's been a proven concept that sometimes you have to spend money to make money and with Pure Michigan, it's been purported that for every dollar spent, it brings in $2.25 into the state. The Michigan Economic Development Corp. recently announced its 2013 national advertising campaign will have the largest budget ever — $13 million – and agriculture will get part of that.

Last year the state partnered with the Michigan Ag Council to launch Pure Michigan Agriculture, designed to showcase the bounty of the state's second-leading industry and the hard working families that produce food and fiber. It has really brought the diversity of Michigan agriculture front and center, offering up a multitude of tastes with the more than 200 crops grown here. It also highlights the many activities agri-tourism has to offer – from watching cider being pressed and navigating corn mazes, to picking-your-own  peaches and wine tastings.

In taking a break from the television one night, I was thinking about this campaign and how might we expand its impact. How might we further set ourselves apart from other states and really think outside the box on reaching consumers with an agricultural hook?

What if we could leave our guests with a taste of Michigan?

It might be a long shot, but rarely anything great is accomplished without determination and imagination. I know, right about now, you're probably shaking your head wondering what I'm babbling about… stay with me.

Gone are the days when you used to get a bag or two of peanuts or pretzels while flying the airwaves, but what if we could supply the airlines with snacks grown in our great state. Think about dried fruits like cherries, apple chips and cranberries. What about potato chips, soynuts and popcorn… all grown right here. And, if you really want to stretch the imagination, how about cheese sticks, turkey jerky and cookies that contain Michigan flour, sugar and eggs.

Packaging is key to getting the biggest bang for the buck. It would, of course, use the Pure Michigan Agriculture slogan, but it could also offer up a few factoids about what is in the wrapper and where it was produced. We have so many flavors, so many commodities grown right here in Michigan, why are we not sharing the Taste of Michigan?

If I was at a vending machine, I probably would not pick out peanuts or pretzels to snack on… I'm more of a Skittles kind of gal. But, when you're strapped into an airline seat for three hours and the flight attendant hands you some snacks, most everyone eats them… if nothing more than out of pure boredom. That's a perfect, captive audience that will most likely fumble around with the wrapper and read it. And, speaking of reading, placing advertisements in those in-flight magazines could be a very effective mode to carry the Pure Michigan Agriculture message further.

Crazy? Possibly. But I see this as having the potential for national attention. A headline in the Wall Street Journal might read, "Fly out of Michigan and take a taste of it with you."

Funding is the main killjoy of this grand idea. But, it doesn't necessarily have to be and partnership is the key to overcoming. Selling the idea to an airline might take a persuasive individual, but if you started with a couple of smaller airlines as pilot projects, the logistics could be overcome.

Assuming airlines will not want to pay anything for the products, funding might be split between the supplier of the product itself, commodity groups, MEDC/Pure Michigan campaign, Michigan's Specialty Crop Block Grants, and possibly national and state grants for innovation and marketing. There's money out there if you look hard enough and have the vision to make it happen.

See what happens when the television is turned off!