Some 60% of US consumers call the New Heartland home. However, many brands and their Coast-based agencies assume that all Americans who live in the New Heartland are the same as those who live on the coasts. Or worse, those agencies stereotype this group and dismiss all members as cowboys, country folk, or rednecks. That assumption is naïve and lazy, and can cost a brand millions of potential dollars in sales.

The fact is that there's a huge opportunity for brands to grow in the New Heartland.

The New Heartland Defined

What is the New Heartland? It's composed of 26 states in the Southwest, Midwest, and parts of the Southeast. It's a massive and influential cultural segment largely misunderstood and underserved by many brands.

New Heartland core values tend to be more at the surface for these consumers and to be woven into everyday decisions.

The truth is that many brands are allocating large amounts of resources on messaging that doesn't connect with the people in this region. Those brands don't take the time to learn what is important to the consumers in this cultural segment. Only 5% of consumers surveyed in the New Heartland think that brands and the campaigns they produce really understand them.

If a brand is already successful without bothering to learn about the cultural nuances of the New Heartland region, why should it care? Sure, brands can succeed with limited knowledge and marketing to this region. However, doing so incredibly limits a brand's potential by ignoring a group that makes up over half of the United States' consumers!

Think of the lift in brand equity a concerted effort in this space would generate... It's huge!

Stats You Should Know

This year, New Heartland Group commissioned the first-of-its-kind research study [email required] on the region. The data uncovered some distinct differences in how those consumers respond to brand messaging. For instance, 44% of New Heartland consumers said they are more likely to find faith (not religion) a very effective advertising element. You don't have to start referencing the Bible to win over the New Heartland; just be aware of the role faith plays in everyday life.

Forming a genuine connection with this influential group of consumers cultivates new customer relationships that lead to bonafide brand advocates. Proven to be wildly brand loyal, the New Heartland prides itself on deep-rooted affiliations with the brands they love.

As a whole, New Heartlanders base their purchasing decisions largely on their core values of faith, community, and family. Only 4% of New Heartland consumers feel that commercials and ads appeal to these values.

Similarly, 41% said they would be more likely to buy a product or service if their commercials appealed to these values.

If these numbers alone aren't enough to convince your brand to look at the New Heartland a little differently, consider this: Community is one of the strongest core values of New Heartland consumers.

A New Heartlander's community can include family, extended family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, sports teams, church groups, and more. These networks exist throughout the country but they are particularly close-knit in the New Heartland. Almost half of New Heartland consumers said they live within two hours of everyone in their family and 70% still reside in their home state.

Why Care About the New Heartland?

So why should this be a selling point for your brand to target this segment? Word-of-mouth is marketing gold.

A recent Ad Age article highlighted how WOM marketing can increase purchase decisions both online and offline. If your brand can gain loyalty with consumers in the New Heartland, they're bound to tell their friends about you. Since their communities are so close-knit, word-of-mouth plays a huge part in brand loyalty.

The New Heartland is also very social. They are similar to their coastal counterparts in overall online behavior, with one exception: New Heartland men are 23% more likely to let social media recommendations sway their purchase decisions.

What does that fact mean for brands? Social media greatly influences New Heartland consumers (and nationwide), so cultivating a brand presence on the right social channels is worth it. Geotargeting messages to New Heartland consumers can be an effective way to generate a measurable lift in awareness and sales.

In the New Heartland, brands are built at the dinner table. They are passed down from generation to generation, like family treasures. Men drive a certain type of truck because that's what their father drove, and their grandfather before them. Moms buy a certain brand of cookware because it's what their mother used.

Building relationships with the New Heartland consumer takes time and intentional marketing. But the benefits of cultivating this important cultural segment can last for generations.

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Brands That Ignore the New Heartland Ignore a Huge Growth Opportunity

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image of Paul Jankowski

Paul Jankowski is founder and CEO of New Heartland Group, a brand strategy, content creation, digital marketing and branded entertainment agency that creates messaging and engagement platforms that connect with 60% of US consumers in the New Heartland.

LinkedIn: Paul Jankowski 

Twitter: @pauljankowski1