Tuesday, November 1, 2011

How Intelligent Marketing Uses Cultural Competence – Rural vs. Urban

Why do some brands who have the same products and services connect better with customers than others even when there is tons of competition?

More often than not it is because they connected culturally with their customers in terms of their branding and marketing communication efforts.  So what does it mean to culturally connect with a customer as a marketer?  It means that the customer or prospect customer feels or sees a significant level of personal connection to the product or brand linked to their demographic qualities – age, ancestry, masculinity/femininity, level of education, status, level of risk tolerance, creativity level, language, rural vs. urban orientation, or any other significant cultural orientation factor.  For example,
two dichotomous cultural connections in the auto industry are: rural vs. urban.

If I am an auto maker and I want to market to the rural mid-west I need to take a much different approach than if I want to market to urban east-coast.  For example, autos in the rural mid-west are often dual use, farm and street, and because of this potential customers are not that very concerned with GPS navigation.  Specifically, rural auto marketing needs to showcase how the car maker understands a person’s desire for a dual use auto, and that they don’t have a fear of car break ins and thus their ads need not focus on alarms or GPS theft tracking - focusing too much on security might scare of a customer here.  All of this requires usage of more rural communication patterns while suggestively placing items in the marketing mix (ads, TV, radio, internet, sales calls, etc.) that rural customers will culturally identify with – i.e. a ranch, trailer, or lodge, etc.  Although using hip-hop or techno music in rural auto commercials might be interesting it would not increase cultural connectivity and so that is why country or folk music is often used.  Additionally, auto companies are well advised to connect to the local community by sponsoring rural county fairs, trade shows, and local chamber of commerce annual galas.  This gets them to understand and connect with their potential customers which over time drives sales. 

In contrast, marketing autos in New York City would not focus on dual use, but rather, efficiency, security, and even status.  In a city so big having a nice car is a sign of status just because it’s so expensive to park and insure, and thus customers want it to be efficient and secure - they have a lower level a risk tolerance than rural customers.  Moreover, the marketing efforts for places like New York City should showcase low height parking ramps, acceptance of diversity, and fun.  Acceptance of diversity can be show by having a commercial narrated by a person with a Spanish accent while speaking perfect English sitting in a compact car at a Chinese takeout restaurant while listening to distinctively British Rock music in a notable New York City location.  Another way to connect to culturally in urban areas is to demo the theft prevention and tracking features at parking ramps and corporate technology expos, and this should also be marketed as a way to reduce insurance costs and customer inconvenience.  This should be done in a steady but flashy language to keep the potential customers interested but also to inform them that like the city, this auto never sleeps – a clever metaphor.

Cultural competence for brands is important whether the rural or urban customer; by considering the customer’s cultural values, you can reach a deeper connection and ultimately drive a brand to stand out in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
Jeremy Swenson, MBA, is an experienced marketer, marketing manager, communicator, sales person, and business analyst/academic.  He has extensive product marketing experience with financial products and retail electronics products.  He has been active with the MN AMA since 2009 and serves on the Social Media/Marcom Committee.  You can reach Jeremy at jer.swenson@live.com.  
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Michael Monroe Kiefer Ph.D. said...

Jeremy is right on the money with this marketing article. Think about your product or service. Who is your target market, and are you connecting with them properly? Are you considering the factors Jeremy mentions, or hoping one marketing campaign fits all? Great material for anyone in sales, advertising or marketing.

Product Marketing said...

"...the customer or prospect customer feels or sees a significant level of personal connection to the product or brand linked to their demographic qualities"

This is true. And cultural connectivity is important factor.

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