Last week was the 35th anniversary of Elvis’ death, marked in Memphis by an annual occurrence dubbed Elvis Week. One look at the visitors flocking to Graceland mostly from the “flyover
states” reminds us all that “The King” resonated with generations past and present.
While much has changed since Elvis’s death, there are a few things that haven’t changed in the new Heartland -- three core values of faith, community and family. Elvis exemplified all three. And marketers who want to ensure their brands are getting a fair share of new Heartland support should listen up to hear more about how 60% of our country’s consumers view the world.
Who are we? We are a cultural segment called the new Heartland consumer. We live in the Midwest, Southwest and parts of the Southeast. There are about 177 million of us. We don't claim to be the only ones in the country with core values, but know they play a significant role in our buying habits. Core values such as strong faith in God or a higher power (not just evangelical Christians), deep ties to our community and a steadfast connection to all iterations of family are a few of the most common values we share. Although we're a massive group with many cultural influences ranging from Black and Hispanic to Southern and Midwestern, our common set of values is what binds us together into a group that brands should begin talking to.
We're a very unique group that is often dismissed and underserved. Brands have trouble putting us into a demographic box -- and rightly so. We're not a demographic or index number. We're a segment that is so large and drives so much volume that traditional marketing hasn't defined us, much less paid attention to us. Until now. But as brand engagement takes center stage, and marketers realize the value of one-to-one experiences, the marketing world has begun to see the value in learning to Speak American.
To start the conversation, brands need to ensure that all messaging is culturally relevant. Does your LA or NYC-based agency really have the know-how to create ads targeting the new Heartland consumer? Do they truly know the language? That would be a rare feat indeed. There is a distinct cultural division between the two coasts themselves, so it's no surprise that the new Heartland is often viewed as filler by the brand decision-makers hailing from these areas. Who do you think coined "flyover states?"
The point is that there is an enormous opportunity for brands who connect with this group through culturally relevant communications. The new Heartland is the new frontier that needs to be discovered again, but instead of riding in on wagon trains, it’s tighter strategy and better ads. It's more about deep engagement with a consumer who would love to meet you. It's less checking the box through mass media and more cultural immersion. It's understanding the many nuances of this large group while dialing into the role that core values play in buying behavior.
Embracing this group at the cultural level is highly rewarding by any measure.