Visit Mississippi: By Abby Tait

By Abby Tait

My hometown of Mobile, Alabama recently started a marketing campaign called Visit Mobile. The campaign involves short clips of footage taken of the city and its inhabitants.

The Visit Mobile emblem that reads “Mobile: Born to Celebrate” is featured in the opening of each video to help promote the campaign and serve as the preface of what will be seen in the video. Each shot is of someone/something worth celebrating. The video then goes on to pan across local musicians, artists, baristas, business owners, and the list goes on.

The short clips are a montage that have served as “teasers” to individual interviews that have been done around the city and were later released. The “teasers” did rather well popularity wise. They have an average of 25,000 views on YouTube and thousands of shares on Facebook.

The campaign has had a positive reaction from locals and travelers alike. Facebook users (local Mobilians) left comments like, “Love this video! Our hometown is so awesome!” and “This is great. Makes me proud to have been born and raised here. Love it.” Out-of-towners left comments on YouTube like, “The coolest city I’ve ever visited in the South. Great and enchanting place. Love it!”

Like Alabama, Mississippi sometimes gets a bad rap for its past racial discrimination incidents and its assumed backwards Southern ways. The truth is, Mississippi is a fantastic place to live and visit. It’s full of zest, culture, flavor, diversity and tradition. Mobile is also a great place to live, don’t get me wrong, but Mississippi towns have just as much potential as Mobile. The only difference is someone is giving Mobile the attention it deserves. That’s all Mississippi needs.

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This photo was taken of me for our high school yearbook. It was a sidebar about students with after-school jobs. I worked at a small clothing boutique and was interviewed on my duties as a sales associate, merchandiser, and buyer for the store. I’d include something like this, from a Mississippi boutique in my Visit Mississippi marketing campaign. I wouldn’t interview high school students about their after school jobs; I’d interview anyone who works at a locally-owned and-operated clothing store and emphasize the importance of shopping locally.

My Campaign

If I were hired as Mississippi’s marketing director, I’d split the state up into regions. I’d hire assistant directors for each region to be in charge of making promotional videos the way Visit Mobile has.

The Visit Mobile campaign has given Mobile a completely different image, literally and figuratively. The producers have worked to incorporate the city’s rich history along with the latest news/trends. That requires a decent amount of research.

These videos took a while to make. Their hard work paid off, and the videos have been accepted by the community. The videos have generated a sense of pride within in Mobile and have brought attention to the work of some locals who might go unrecognized. Mississippians could be given that same opportunity, their towns just need a little marketing makeover.

I’d start this campaign with branding. First, it needs a name – something easy and logical like Visit Mobile. Like I said, I’d divide the state into sections, so there would be multiple campaigns throughout the state.

Each campaign would feature locals from each region. The Visit Mobile videos include “local celebrities,” like a 50-year-old ice cream shop owner and a blooming musician. I’d have my assistant directors research each town to find its own “local celebrities.”

I’d have the assistant directors assemble a marketing team for each region made up of a camera crew, interviewers, and a social media director.

The iconic Mobile: Born to Celebrate” logo is something I’d aim to emulate in my Mississippi marketing campaign. I made a sample logo that I’d like every region’s marketing campaign to use as a model to edit to fit their own landscapes/citizens. I’d want each silhouette to be full of pictures special to each region.

To make these silhouettes, I asked a few people what they like about certain parts of Mississippi. Below are the some of the results:

Jackson/surrounding area:

Abby Grace Hughes (Jackson resident) said her favorite thing about her hometown is the food. Her favorite place to grub is Blue Rooster’s, about 20 minutes outside of Jackson in a town called Flora. She said she loves their simple menu and their kickback sauce.

This is the kind of place I’d want to highlight in my campaign. I’d interview the owner and ask them about their experience being a burger joint owner in a town with under 1,000 people.

Biloxi/ Coast Area

I’d include native Mississippi coast musicians like Eric Lindell. I’d ask him about growing up on the coast and how that has affected his music career.

