Muskegon launches image and marketing campaign
Nearly 15 organizations are participating in the $500K, three-year endeavor.
Nearly 15 organizations and municipalities throughout the Muskegon area have launched an image and marketing campaign to inform residents and visitors about what the area has to offer.
Community leaders and representatives from greater Muskegon-area organizations and municipalities unveiled a three-year community-wide image and marketing campaign Friday with a goal of raising $250,000 for marketing to be matched by another $250,000 in in-kind activities.
Cindy Larsen, president of Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce, said the campaign is comprised of three components: education, beautification and marketing for the Muskegon community.
“We have created an image that is very colorful and actually is really just the beginning of the messaging, because we hope this program will go on for three years and we will change the message over time (while) maintaining the same look and theme,” said Larsen.
“We are very excited about this because we think the timing is right. We have talked about doing this for a number of years, actually.”
The message unveiled Friday is “Watch Muskegon: We’re just getting started.” Planning for the campaign began approximately two years ago when the Muskegon County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Muskegon Now and Muskegon Area First started meeting to discuss the image issues that were holding the community back, according to Larsen.
“Things were being slowed down because people didn’t have good information about Muskegon and the Muskegon lakeshore,” she said. “However, there was some development that needed to take place. We felt the timing of this was as important as doing it. We didn’t want to do it too soon; however, we didn’t want to do it too late, either.”
During the past year, Larsen said the group discovered other organizations and nearby municipalities were having discussions about image as it relates to attracting talent and businesses and improving the community’s perception in the eyes of others, including Michigan Works! Muskegon-Oceana, Norton Shores, Roosevelt Parks and North Muskegon.
“It became very apparent this was much bigger than any one organization, and it needed to involve all of the promotional organizations in Muskegon County, along with the private sector and the nonprofit sector,” said Larsen. “There is a role for everyone in improving a community image, and that is part of what this plan is all about.”
Currently, the campaign has nearly 15 organizations that have officially signed a stakeholder agreement to promote the greater Muskegon area positively and dedicate financial or in-kind resources to the messaging. The campaign has raised more than $50,000 in cash and $50,000 in-kind resources this year, according to Larsen.
Gary Nelund, mayor of Norton Shores, said the image campaign benefits all of the municipalities and the county as a whole, and it is important to be involved in the process and help steer the campaign.
“Back in February when it started to come out this was happening, we signed our stakeholder agreement to show our support. I think it is important that a lot of other smaller municipalities are on board, as well,” said Nelund. “I am on the committee for the image campaign and we did kind of have a small meeting to roll it out with some business leaders in the Muskegon area. There were quite a few Norton Shores businesses represented that thought it was a great idea and were willing to actually make some financial commitments to sustain the campaign.”
After conducting market research, Nelund said that, outside of West Michigan and other areas in the state, there is neither a positive nor negative image of Muskegon, and the campaign is important for raising awareness of the community.
“We have a beautiful community and a wonderful place to live and work and for tourists. I think many other communities have very successful slogans and image campaigns,” said Nelund. “We see it important for not just driving tourism but also economic development and making people aware of the Muskegon area and what we have to offer.”
The Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce released a Muskegon Market Report for April 2015 indicating the top Muskegon job occupations advertised online in March 2015 included retail salespersons with 29 new postings, and customer services representatives with 20 new positions.
Other top occupations included machine operators, certified nursing assistants and registered nurses. Employment levels have reached an estimated 72,100 for March 2015, which is an increase from 70,000 in March 2014, according to the report.
Downtown Muskegon is an example of the area’s diverse employment options. Nearly 16 percent of businesses are in the retail industry, 5 percent are restaurants, and almost 47 percent represent the service industry.
“Certainly, our downtown is going through a real transformation in terms of the rebuilding of our main street, Western Avenue, and definitely our waterfront is being reinvented as industry is disappearing and is being replaced by tourism, businesses, housing projects and recreational activities,” said Larsen.
“This is an opportunity to wake up the residents to see Muskegon how it is today and not to think of Muskegon as what it was like 20 years ago.”
With a goal of reaching $500,000 in marketing and in-kind resources each year during the three-year campaign, Larsen said the hope is to have a couple hundred organizations and businesses actively involved.
“This will benefit the community when people understand their words matter and they have an opportunity to either attract a tourist, new resident, or business,” she said.
“What we are trying to have people understand is, it is not just the job of the cities or chamber of commerce or economic development to speak positively about the community, but also every individual has an opportunity to help us grow this community.”