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November 13, 2023 Opinion & Commentary

What to make of CT’s ‘Make it Here’ ad campaign?

Bill Field

After a much-ballyhooed press introduction with political figures trumpeting the state’s new “Make it Here” brand campaign, the hard work lies ahead.

Executing and sustaining a memorable state economic- or tourism-based promotional campaign (think “I Love New York” and “Virginia is for Lovers”) requires smart creative execution coupled with budget consistency year over year.

This hasn’t happened with previous Connecticut brand and tourism campaigns. Does anyone have fond memories of the “Still Revolutionary” campaign?

I didn’t think so. Many challenges await.

‘Make it Here’ brand essence

The campaign has a lot going for it. It’s bold and visually arresting.

It creates a new sense of optimism and pride in Connecticut that is sorely needed. The key is to keep the campaign fresh beyond the tried-and-true helicopters, jet engines and pizza, which are made here.

One missing element is an emotive connection with audiences for how an individual can work and live successfully and vibrantly in the state. The campaign lacks the emotional tie-in, the real-life stories that bring communications to life and pay off the brand promise of “making it.”

The people aspect is too generic and lacks specificity. A very thin website cries out for more in-depth stories — personal and small business leaders and owners who articulate how they made it.

Paying off the brand promise is critical to ensuring the campaign resonates with all constituencies.

Dueling campaign dilemma: ‘Find Your Vibe’ vs. ‘Make it Here’

Many states have tried to align economic and tourism marketing together in one overarching campaign.

They inevitably fail as they try to be all things to all people.

The “Find Your Vibe” Connecticut tourism effort has its own look and feel. It presents an image of Connecticut that flies in the face of common perceptions, all without leaning on the “attractions.”

It has the personal connection that is lacking in “Make it Here.” While a tourism-led campaign, it inevitably crosses paths and intersects in the media world with “Make it Here.”

Both are produced by two different communications firms with separate budgets and media programs. You would hope that they’re coordinated to maximize the overall media spend of both.

Past experience in state-based advertising makes me question if this is an action item as state agencies closely guard their individual budgets.

Budget commitment and consistency

The production costs of more than $800,000 raise a few eyebrows, considering the campaign is currently only funded to $1.4 million.

From experience, spending over 60% on production against the overall budget spells trouble. Not nearly enough is allocated to media messaging.

It’s a quick path to “quiet irrelevance,” with little to no brand awareness or recognition.

Does the state have the fortitude to adequately fund the campaign at a level to make a serious dent in changing deeply-embedded perceptions?

This requires significant dollars and dogged consistency, something that’s been severely lacking in the past.

The initial groundswell of support fades quickly without year-over-year budget commitments. It requires an investment and leap of faith, rather than a one-year budget line item.

Changing opinions takes time and money.

How the future success of “Make it Here” unfolds is anyone’s guess. There’s a lot to like with the campaign approach and direction.

It exudes positivity about why we all live and work here. It’s not without the need for creative refinement and course correction.

One positive: The campaign was created here in Connecticut, not by a firm from outside the state as happened with “Still Revolutionary.”

It’s going to be a fascinating campaign to keep an eye on.

The question remains: Will they still be trumpeting “Make it Here” two to three years from now?

Bill Field is the founder of FieldActivate, a Connecticut-based marketing firm.

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