The countryside must compete for its share of population, business, governmental funds, and public attention. This competition must involve marketing. If the region has fought to get countryside curricula into its schools and started a local museum, then the marketing campaign has a solid platform on which to build. If the region hasn't built these local institutions, then a marketing campaign will quickly reveal the need for them--and hopefully generate support for them.
Professional people in marketing and public relations have much more knowledge and expertise to market a countryside than does this author; however, I do have several suggestions that I think the professionals would not reject. I will confine my remarks to them.
I will assume that the countryside already knows two matters:
- what product(s) it wishes to market, and
- what market it wishes to reach.
For instance, the countryside might wish to market itself as a eco-tourist destination. It might believe that wealthy, middle-aged city-dwellers are its most likely market. Or the countryside might wish to market its artisan crafts--furniture, ceramics, textiles. It might think that young, educated men and women decorating their first homes would be their best market.
The countryside marketing campaign should contain, at a minimum:
It is popular business advice to stress the need for a "brand" for any product. A brand has commercial value, as reference to the "Coca-Cola" brand immediately proves. I prefer to say, that the product must have a visual image associated with it. Such an image is easier to obtain than a "brand" to be identified with a countryside.
(Click on image for full-size in pop-up)
I mean by "image" simply a photograph. The image should be unique, immediately identifiable, and easily related to the countryside. For instance, the state of New Hampshire identifies itself with the image of the "Old Man of the Mountain", a rocky profile prominent on Cannon Mountain. The image was selected, a few years ago, for the New Hampshire 25-cent coin in the US Treasury's fifty-state coinage series. That the profile collapsed a year ago has not diminished the image as a unique state identifier. New York City identifies itself with a unique Manhattan skyscraper skyline, distinguishable from the skylines of Chicago and other cities with skyscraper skylines. London identifies itself with images of famous historical buildings.
The countryside has to figure out what person, or product, or structure, or scene can uniquely identify it and provide a striking photographic image of it as a marketing icon.
Covered foot bridge on Seneca Trail, West Virginia.
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The countryside must determine what story it will tell the world about itself. By story, I refer to the kind of theme that best exemplifies the countryside as a product to be marketed. For instance, a story theme associated with Plymouth, Massachusetts, is "religious freedom". For Lowell, Massachusets, the theme might be "industrial ingenuity". Just the mention of these locations and themes immediately brings to mind visual images, such as pilgrims or puritans in Massachusetts Bay Colony praying in the wilderness, or old red brick mills filled with machines to make shoes or textiles in a mill town. For the Amish settlers in Pennsylvania, the theme of religous freedom is associated quickly with the image of the horse-drawn carriage--a different image but uniquely identifying. It is this connection between a story theme and image that the countryside must make in its marketing.
A story should be brief. It should be possible to state the story in 100 words or two minutes of talk. Imagine yourself as a salesperson giving a presentation to potential buyers in a convention center room. You will use Powerpoint slides. You want to have your image(s) and your story easily outlined in bullet points in a few, simple, clear slides.
The story will provide the concept of your countryside and its importance for the potential consumer to whom you are marketing your countryside.
A strategy is the hook or connection between your image and story and the consumer reaction you hope to elicit in your market. Generally, the hook or connection is the benefit the consumer will obtain by buying your product.
Say your product is retirement living in a pastoral countryside. You hope to attract, over a decade, a thousand retiring couples from large cities to live in your countryside or several small villages in your countryside. Your hook might be the peacefulness, ease of living, and friendly neighbors of the countryside.
Alternatively, your product might be organic goat cheeses. A dozen goat farmers in your countryside have developed uniquely flavored artisanal cheeses based on the rich browse of the hills in your countryside. You hope to market to young urban professionals, and restaurants and specialty markets serving them, who are trend setters in food consumption. You model your marketing campaign after French wine marketing which emphasizes the unique connection between soil, wine flavor, and local French foods that historically grew up with the local wines. Your hook or connection is to satisfy the sophisticated palate of the young professionals, who enjoy discovering new food products and introducing others to them.
Your story will be important to the consumers to whom you are marketing. They need to have something to understand about your product. They need to have information to talk with other persons. If they retire in your countryside or buy your product, they will be converts, excited about their decisions, and eager to certify their decisions by convincing other persons to follow their lead. The story will provide the information and content they need to fulfill these "after market" consumer activities.
A Theory of Rural Life
1. What is Country Living?
2. Social-Economic Classes.
3. Conditions for Successful Production.
4 pt. 1. Land-Use Stability.
4 pt. 2. Landscape Preservation.
5. Country Living Values.
6. What Are Values?
7. A Home Place.
8. Education and Identity.
9. Marketing the Countryside.
10. Conclusions and Recommendations.
(Revised, April 10, 11, 2007.)