While more than 80% of Americans live in Urban cities, the results of the 2016 presidential election highlighted that there are many unique differences and considerations facing the 20% of Americans living in rural areas. Many of the frequent cultural assumptions we make when planning campaigns for the general population do not necessarily match up with what Rural Americans experience on a daily basis.
1. Rural Values and Needs Differ
With the most popular initiatives of the last decade we have seen more emphasis placed on diversity, inclusivity, equality, and rapid advancements in technology. While these values may still be relevant, they are not necessarily always the priority for rural consumers. People in rural areas empower themselves to be independent, appreciate the hard-work that goes into what they make and buy, celebrate their hometown traditions whenever possible, and trust their local communities more so than what is shared via mass media.
Even conveniences like e-commerce delivery which opens up new opportunities for brands to engage interested rural shoppers presents their own challenges as there are fewer distribution points to ensure fast shipping. The first step to properly engaging with these consumers is to acknowledge that our knowledge from the general population does not always account for the real needs of our consumers.
2. Innovation Has a Different Meaning
When marketers think about the word innovation a range of recent changes comes to mid such as new technology, product changes, and even the way we deliver services. However, for those living in rural areas innovation is often more focused on ways people have found unique solutions to local problems. A survey conducted in 13 states by Saatchi & Saatchi revealed that 96% feel that small-town innovation deserves more recognition, while 87% said they would rather support local brands over large corporations. For brands hoping to connect with this group, rather than bringing the newest tech they should first think local and learn how others have approached solving similar problems.
3. Homegrown Pride Is Key
As national sponsorship and influencer opportunities have grown, we are seeing more brands attract help from superstar performers and athletes. Having Selena Gomez take a picture drinking a bottle of Coca-Cola can generate national buzz and engagement with the brand, but for more targeted initiatives it may not have as much impact on sales. An important value for rural consumers is having pride in their community and local traditions.
When planning out initiatives for rural consumers we should be looking out for who the local heroes and icons are in a specific region. Degree for Men is one of the many sponsors that work with Dale Earnhardt Jr. — most well-known nationally for both his father and his own NASCAR career. However, looking at the activity on his fan pages reveals that his biggest supporters reside in Concord and Mooresville, N.C., where he was raised and his current hometown. Finding a balance between what works nationally and stays true at the local level is always a challenge, but when done well there should be no doubt that we as marketers understand our unique and diverse audiences.