Reflecting on Pure Michigan

It’s pretty rare in the world of blogging that you can actually land a punch, and rarer still that the punch you land will leave a mark. You flail away for hours a day, tiling at windmills, and writing your heart out, but, for whatever reason, things rarely break through. You have little victories. You might make a new friend through a blog post, or get someone to consider moving to Ypsilanti, or help a local business get off the ground successfully, or contribute toward keeping a right-wing zealot with disturbing views on women and minorities off of City Council, but it’s rare when you make ripples beyond your immediate community.

Every once in a while, though, the planets align on a slow news day, and something that you’ve written escapes the gravitational pull of Ypsilanti, and breaks free. Generally speaking, it happens about once or twice a year for me. Every six months or so, I’ll string together the right series of words, and, for whatever reason, this little strand of DNA that I’ve concocted will successfully burrow itself into the mucous membrane of popular culture, where its cells begin rapidly dividing, and it takes on a life of its own. It happened that time that I wrote about wanting to take Robert DeNiro, who was living in a trailer outside of my house at the time, out for a drink. And it happened, not too long ago, when I mentioned the fact that my great-aunt had her savings stolen by the father of Miss America. “Breaking through” can mean a lot of things. Sometimes it means huge readership numbers, and sometimes it just means reaching someone interesting who I wouldn’t normally reach. Not too long ago, a mention on Reddit translated to 40,000 readers in one day. But, as not one of them left a comment, at least as far as I can tell, or went on to do anything with the information that they’d been exposed to here, I don’t know that I’d consider it a success.

For me, contributing a single quote to an article about Michigan on Rachel Maddow’s website is a bigger deal, even if it doesn’t translate to more readers. It means that I’ve been successful, in some little way, in getting a message out to the world about what’s going on here. (Blogging is like throwing a message in a bottle out into the sea every day, and waiting to see if anything comes back.) In and of itself, a fleeting mention on Maddow’s website may not have that much of an affect, but I’d like to imagine that there’s a cumulative impact. Maybe, in some tiny way, I think, I’m helping shift public opinion, making it more likely that progressives across the country will contribute money to the campaigns of our local candidates (like Syed Taj), and making it clear to our leaders in Lansing that they’re being watched. Personally, the local victories are more rewarding, but I like knowing that, every once in a while, I can kick a bigger hornets’ nest.

And that’s kind of what happened a few days ago, when I channeled my righteous indignation toward the administration in Lansing for their blatant politicization of the Pure Michigan campaign. Not only did I find the politics behind the ad that ran in the Wall Street Journal objectionable, but, as a marketing person, it pissed me off that they’d sullied what had been a valuable brand. In our highly-partisan world, Pure Michigan had been something that we all seemed to be able to agree upon. Despite all the other bullshit, we knew we could all come together and say, “Damn, we live in a big, beautiful state.” But, the Snyder administration, when they decided to use the Pure Michigan campaign as a platform from which to push their corporatist right-to-work agenda, screwed all of that up. They made Pure Michigan a joke when they posted that ad in the Wall Street Journal, proudly declaring that union-busing was “Pure Michigan.” And, then, as if that weren’t enough, they went a step further, saying that we were witnessing a “perfect storm” in Michigan, not realizing, apparently, the connotation of that phrase. Well, I ranted, a lot of you joined me in visually exploring the new reality of “Pure Michigan”, and a bunch of other folks, with much larger audiences, like Eclectablog, The Huffington Post, Deadline Detroit, MLive, Michigan Radio, the Detroit Free Press, and NPR’s Marketplace, began asking questions.

I don’t know that I was the first to start kicking up a fuss, as I suspect that someone was likely pissed off about it before I was, but, as all of that media coverage that I just mentioned came after I issued my fatwā, I have to think that I contributed toward producing the high pressure system that led to the tsunami. And, while I’m still pissed off at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) for forcing Pure Michigan to jump the shark, I also have a certain sense of satisfaction for having played a part. I mean, it’s not very often that Governors are asked to comment on things that were written by angry, middle-aged men in their pajamas. (The Governor, by the way, says that he didn’t know anything about the ad that ran in the Wall Street Journal.) Speaking of the official take on all of this, Mike Finney, the CEO of the MEDC, released the following in response to the public outcry..

