Today’s consumers are accustomed to endless choice — especially when it comes to the food and beverage category. A trip to the grocery store presents aisles of options for all manner of snacks, drinks, and treats. This wasn’t necessarily the case a couple decades ago, however. At that time, a handful of mega brands dominated, with various barriers of entry preventing smaller brands from gaining traction in the marketplace.
But then things started to change. In the beer industry, for instance, legislation allowing for home and small-scale brewing paved the way for the craft brew movement. All of a sudden, consumers went from having a few choices to thousands. The bigger players in the space took notice, of course, and set about understanding key drivers of choice — and they found that “local” was a big one. All things being similar (quality, price) consumers would choose the product they felt a connection to — and local was an effective way to create that connection.
This led to advertising campaigns tailored for local markets, which led to product development for local markets, which ultimately led to opening offices in local markets — the goal being to hire local people and connect with local consumers in the most authentic way possible.
The COVID Acceleration
This “bottom up” strategy is one we anticipate taking on greater importance in the post-COVID era — and not just in the food and beverage category. As we’ve mentioned before, brand authenticity will be the key to winning over consumers in the years to come (especially Gen Z), and the equation isn’t complicated. Being more authentic = being more relevant = being more personal = being local.
It makes sense, right? After enduring months of stay at home orders, of supporting our favorite mom-and-pop restaurants by ordering takeout, of worrying about and wishing good health for our neighbors — after all that, we’ve forged stronger bonds with our local communities. We’ve developed a deeper sense of camaraderie. And as a result, brands truly born from these communities are more likely to win our business.
The Next Step: Local Immersion
Brands looking to earn market share in a specific neighborhood, city, or state need to do more than slap a few regional signifiers onto an ad campaign developed in New York or Los Angeles. That said, they don’t necessarily need to start looking for office space in their target market, either. Month-long local immersions are the happy middle ground.
During these immersions, the goal is to steep yourself in a particular culture to understand it in a meaningful way — to learn what it really means to be from Denver or South Florida or Quebec. Recommended methodologies include:
- Expert/Community Leader Interviews: Pick knowledgeable brains about what’s happening in your target market and discuss significant trends, innovations, and cultural shifts. These can be conducted digitally while COVID-19 remains a concern in certain regions.
- Safaris: Along with other key stakeholders, explore stores, restaurants, and other notable destinations in areas of interest. Make observations and take notes, then regroup to discuss your findings.
- TrendScans: Study social connectivity and shifts in economic, political, and entertainment spheres within a local community — then synthesize what these trends can tell you about the intersection of the area and your specific category.
- Exploratory Qual: Use qualitative research as a way to better connect with consumers by exploring human needs, motivations, and preferences within a local community.
Whatever your methods, the most important thing is to account for the many nuances that define the identity of any given place. Take Texas, for instance. While outsiders might have an overly simplistic idea of the state, its demographic diversity is vast. Communities in Austin will look very different from those in a border city like El Paso, or a panhandle town like Amarillo, or even another major metro area like Houston. Quant or qual, you need to make sure you’re getting a representative sample.
Need help designing an immersion strategy in a target market? Let us be your local ambassadors. Get in touch.