WEST MICHIGAN — Their primary goal was to produce a video that promotes their home state and engage thousands of people along the way.
In doing so, Jeff Barrett and Rob Bliss of Status Creative in Grand Rapids also had a business objective: Demonstrating the digital media firm’s capability for creative work and distributing it through public relations and social media to generate and build brand awareness.
“Every time we do one of these projects, we’re testing our model and testing it on a bigger and broader scale,” said Barrett, who along with Bliss produced the popular Grand Rapids lip dub video last year.
“We’re putting ourselves in a very solid position to be a great digital agency and having a very solid niche we can work with,” he said.
The Pure Michigan video, which debuted during halftime at the Detroit Lions game at Ford Field on Sept. 9, follows Status Creative’s Grand Rapids lip dub video that was a huge hit. It won national recognition from the PRNewswire for Best Use of Video in Social Media and, as of last count, has been viewed nearly 5 million times on YouTube.
Status Creative estimates that the awareness and attention the lid dub video generated for Grand Rapids equated to what you’d get with a $5.5 million media buy.
Given the success of the Grand Rapids lip dub, the Michigan Economic Development Corp. was eager to work with Barrett and Bliss when they presented their idea for a similar Pure Michigan viral video.
The idea fit with the MEDC’s strategy of using social media to drive brand awareness and build connections with people. Pure Michigan has more than 400,000 Facebook fans and 35,000 Twitter followers.
As Michigan’s economy recovers from a decade of troubles that battered its reputation, the Pure Michigan brand is changing how people around the nation view the state, said Chad Wiebesick, director of social media and interactive marketing for the MEDC. A project such as the viral video that Barrett and Bliss produced can help, he said.
“We’re looking to create meaningful conversation about all there is that’s good about Michigan,” Wiebesick said. “If we can get more people to vacation in Michigan and view it as a good place to live, work and play, then we have accomplished our mission.”
Yet despite their success with the Grand Rapids lip dub, which featured hundreds of people lip-syncing Don McLean’s “American Pie” around downtown, Barrett says a viral video isn’t for everyone or every brand.
“You have to have something that resonates with the audience,” he said.
The state’s Pure Michigan tourism brand clearly resonates with people, winning national awards as the best tourism campaign in the U.S. and receiving credit for driving thousands of visitors to Michigan, as well as instilling a renewed sense of pride within the state.
Barrett and Bliss wanted to support the Pure Michigan brand with a sing-along video featuring people across the state in a way that “shows the depth and breadth of this state and what can happen,” Barrett said.
Backed by the MEDC and Chrysler, Bliss and Barrett spent a week in late August traveling the state to shoot video in 50 cities. They relied on local chambers of commerce and visitors bureaus to organize and rally people to participate.
In Grand Haven on a warm, sunny Friday afternoon the week of the shoot, an estimated 2,000 people — locals and tourists alike — gathered along the beach and south pier for the video shoot.
“What we wanted to do was execute something for the state that had a little more energy,” Barrett said. “It’s something people can look at with pride.”