(Pass Christian) I’d include one-of-a-kind restaurants like Shaggy’s and Daddy’z.

Lindsay Holmes (Ocean Springs resident) advised me to promote a “shopping hub” with stores like Deedy’s Formal that has served the coast for generations.

I’d want my campaign to include small towns like Water Valley and try to describe their charm. I’d interview the owners of the BTC cafe and ask them about their history in the restaurant industry and why they invested in Water Valley.

Oxford/surrounding areas

Caroline Gleason (Missouri resident) said she loves going to Ole Miss because she loves being surrounded by the “accents and the aura.” She said she feels so welcome and at home here. She appreciates the diversity of the university as well, saying she’s gained many friends from across the country.

I’d include community events like Double Decker, that bring in tens of thousands of people for weekends at a time.

I’d contrast musicians like Elvis Presley (from Tupelo) to local Mississippi musicians who perform here now, like Boy Named Banjo.

Griffin Brewster (Alabama resident) said he loves Oxford because “it feels like New Orleans in a pasture.”

The Square is so different than any other small town Square in that it is still frequently visited and kept up. Five minutes down the road on Old Sardis Road are flower fields that go on for miles. These are reasons to visit Oxford, and that’s why they’d be pivotal to my campaign.

I wouldn’t want anyone to mistake my campaign as a newspaper. I don’t want my stories to feel like news. I want them to feel like short biographies.

I want the viewers of these videos to feel like they know the town residents, and like the connection I’ve made for them is unparalleled. I want it to be something they can’t find anywhere else.

I also think it’s important that the campaign’s sole intentions are to promote traffic in the area, which is temporary. Notice how Visit Mobile isn’t asking anyone to buy property or a home. It’s not urging viewers to get involved seriously.

It’s luring its audience in just for a taste; just for a quick trip down to the port city. That’s the exact same thing I’d want from my campaign.

As I said before, Mississippi gets a bad rap for its past. People stereotype her for her low literacy rates and high obesity rates. Some people also hold on to the state’s racial history, and that prevents them from being open to the fact that maybe Mississippi has changed in the last 50 years.

I won’t blame them. I’ve had my doubts about Mississippi. I didn’t know if there would be enough diversity to support a 20-year-old’s curious mind. I didn’t know if there’d be enough action to entertain me.

The truth is, Mississippi is a beautiful place to visit and an even more enjoyable place to live. It’s historically and culturally abundant and deserves to be bragged on. All it takes is someone who loves it and is willing to share that love with others.

I’ve spoken to multiple people about my campaign, Before I explain it to them, I show them the Visit Mobile video, and then the short interviews. Most of my feedback was positive.

One person said, “I want one done about my hometown (Carthage, Mississippi) just so I can light up the way you do when I see people I know.” I thought this was interesting, because I didn’t know most of the people in the video.

That’s the point of the campaign. It’s supposed to spotlight people in your town that people haven’t heard of, but who deserve attention. It allows you to meet and appreciate the talents of neighbors you didn’t even know you had.

Another person said they liked the concept of the Visit Mobile campaign where the “teaser” is released, and the individuals featured in the “teaser” have a separate video that includes an interview about them.

I like that aspect of the campaign too, and that would definitely be part of the Visit Mississippi campaign. I think my notion to divide the state up into different regions like Visit Jackson, Visit Biloxi, etc., is a good idea because it allows the videos to be more intimate and accurate.

Obviously, this campaign is hypothetical. Therefore, I had to use pictures as my inspiration for a video. A video does so much more for a campaign than photos do. It has sound and body and life that photos cannot give an audience.

I wish I could quit school and start this campaign, because I’d do it in a heartbeat. It would require a lot of research and travel, but knowing I created something that made people proud of their hometown/made people want to visit someone’s hometown would be enough of a reward.

This project made me realize how much people love this state. It silenced every negative stereotype I’ve ever heard. People love this state, and all they need is for someone to remind them why. That’s where I come in.

Here is a link to the “Visit Mobile” video for reference.

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