Minnesota to Vacationers: Wish You Were Here

The Minnesota Office of Tourism breaks a direct mail effort this month as part of a $3 million integrated campaign to increase vacation travel to the state.

A self-mailer with an attached business reply card is the first piece planned. It will offer a free “Explore Minnesota Fishing Guide” to 100,000 qualified fishing fans from inhouse and rented lists. The mailer is headlined, “Fish cleaning is a vacation day. Gutter cleaning is not.”

“The target is leisure travelers who are more likely than not to spend their vacation days one or two at a time rather than in big chunks,” said Chuck Kushell, chairman/CEO of Minneapolis-based Colle + McVoy, which handles the tourism office's advertising account.

Timing for this effort is critical. The initial drop will be timed for prospects to use the fishing guide to plan trips coinciding with the opening of the Minnesota fishing season in May.

A subsequent drop in early April will target 200,000 golfers on inhouse and rented lists, plus those acquired from ad placements. Another mailing will go later this year to enthusiasts of fall and winter sports. As of press time, mail dates and quantities were still being worked out.

“We would expect to do more direct and relationship marketing in fall/winter to expand on the inquiries generated from the spring/summer campaign,” said Charley Howe, vice president/account manager at Colle + McVoy.

Tourism in Minnesota is a $9 billion a year industry, second only to agriculture in revenue for the state. More than 25 million U.S. and international travelers visit the state each year. But the state wants more.

Direct mail joins television, radio, magazine and outdoor advertising as well as public relations work in this push. All ads promote the relaxation and fun of a Minnesota vacation rather than the stress and chores of home and work.

The concept sprung from research by Colle + McVoy that found people stressed by work seek activity-based experiences. According to some industry statistics, 83 percent of people stay in contact with their offices while on vacation. And 18 percent in a different poll do not use the vacation time allotted to them.

This campaign also targets vacationers within driving distance. Currently, 80 percent of non-resident Minnesota tourists drive into the state. This comprises tourists from Wisconsin, the Dakotas, Iowa, Illinois and Canada.

But while Minnesota offers recreational opportunities like canoeing and golfing, it lacks features favored by adventure travelers, such as canyons, whitewater and mountains.

“To be clear, people are still likely to spend a week by a quiet lake with the family, or come for a long weekend to golf, canoe and shop — Mall of America — or relax by the lake. We do have over 11,000 lakes, after all,” said John Jarvis, executive vice president and chief creative officer at Colle + McVoy.

“However, while other states focus their campaigns around the tourism opportunities, we chose to focus our campaign around the tourist and build a campaign around the importance of using vacation days wisely.”

Take a sampling of the headlines for print ads. “Vacation days expire. Right along with your sense of humor.” “Divots can be replaced. Expired vacation days can't.” “Kids get summer camp. Adults get vacation days.”

All print ads will list a toll-free number and a Web site, www.exploreminnesota.com. The billboards in key regional markets and in Minnesota will have the Web address.

“It is our intention to drive more people to the Web than to the phone,” Jarvis said, “as the exploreminnesota.com site has everything someone needs to book a vacation right then and there.”

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