By Torey Van Oot
Minnesota tourism officials launched a revamped marketing campaign Monday, encouraging visitors from across the country to “Find Your True North” in the state.
“North helps define us in a way globally that we’ve never been able to achieve before,” Explore Minnesota Director John Edman said of the slogan. “I think it will really put Minnesota on the map in a new and unique way.”
The campaign rollout, made during the state’s annual tourism conference, coincided with the tail end of one of the most brutal spells of winter weather in recent memory. As industry leaders gathered in St. Paul to plan on how to best woo visitors, sheets of ice coated roads and sidewalks across the metro, creating treacherous conditions for driving and walking.
Officials were not deterred by the timing — or the challenge — of selling the state’s attributes against the backdrop of its worst weather conditions.
“This idea of finding your ‘true North,’ I think its important for us to embrace that,” Gov. Tim Walz told the group. “It’s fitting that on the heels of last week, when the rest of the country was finding out how cold it was in Minnesota, Minnesotans were going on with their daily lives, not panicking, not calling states of emergencies, to the great chagrin of my 12-year-old, not canceling school statewide, but understanding that it’s a part of where we are.”
The slogan seeks to fuse the underlying message of the agency’s “Only in Minnesota” campaign, first launched in 2014, with the trend of positioning the state and its products as the center of “The North.” Edman said a growing acceptance of the term in popular culture, business and social media inspired officials to adopt the concept as a core element of this campaign.
“It’s really helping define Minnesota in a way that you almost just can’t argue with,” he said. “As opposed to fighting the argument, trying to create a new identity, we decided to join it.”
Edman said while the “Bold North” branding for the 2018 Super Bowl served as an influence, the new motto seeks to go further by capturing a spirit, not a season or latitudinal line on a map.
“It isn’t even just a geography,” Edman said. “It’s a feeling.”
The slogan will anchor a new slate of television commercials, as well as print and “hyper-focused” digital ads, set to roll out this spring across the Midwest and beyond. The campaign will focus on potential travelers from across Wisconsin, Iowa, North and South Dakota, as well as urbanites from Chicago, Denver, Kansas City, Omaha and Winnipeg. Officials plan to use online targeting to deliver the message to people who are looking to experience the outdoors, including hiking and biking, and the arts and “are willing to take on new experiences.”
“This is an entirely different media strategy,” Edman said, adding that the digital campaign will allow the agency to go “much broader in our reach than we ever have before.” Significant resources will be dedicated to the effort, he said.
Courtney S. Ries, vice president of destination branding and strategy at Meet Minneapolis, said the city tourism board is excited about the campaign’s energy.
“This new approach to promoting Minnesota allows the state to better reach potential visitors who are interested in our lakes, wilderness and urban assets,” she said.
Nick Leonard, external relations director for Otter Tail County, said “True North is a concept the entire state can rally around.”
While the immediate goal is to bolster the state’s $15.3 billion tourism industry, supporters also said that the messaging can lead to “lifelong changes” for people who visit, impacting the state’s economy and growth long-term.
Walz said many who come to visit Minnesota are convinced to stay once they are exposed to the state’s values, even when it’s “70-below.”
“It’s all about attitude,” the governor said.