Business

Iowa officials seek to shift 'outdated' outsider perceptions of state through new campaign

Screenshot of YouTube video that is part of the 'This is Iowa' campaign
Screenshot of YouTube video that is part of the 'This is Iowa' campaign

State officials kicked off the “This is Iowa” campaign last week, surprising apparently unsuspecting New Yorkers with details on affordable Hawkeye State homes on-camera.

But the Iowa Economic Development Authority recognizes it will take more than an advertising campaign to capture non-residents’ attention.

Instead, said the authority’s marketing Director Jacque Matsen, Iowa cities and businesses will need to “disrupt people where they’re at” and persuade them to give the state a look with specific examples of career and life opportunities.

Matsen addressed a group of approximately 30 people, including representatives from local businesses and community organizations, at Hills Bank in Marion Tuesday, and shared findings from market research the authority commissioned in its work on the campaign.

In surveying about 2,100 non-Iowa residents late last year, the authority found that a 55-percent majority of respondents had a neutral view of the state, followed by 40 percent with a positive view and 5 percent with a negative view.

Matsen said the “meh” perceptions — qualified with terms such as “country,” “corn” and “flyover state” — mostly are informed by popular culture, including “Field of Dreams” and the Iowa State Fair.

“We’re kind of like just the vanilla that exists,” she said. “So the opportunity is that we don’t have to overcome negative perceptions, but we do have to get on people’s minds.”

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Part of doing so, Matsen said, could involve publicizing job and recreational opportunities, which IEDA focus group members indicated they did not view as perceived benefits of living in Iowa.

Some of the perceived benefits did include natural landscapes, the cost of living — including housing — and a low crime rate, she said.

The authority’s research indicated the outsider perceptions were malleable, and improved in several categories among respondents who provided their thoughts before and after receiving information about Iowa opportunities.

Those who said they would consider moving to Iowa jumped to 53 percent, from 45 percent, and 67 percent of respondents, up from 35 percent, said they would consider visiting.

Seventy-seven percent of people, up from 40 percent, said they had a positive view of Iowa after learning more.

As the new campaign continues, Matsen said it will target neighboring states “most significantly,” with focuses on young adults, families and younger baby boomers with the means to travel.

“We don’t expect all the New Yorkers to move,” she said.

• Comments: (319) 398-8366; thomas.friestad@thegazette.com

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