Creating Content for your local market: Redefining How to Reach the “Average” Consumer with Maggie Windsor Gross Head of Strategy for Heat

I checked out to Adweek’s webinar, How to Create Content That Resonates: The “Understanding Average” Project presented by Maggie Windsor Gross when she broke down the findings from her Understanding Average Project. The goal of the project is to uncover ways to “be different while simultaneously appealing to the masses.”

One of my clients is a barbecue restaurant based out of Fort Worth, Texas.  I have been managing their Facebook and Instagram consistently accounts for about six months and I have yet to see any significant increases in engagements or community growth. I couldn’t understand why. I had all the core elements of an strong social post. I had vivid imagery, clear call to action and clearly defined brand persona. So, why wasn’t reaching my desired audience? It turns out I was reaching them but my tactics didn’t intrigue them to take action. Allow me to explain.

“You never really knew a man until you sit in his shoes and walked around them.”   -Jem Finch, To Kill A Mockingbird

Appealing to the masses requires the empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Using empathy in a marketing strategy means getting our head out of the mounds of data. Stop saying, “The data shows this” or “this trend is resonating with this demographic” and being putting people first in your strategy. I was not doing this with my BBQ client. I was following the trends and not considering the people who would be receiving my communications. This is because I manage the social networks remotely and target audience is local to the Fort Worth, Texas area. I’m not from the area and my life is very different from the people living in my target region.

Maggie speaks of this reality stating “most people who work in marketing have very different lives from average people.”What hurts the marketer are preconceived notions brought into data. Maggie encourages marketers to use “empathetic data.” Empathetic data is more than statistics. As Maggie puts it, [Empathetic data] encourages us to ask questions to helps us see the world through the eyes of others and stand in other people’s shoes without judgment.

So she began her research to discover the average American and this task proved to be a difficult one because there wasn’t just one average but two:  The Top 10 Average and the Middle Average. The Top 10 Average includes people living into 10 Media Markets: NYC, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington DC, Boston, Atlanta, and Houston. The Middle Average is, well,  everywhere else.

What was found during the research is the two averages have very different priorities. Top 10 care a great deal about their personal images and “staying in the know” so they keep with social trends and new fads to maintain a high social currency. For the middle average folks, it simply is not on their radar. So who is the middle average person? The presentation didn’t create a persona of the Average 10 person or the middle Average person as to not further corral people into more groups and add on more labels. So I will.

I’m going to call the Middle Average person the Bootstrapper. The Bootstrapper is a hardworking individual whose sole priority to support themselves from their families.  They work hard to create a good life for themselves. Bootstrappers spend most of their time caring for family or working leaving very little time for leisure activities.  Think about it. This fits the mold for most of the country. You get up. You got to work. Pick of the kids. Make dinner. Go to bed and repeat. It’s a family first focus and most of our media does not center around on this kind of mundane lifestyle because it lacks entertainment value. But this is the life of most people.

When creating content for the Middle Average know this. Not all trends trickle down from Top 10 Average to the Middle so when developing content for your local region it is imperative that you have a strong understanding of who your audience is and what is important to them. Top 10 Average gets social credibility from knowing the cool brunch spots or being in tune with social causes and emerging artists. While Middle average people may find pride in fundraising for their child’s sports team or advocating for a stop sign at the intersection of their neighborhood. The main difference between Top 10 and Middle Average isn’t their income, education or family status. It is their priorities. If you don’t live in a middle City but want use to reach people in that region use the following questions to develop your strategy. 

  1. What encourages your average consumer’s behavior? Are they career -focused family – centered? What centers them at their core? Say we want to reach a single mom in Fort Worth, Texas to visit our BBQ restaurant. Perhaps, her focus is to provide a nutritious meal for her children with little time and effort exerted. Then our content should push the product’s affordability and taste and our delivery service.
  2. How their geography shapes their reality? Remember, not all trend will trickle down to middle market so creating a mannequin challenge video in a middle market may not strike a chord as it would in a Top 10 city. Do the people carry a great sense of pride from where they come from? If so, you may want to feature local celebrities or public figures in your content.
  3. How open are your consumers to new experiences? If you have an adventurous customer base you may want to push new menu items frequently.  If “new” doesn’t entice them, you may want to leverage your time in the game with copy like, “smoking our own Bologna in 1985. This help to showcase your businesses authority in a business vertical. 
  4. What incentives make their decisions make sense? Let’s relay back to the single mom scenario. She is supporting her family on one income so stretching her dollar is a core deciding factor. An incentive like “buy one, get one” or “family dinner combo” speaks to this kind of consumer.  While eating at a restaurant where Beyoncé was spotted, will provide a Top 10 Average person enough social cred to make the outrageous cost per plate well worth it. It would not even be a thought in our single mom’s mind. 
  5. What decisions can you offer to change behavior? Think about what your customer base is doing. What you would like them to do. Then, what will make them take your desired action? If you want customers to try your tofu BBQ wrap or pulled pork sandwich topped with a kale salad mention the tangible values, such as health benefits 

Note, these decisions should not be based on personal perceptions but instead on empathetic data allowing us to see their world through other someone else’s eyes.

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