Marketing Success With Local Pride

04/10/2015 01:00 pm ET | Updated Jun 10, 2015

Small businesses, particularly those in small towns, can really win big by playing up the theme of local pride in their marketing and messaging -- and there has never been a better time to try this tactic. The recent, dramatic success of this marketing strategy comes from a perfect storm of consumer preferences and habits: long established principles of consumer psychology and the rapidly rising trend of preference for "craft" or "local" goods.

A Classic Case of Consumer Psychology

Researchers have long known that the emotion of pride is a powerful emotion, and can be leverage to influence purchasing decisions quite effectively. People just love to show off their support or affiliations. Self-Identity is another powerful factor of consumer psychology -- shoppers love things that allow them to express themselves, and items that reflect on their identity (this is the foundation of entire styles of dress like preppy or hippy).

Smart marketing teams have taken these two well-established principles to the next level by connecting pride in one's hometown and the concept of being a local to financially supporting small businesses and local economies. Consumers now accept as fact that a key tenet of being a local is to shop at local establishments, or to buy products produced in their locality. The confluence of this mindset and the psychological factors of pride and self-identity easily lend themselves to commercial applications (consumers love t-shirts or other goods representing both their pride and commercial support).


Photo via Peach State Pride

For six years in a row (and counting), the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, found that independent, small businesses in cities with an active "buy local" campaign fared significantly better than those in cities without a similar campaign.

There are many things your local government can, and should, be doing to support small business -- but supporting a Shop Local campaign is certainly one of the most effective.

Shopping Local is Now Trendy

You've probably heard of the "hipster" trend, but did you know these 21st-century version of beatniks are largely to thank for the recent mainstream popularity of buying local? People committed to buying locally made products and food call themselves "Locavores". This term is still quite new, with its first appearance in 2005 and was designated as The Word of the Year by the Oxford American Dictionary in 2007. Shopping local is now officially in vogue.


Photo via Google

In a recent study by Edelman Digital, more than 40 percent of millennials preferred to buy from local businesses, even if the goods or services are more expensive than mass-market alternatives. They report having the desire to feel "connected" to the products they buy, and believe the perfect way to feel this connect is buy purchasing from a local merchant or buying locally-made goods. As far as consumer trends go, more than half of consumers now say it's more important to buy local than organic, according to market research firm Mintel.

The hipster style may have begun in Brooklyn, New York -- but it's quickly spread across the country, and with it, so has support for local businesses. Hipsters are known for their preference for craft-brewed drinks and artisanal, sometimes gluten-free foods. Above all other preferences, hipsters prefer small, mom-and-pop local establishments over corporate brands. As the hipster style spreads, it increasingly fuses with overall millennial consumer trends. Shopping local stands to maintain it's "cool factor" for the foreseeable future.

What Small Businesses Can Do:

  • Businesses can prime consumers for increased likelihood of business by displaying local emblems or state flags on their websites, products, or marketing materials.
  • The emblem "made in [insert locality]" increases consumer fondness and plays to the consumer psychology behind shopping local.
  • Millennial consumers like to hear the story of local businesses and their owners, so share yo and your company's unique connection to your locality on your website's About page, your social profiles, and in your marketing materials.
  • Consumers who shop local because it's trendy particularly support businesses who also shop local. On your social profiles, share photos of you or your staff eating a local restaurant, or otherwise supporting local businesses yourselves.
  • Participating and supporting regional Shop Local campaigns creates overall consumer awareness, and as cited above, leads to increased sales. Get one started for your town if there isn't already a program in place.