You Can Live In South Dakota Case Study


South Dakota has a workforce shortage. The need for qualified workers meant the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED), which usually works to attract new companies to create jobs, felt it necessary to launch a workforce recruitment campaign. The GOED hired Lawrence & Schiller to help them attract job seekers living outside of the state to consider relocating to South Dakota.


Before L&S and the GOED could create a campaign to attract people to South Dakota to fill jobs, we needed to know what job seekers thought of the state. The L&S Insight team conducted one-on-one interviews with South Dakota business leaders and people who had recently moved to South Dakota. L&S also conducted focus groups in Minneapolis and Rochester, MN; Davenport and Des Moines, IA; and Peoria, IL. Participants were asked to describe what they thought their life would be like in South Dakota and surrounding states. Participants were also asked questions about what factors were important in a relocation decision and what would convince them to even consider relocation.

Once all of the research was compiled it became very clear that South Dakota had more than an image problem—it had a NO image problem. South Dakota wasn’t even on the radar because, as focus group participants told us, no one ever talked about the state. The only thing they thought South Dakota had to offer was farming and tourist attractions, like Mount Rushmore National Memorial.


L&S needed to help the GOED solve two problems: overcome the no image problem by showcasing the state’s job opportunities and rich lifestyle; and get people talking about South Dakota so it became top of mind for people in the job search mode.

No Image Problem
To overcome the no image problem, L&S and the GOED created the “You Can Live Here” campaign. The main goal was to showcase the jobs and lifestyle that South Dakota offered. To accomplish this, L&S created a series of videos with real transplanted South Dakotans talking about the great life they enjoyed in the state. Along with the videos, a microsite was created to showcase photos of South Dakota companies and activities. It also featured the state’s lifestyle rankings, a wage calculator and a job search button that took users to the statewide database of open jobs. Digital tactics including remarketing, site retargeting, display banners and paid social media directed would-be South Dakotans to the landing page to see videos, lifestyles and find jobs. The goal of the campaign was to showcase South Dakota as a place where you don’t just physically live but really live the life you want.

Get People Talking
“You don’t hear much about that state in general… you don’t hear much about it, you don’t see anything on the news … you kinda just write it off as even being there.”

That is a quote from a focus group participant, which echoed the sentiment shared by several people when asked to describe South Dakota. To overcome this challenge, and to get “ad-resistant” millenials to notice the You Can Live Here campaign, L&S and the GOED had to create a buzz that would get national and regional attention. Prior to the launch of the campaign, the MarsOne Project announced its top 100 finalists to be chosen to someday live on the planet Mars. Over 200,000 people applied for this one-way ticket to the Red Planet where they would most likely die in the first few hours. Clearly, living in South Dakota is better than dying on Mars.


The campaign pre-launched with a news story in a Sioux Falls newspaper and the Live Here campaign blasted off the expectation charts. The national media (Fox News, CNN, Good Morning America, CBS, The NBC Today Show, The NBC Nightly News, Jimmy Fallon and others) started talking about South Dakota being better than Mars. As a result, the campaign went viral and earned an estimated $1.3 million worth of earned media before a penny was spent on ad placement.

After the paid efforts launched two weeks later, the campaign continued to keep people talking earning an estimated $3.6 million in exposure in just the first month. Web traffic to the site went through the roof and all digital efforts performed better than industry average as potential job seekers watched videos, compared wages and searched for jobs.
In the first five months of the campaign, the Mars video received nearly 150,000 views on YouTube. Kyle’s Story, the first South Dakotan profile video, received nearly 3,000 views. There were an estimated 336 total story mentions, reaching roughly 369 million people, which equates to an estimated ad value of $4,049,146, more than four times the total budget.

But like all good trending topics, the Mars One hype died down. But L&S and the GOED are keeping people talking with the newest “buzzworthy” campaign. Stay tuned to see why living in South Dakota is way better than…

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