Recent declarations by marketers that their priorities are squarely focused on advancing business growth in tandem with their social responsibility provides an opportunity for the industry to restore social science and civic partnership skills that have long been dormant. Three decades ago, marketers and their agencies shared a view that individual markets were diverse localities where brands sought accommodation and relevance to gain customers. Somewhere along the path of regional expansion and consolidation that sentiment flipped toward a belief that local markets will accommodate the brand -- or perhaps just naivety that audience targeting is immune to geographic influences. As a new generation of marketing and media professionals has primarily managed strategy through national aggregation, tactical channel efficiencies and hyper-target audience analytics, it has disabled an ability to detect some core communication and relevance factors that contribute to consumer resistance. Now is the time to shift equilibrium by advocating bottom-up perspective as these signals offer context for marketers and will be critical to talent and tool development, data and measurement metrics, and activation effectiveness that prioritize growth initiatives and dually harmonize efforts in support of societal prosperity.
Technology enables product distribution to be less reliant on geographic penetration levels and has motivated a majority of brands to adopt top-down strategies and tactics utilizing national channel choices that promise efficient coverage. Although these decisions have merit as a cost effective mechanism to reach consumers, the chosen outlets are experiencing degraded market penetration as media fragmentation increases. Couple this fact with the economic imbalance facing a significant majority of U.S. consumers and it warrants the revival of local market intelligence and expertise as one of the cornerstones to inform growth and campaign objectives.
The economic reality in the U.S. is more nuanced than the national GDP. There is significant concern about income inequality and demographic exclusion as a bifurcated recovery has precluded many markets with the exception of a minority that have ties to the digitalization movement and the energy boom of the last decade. Brookings Institute recently published results that track urban metro recovery since 1999 and found that 235 out of 300 local communities in the study are still at or below the median household income levels they held 17 years ago. Regardless of a tighter labor market, many households experience depressed wages and less disposable income as more of their paycheck is disbursed to rising housing, healthcare and education expenses.
Local cities are on the frontline of these challenges and have worked collaboratively since the recession to improve social safety nets that are less dependent on federal funding or a specific industry cluster. Throughout the U.S. local leaders and their advocates have reaffirmed their markets' core assets by working to strengthen economic objectives that solidify community loyalty and circular reinvestment by creating innovative revenue streams through public, private and academic partnerships. In an effort to facilitate more inclusive communities, all are adopting open source data and transparency objectives to better visualize market conditions and improve collaboration and services within and across jurisdictions.
These combined factors add to dynamic market personas that have a direct impact on market commerce. Despite modern interconnectivity, it is only boosting lifestyle aspiration while many are still hindered by varied demographic, economic and social divisions across the U.S. As technology, data and channel expansion create more ways to interact and observe consumer attention, it could be fruitless for marketing and media campaigns if a majority have limited means or resent messaging that is irrelevant to their situation.
Market study offers the industry a path to align pragmatic perspective against the erratic shifts that new media, data access and technology have accelerated. One way to reinforce this knowledge is to support products and services that identify and integrate local market context through various initiatives.
Local Intelligence Clearinghouse(s): Local media owners who report, connect and hold the trust of their communities can harness their collaborative strength through shared revenue projects that create information networks specifically designed to service marketers and the industry at large. Combining resources can reprocess current assets by building textual research databases that not only reveal a market's story but enable deeper study and analysis.
Data and Measurement Alliances: Local data collection and market measurement has long been insufficient and disconnected for marketing and media needs. Today there is opportunity to forge new alliances and a framework to drive unified market-specific databases and coordinated supplier solutions that fortify local data markers and community dynamics.
Altruistic Synergy: Nonprofit and public service investments are often integrated through different company initiatives that serve local markets. As marketers seek to improve business growth in tandem with social responsibility, it can facilitate new options that unite the for-profit and nonprofit budgets through local strategy and activation synergies.
The variation of U.S. markets is complex. There is no turnkey option to detect the individual nuances of each community without utilizing a collection of tools and analysis that incorporate data, local reporting, economic analysis and social geography. This presents favorable business circumstances to revive bottom-up perspective and foster solutions that aid marketers and the broader advertising ecosystem.
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