The intersection of local US metros is rich in untapped insights and context variation offering valuable filters of consideration for the marketing, advertising and media industries.  These key economic organizing units are critical to the evaluation of competitive assets, shifting demographics and unique growth opportunities.

There are 321 million people living in the United States (US Census 2015) across a land area of 3.8 million square miles and six different time zones. External and internal migration is creating finely tuned microcosms that demonstrate new market dynamics. This translates to hundreds of organized metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas that each reveal an individual and evolving view of economic and social integration in our country.

Over the last few decades, as marketers merged and brand distribution expanded, the advertising industry has focused on nationalizing audience segments while demonstrating efficient cost tradeoffs through aggregated measurement techniques. In recent years, new technology has enabled more precision targeting that segments individuals to limit coverage and reach toward preferred targets.

All great advancements in helping marketers more efficiently utilize their dollars.

The downside is that a growing majority of industry professionals may be missing key opportunities and insights in between these two positions that could improve competitive growth and target investments. Given the staggered global growth, it is worth focusing more attention within the US and its local markets.

Technological innovation and better access to data, tools and talent resources has enriched industry capabilities and informed study of consumer behavior. However, this has also created a gap in understanding the local influences that play out within the home market of each consumer. This leaves a clear opportunity to take a fresh industry look at expanding media and marketing capabilities by developing business and economic skills around a new local practice.

Some of the main drivers for this consideration include the staggered economic, demographic and investment trends taking place at the local level.

Economic Recovery is Varied

The US is considered a consumer-driven economy as personal consumption is associated with approximately two-thirds of annual GDP. As national economic growth remains close to 2%, it is important to note that economic prosperity is not evenly split across all metropolitan areas.  Additional indicators also point to widening income inequality, particularly in larger metros.  Cost of living varies dramatically across the country and competitive investment is shifting job growth and prosperity at the local level. These factors influence people’s outlook and confidence and warrants individual study.

The Changing Face of the US

US Census data indicates a pivot point in 2044 when whites may no longer be the racial majority in the United States and a mix of multiracial Americans are the norm. While the overall projection is still three decades away, the variations are already visible in the under-five and student populations in public schools, particularly across southwest and coastal metros. The aging population and multiracial trends significantly alter business development at both a city and regional level. Local leaders are taking active steps in planning for the shifting service needs that demographics merit.  These local variations are often muted at a national level and should be considered in order to better align messaging and product relevance.

Startups and SMB Expansion

In response to the recession, the economic development programs supported by most metropolitan areas over the last five years have focused on small business development and diversifying industry investment.  As metros suffered economic downturn, they have adopted more sophisticated techniques to highlight their unique assets to encourage investment from the public and private sectors as well as foreign interests. These actions take time to reveal themselves in a broader economy but the opportunities reflect key prosperity differences and growth across a varied mix of metropolitan areas.

Broadband Adoption Gaps

A 2015 study released by the Brookings Institute followed the national and local broadband adoption rate progress and [indicates] national levels now exceed 75% of the country.  However, the uneven patterns at the local level demonstrate large gaps in adoption which may be related to income, education, telecommuting and broadband availability. The government has adopted programs to increase digital access and literacy but it is important to be reminded that digital connectivity and direct access is still not as ubiquitous as other media choices.

Building Balanced Perspective

The study of local economic development and media are equally important factors in building market share in a slow-moving economy.

A generation ago, extensive local market knowledge was shared widely across agency and marketing professionals. Today it is limited to a minority with varied degrees of business and media knowledge or specific channel skills. It is a practice often undervalued in today’s rapidly changing media and marketing ecosystem. And yet without a clear understanding of local markets and their differences, the industry is missing some key signals that influence consumer preferences and brand receptivity.

As growth and competitive share challenges all businesses, a renewed understanding of the economic and social influences within local markets will enable marketing and advertising professionals to improve message relevance and investment opportunities.  Media strategies and advertising allocations as well as the complexity around measurement must also improve to enable more consistent transparency and comparable metrics at the local and national level.

Image at top courtesy of Corbis. The opinions and points of view expressed in this commentary are exclusively the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of MediaVillage/MyersBizNet management or associated bloggers.