Are you a genuine original? Balanced achiever? Social sophisticate?

Well, these are the folks that Maine’s tourism officials are searching for.

I’ve always found the research done by the Maine Tourism Commission to be fascinating, and no more so than this year. Carolann Ouellette, the Commission’s dedicated and talented director, presented the latest research at the Governor’s Conference on Tourism on March 18. That research is the basis for the commission’s 2015 Annual Marketing Plan.

The goal of the research “was to predict which consumers pose the highest likelihood of visiting Maine and creating the most economic impact in spending. We intentionally cast a wider net in order to identify new potential visitors to Maine, as a way to generate incremental revenue that builds upon the high level of repeat visitors already coming,” reported Carolann.

They surveyed folks living east of the Mississippi River, plus Texas, and including New Brunswick, Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia. To give you some idea of how fine-tuned this research is, they “oversampled for Millennials to identify whether or not this next generation of travelers stood apart as a single consumer group.”

This information will be used to direct the Commission’s limited dollars for advertising to “consumers who will deliver the greatest return on investment.” The research also provided guidance on media selections, brand partnerships, and messaging, to make sure they are reaching these specific consumer groups.

I was particularly captivated by the presentation of the three consumer groups. Here’s how they are described.

Balanced Achievers
They check off “must see and do” items as they vacation, and enjoy things and places off the beaten path, nature, and cultural activities. They want to vacation in a place where they have the space and time to reflect on what’s important in life – to change their state of mind, step back from problems, be in the moment, and listen to their inner voice. Sure sounds like Maine, doesn’t it? And they tend to be big spenders on vacation, including shopping for local hand-made one-of-a-kind items.

Their average age is 42, average income $117,495, and 71 percent are married while 50 percent have children. Their guiding principles are: seek life balance, strive for higher status, are creative and in tune with nature, and drawn to competition and trailblazing. There’s lots more research about these folks, including where they get their news and information, but you get the idea. They even researched messages to create a “Message Receptivity” chart. By far the best message for these folks is exploration/discovery/learning.

Genuine Originals
Wouldn’t we all like to be in this group? Listen to the description of these folks.

They exemplify freedom of thought/action and follow their inner compass to do their own thing. They pursue outdoor recreation and make it a priority to explore nature and observe wildlife – it helps them shed their worries and cares. Time spent in tune with nature rejuvenates their soul. They are interested in art, history, and cultural activities. They try new vacation destinations, and don’t take cookie-cutter vacations. They are not driven by luxury, popularity, or urban sophistication. They desire authentic trips with exposure to unique local people, cultures, and experiences.

Their average age is 46, average wages $130,627, and 69 percent are married while 38 percent have children. Their guiding life principles are: Enjoy exploring; are drawn to adventure and risk; are creative and independent; are very focused on nature, and self-actualization. Best message to reach these folks is also exploration/discovery/learning.

Social Sophisticates
OK, if you are in this group, I feel sorry for you. But re-reading the description of these folks this morning, I begin to wonder. Maybe I am one!

Social sophisticates are interested in luxury, flawless service, keeping up appearances (OK, I fall short on this one), and having fun. They make it a priority to travel every year and are passionate about it (this does describe Linda and me, for sure). They believe their choice of vacation destination reflects who they are, so they look for trendy spots. (Nope, we don’t do this. In fact, we try to find places where tourists do not gather in big numbers).

They prefer romantic, popular destinations with a “faraway” feeling and excellent accommodations to escape daily distractions. On vacation they want to shed responsibilities (Yes!), take mental health breaks, and let their defenses down. They want to find some serenity and change their state of mind, but are not interested in mental/spiritual rejuvenation and are not particularly curious about cultural activities, exploration, or adventure.

And here’s the kicker: They are not careful about money. Yes, we want you to come to Maine!

These sophisticated folks average 43 years of age and $132,724 in income, while 70 percent are married and 44 percent have children. Their guiding principles are: Believe appearance matters and are driven by status – money is not a concern; think about their place in the world; focused on family and community; also want to have fun; try to self-actualize. The most effective message for these folks is also exploration/discovery/learning.

The Plan
The marketing plan is full of specifics including “channel-specific strategies and tactics” like email marketing and their digital website. It’s all impressive, although I think our current slogan, “The Maine Thing,” is very weak. I’ve been asking people in the tourist business, along with others, what our state slogan is, and not one single person has gotten it right yet.

The plan includes information about the Tourism Commission resources available to folks in the tourism business, including getting on their email list (contact [email protected] or call 207-624-7483.). If you would like to read the entire marketing plan – and believe me, it is very interesting – you can access it by clicking here.