As for the future of the Pure Michigan campaign, I doubt this recent dust-up will have any long term negative impact. If the brand were to suffer, and hurt Michigan’s tourism industry, I might feel bad about having played a role. As it is, though, I feel pretty good about the way things worked out. If nothing else, the administration knows that we’re paying attention… and that, if pushed, we can create kick-ass memes.

This entry was posted in Mark's Life, Marketing, Michigan, Politics, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  1. Bob Krzewisnki
    Posted January 13, 2013 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    Finney says Michigan now has “freedom to work”. Maybe he could put up signs when you come into the state driving that say “Work Will Set You Free – PURE MICHIGAN”.

    Ooops, forgot, someone else came up with the Work Will Set You Free sign a little while back –

  2. Posted January 13, 2013 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

    “Freedom to work”? Seriously? Can we get a meme for *that* bullshit?

    Seriously though Mark…congratulations! You threw your bottle into the sea and it made a difference :)

  3. anonymous
    Posted January 13, 2013 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

    It should be the state’s policy to respond to every one of Mark’s posts.

  4. Oliva
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    “I mean, it’s not very often that Governors are asked to comment on things that were written by angry, middle-aged men in their pajamas [with a very stinky basement].”

    Well, it’s been clear to plenty of us that these bottles you toss into the sea are ultra-special bottles full of import and originality. And that taint of Pure Michigan really touches raw nerves, so you spoke for many of us. The ads that post prompted are priceless. Pardon me if this was mentioned and I missed it, but I wonder what an early voice of Pure Michigan, Jeff Daniels, has to say about the MEDC ad. Granholm too. And I hate the way the current governor always pretends his hands are clean.

  5. Posted January 14, 2013 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    Thanks, guys. Honestly, I wasn’t fishing for compliments… but I do appreciate the kind words. I just felt reflective last night.

  6. anonymous
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    Speaking of Right To Work, there’s an event at the Brewery tomorrow at 6:30. I heard about it on NPR this morning.

  7. anon
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 8:58 am | Permalink

  8. super anonymous
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    Do the Greffs know this is happening?

  9. (not the other) Bob
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

    Here’s another pitch from the Right to improve the state. I’m not sure why my brain connects the privatization of Belle Isle as an oasis for the incredibly wealthy to the luscious counterpoint of right to work/Pure Michigan. Perhaps its because both ideas, at their core, are ripe with hubris.

  10. Mr. X
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    And the meme won’t stop!

  11. Jennifer
    Posted January 16, 2013 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    I found on HuffingtonPost a story about this ad slamming Snyder for sullying Pure Michigan

    I think I like the photos generated here better, but still it’s nice to see the Nerd in Chief get rightfully slammed.

    And Mark, you rock!

  12. Elliott
    Posted February 15, 2013 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    The MEDC says they learned their lesson.

    From Eclectabolog:

    This week, MEDC vice president of government affairs Jim McBryde, told the House Tourism Committee that they are putting further misuse of the successful “Pure Michigan” tourism brand to promote Right to Work on hold.

    “The thinking at the time was, that while MEDC did not take a position on that issue one way or the other, the legislature passed it; it was now part of the new business climate. That’s something site selectors are interested in, and so it made sense to let them know about it,” he said. “That was the thinking. Now, (there was) tremendous reaction on both sides to that advertising campaign, and at this point any further advertising on that level or in that style has been put on hold.”

    He said MEDC President and CEO Michael Finney should reach a decision soon.

    It became quite clear that the MEDC knew that they had screwed up when they scrubbed Right to Work links from their website when the proverbial feces hit the fan. I suspect we won’t see a return of this poor choice regarding the promotion of Michigan any time soon.

  13. Tegan
    Posted May 6, 2013 at 6:56 am | Permalink

    I’d love to outfit wolves with guns.

One Trackback

  1. […] Journal Ad,” but, the truth is, as much as I disagreed with the MEDC’s decision to politicize the Pure Michigan campaign, I don’t know that it would help to force Finney from office. First of all, I’m not […]

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