Güd Marketing

Michigan Census logo, "Be Counted"
The Census Is for Everyone
2020 Census Education Campaign, Michigan
The state of Michigan Census Team, part of the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget (DTMB)
Project Goals:
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Full-Service Campaign

The 2010 census results were a wake-up call for Michigan.

In 2010, Michigan finished with a 67.7% response rate, which was only 17th in the nation. The Michigan 2020 Census turned to Güd Marketing to help substantially improve statewide census participation, which was crucial because the census guides congressional representation as well as federal funding for schools, roads, housing, health care, public safety and more.
The stakes were high. We had to develop and implement a comprehensive communications plan to:
  • Raise awareness
  • Create urgency
  • Dispel myths
  • Convince hard-to-reach audience groups of census relevance
  • Surpass 2010 results
  • Launch the campaign in the midst of an unforeseen global pandemic
Services Performed
Social Media
Media Buying
Public Relations
Content Marketing


Thousands of questions needed to be answered to approach a census with only nine questions.

Research commenced immediately. It included nine focus groups to understand key audience groups, stakeholder interviews and an audit of federal and local census messaging and tactics.

The COVID-19 pivot.

The 2020 census and our campaign began March 12. Eleven days later Michigan’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order was issued, drastically shifting the media consumption of our audiences. We quickly adjusted our plan to reduce out-of-home tactics and increase in-home ones.
Due to the statewide lockdown, we reduced our outdoor buy, pulling most highway boards and focusing on local side-street placements in areas with historically low counts.
We increased in-home touch points with digital video streaming, paid social and broadcast TV PSAs. The PSAs, placed in local news, leveraged the spike in viewership across all demographics as people looked for daily updates on the pandemic.

Messaging was key to changing perceptions and increasing participation.

The 2020 census faced multiple challenges – apathy, a lack of knowledge regarding local impacts and ease of completion and fear regarding sharing personal information. To overcome these challenges and increase participation, a three-pronged messaging strategy was created:
  • Localized benefit-driven messaging. Talking specifically about how public programs (schools, roads, hospitals, health care, fire, police, etc.) are directly impacted by the count. Key points were determined by community and placement.
  • Functional messaging. Clarifying that the census is short, easy and able to be completed online, by phone or in the mail. Questions from the census were shared outright, dispelling confusion about the depth of information being gathered.
  • Targeted messaging. For audiences with specific concerns. Myths were directly dispelled – data is confidential and secure, individual information can’t be shared with other government agencies, your data will remain safe and the census does not ask about citizenship or immigration status.
Hundreds of broad and targeted animated and static digital display ads were posted statewide. A combination of photography and custom illustrations anchored the welcoming and warm tonality of the campaign.
Web banner ad for Michigan Census, the headline reads "Michigan gets $3,000 for every person counted for food assistance, senior services, Medicaid and more."
Web banner ad for Michigan Census, the headline reads "Let's get Michigan's tax money back from Washington."
Web banner ad for Michigan Census, the headline reads "Stuck at home? Fill out the census. 9 basic questions, 10 years of benefits."
Web banner ad for Michigan Census, the headline reads "Fill out the 2020 census today! 10 minutes for 10 years."
Web banner ad for Michigan Census, the headline reads "Trade 10 minutes of scrolling for 10 minutes of impact. Fill out the census anytime, anywhere."
Web banner ad for Michigan Census, the headline reads "9 questions. 10 minutes. 10 years of benefits."
Web banner ad for Michigan Census, the headline reads "10 minutes to fund health care, education, road repairs, and emergency services."
As folks consumed information on their mobile devices and social channels in record numbers, a robust series of paid social ads was deployed. Inclusive imagery and illustrations that were granular down to specific cities and neighborhoods throughout the state bolstered engagement.
Organic social media educated, informed and encouraged participation in the census on a personal level.
Michigan Census web ad with an illustrated home and apartment building. The text reads, "Stuck at home? Fill out the census."
Michigan Census web ad with an illustrated home office. The text reads, "Trade 10 minutes of scrolling for 10 years of impact. Fill out the census anytime, anywhere."
Michigan Census web ad with a woman using a laptop. The text reads, "Seven Days of Action. Day Two: Host a Zoom Happy Hour of Coffee Hour to discuss the importance of participating in the census."
Michigan Census web ad with rainbow-colored text for LGBTQIA+ pride that reads, "The census is for everyone." "
Michigan Census web ad with an illustrated American flag. The text reads, "The census is vital for: our fair share of federal funding."
Research insights from Spanish-speaking and Arabic-speaking communities was vital to developing relevant campaign materials, including video, social, outdoor, print and radio.

Public relations blanketed the state.

We worked closely with trusted, credible stakeholder groups to ensure cultural competency and relevancy when targeting hard-to-count audience groups.
A broad range of public relations tactics quickly pivoted to all-virtual news conferences and town halls.

A stunning turnaround for Michigan.

first state to surpass 2010 results

within the first weeks of the campaign.

Top 8

ranking in the nation for response rate, the highest response rate since at least 1980.

675+ million impressions,

millions of clicks to the website, 476 million earned impressions.

Let’s do some good together.

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