Visit Milwaukee missed the mark on their advertising campaign in Chicago. The ads that run on Chicago Transit Authority buses and trains do not fully reflect Milwaukee’s strengths, nor do they effectively captivate their intended audience.
I have grown up flip-flopping between Illinois and Wisconsin; even now, I go to school in Chicago and intern in Milwaukee. While it is difficult to put into words exactly what makes Milwaukee stand out to me, I will settle on referencing it to a southern city. The people are friendly and there is a sense of community and home. The city is smaller and the buildings are shorter, yet there is still a fair amount of hustle and bustle – with a chic and classic vibe.
One of the slogans for Visit Milwaukee’s new campaign is: “Milwaukee. Think of us as Chicago’s Upper, Upper North Side.” First off, Chicagoans do not refer to any area as upper or lower, but rather far or near. Still, simply replacing those two words would not make the slogan effective. Perhaps attempting to coin themselves as a Chicago suburb would work for Racine or Kenosha, but doing so for Milwaukee is a disservice.
With areas such as the Third Ward, Brady Street and the East Side, Milwaukee can, and should, stand on its own. There is no neighborhood in Chicago that could be compared to the Third Ward, and any that can compare to Brady Street or the East Side are just a little bit louder, dirtier or more crowded.
Another slogan is “Beer. Brat. If you had another hand, we’d go on.” Here is a secret that isn’t so secret: When Chicagoans think about Wisconsin, the majority of them already think of beer, brats, or for that matter cheese. No need to be reminded.
I admit I occasionally joke with my friends about those three things being what Wisconsin is known for and yes, I have been asked to bring back a six-pack of Spotted Cow. Beer and brats, while amazing, are nothing to base an ad campaign on, especially when there are places in Chicago that can provide those delicacies much closer to home.
Then there is this video:
Swing and a miss. No one goes to Wrigley Field to tailgate, and no hardcore Cubs fan would go to a Brewers game at Miller Park to tailgate. In fact, any Chicagoan who would be fine going to Miller Park in order to tailgate would be fine going to U.S. Cellular field – and that’s a lot closer.
Visit Milwaukee needs to focus on what makes Milwaukee unique and learn more about their audience. Imagine this ad: a picture of Water Street looking North from the corner of Wisconsin Avenue. Nice looking brick buildings, filled with restaurants and bars, a few people walking down the street. Then, across the picture is the slogan, “Milwaukee. A city to unwind in.”
And I’m not even an ad man.