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April 2012

Marketing to Affluents: Know their Communities

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by Jordan Bainer

The book Our Patchwork Nation: The Surprising Truth About the “Real” America has piqued my interest regarding how to better define consumer targets across the United States. Media tends to define states and even entire country regions by either red or blue, alluding to the different political party designations.

As with many elements of sociology, the answers are not black and white but very different shades of grey. Red and blue do not address the many idiosyncrasies that make up U.S. citizen behavior and viewpoints across the nation. Using 12 different archetypes, the authors of Patchwork Nation explain these various community types and match them up to counties across the nation using demographic, economic, and sociological factors. Though still rudimentary (as 12 community types only widens the explanation so far), it’s a compelling method of analyzing our nation.

While reading Patchwork Nation, it made me think that these community definitions would have a huge impact on how we market to certain demographic groups – in this case, affluent individuals. Assuming that an affluent consumer is going to have the same motivations and concerns across the nation would be a very black and white approach. Using Patchwork Nation’s 12 community types, below is a summary of a few key affluent motivations and concerns for each community. Though we don’t have any specific market research backing up these hypotheses, conducting a similar exercise may be a good starting point when considering communicating to “affluents” across the nation.


Community Type Definition Potential Affluent
Potential Affluent Concern(s)
Boom Towns Fast growing communities with rapidly diversifying populations Building a Stable Community Housing Equity Slumps
Campus and Careers Cities and towns with young, educated populations Supporting the Nearby Higher Education Institutions; Increased Private and Public Investment Into Local Institutions Major Shifts in Enrollment; Drops in Community Investment
Emptying Nests Home to many retirees and aging baby boomer populations Enjoying Life’s Simple Pleasures Dips in 401(k)’s, Long-term Investments, and Retirement Funds
Evangelical Epicenters Communities with a high proportion of evangelical Christians Supporting One’s Specific Congregation; Maintaining “Family Values” in Community and Larger Nation Larger Social Changes that Affect Community; Maintaining Community Voice in National Politics
Immigration Nation Communities with large Latino populations and lower-than-average incomes Supporting Programs and Employment that Creates Cultural Balance Stability of Community; Property Value Slumps; Immigration Reform
Industrial Metropolis Densely populated, highly diverse urban centers Keeping (and Improving) One’s Standard of Living; Supporting Poverty and Education Programs Loss of Major Industrial Industries; Property Value Slumps; Education Reform
Military Bastions Areas with high employment in the military or related to the presence of the military and large veteran populations Supporting and Keeping the Nearby Military Communities and Bases Major Changes in Military Deployment; Relocation of Nearby Military Population
Minority Central Home to large pockets of African American residents but a below average percentage of Hispanics and Asians Supporting Programs that Create Greater Employment Equality Stability of Community; Property Value Slumps; Education Reform
Monied ‘Burbs Wealthier, highly-educated communities with a median household income $15,000 above the national county average Keeping (and Improving) One’s Standard of Living Stock Market Dips
Mormon Outposts Home to a large share of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Supporting the Greater Mormon Community; Giving Financial Support to the Church Larger Social Changes that Affect Community; Balancing Individual Success with Success of the Community
Service Worker Centers Midsize and small towns with economies fueled by hotels, stores, and restaurants Attracting More Tourist Attention and Diversifying the Population Small Business Closings
Tractor Country Mostly rural and remote
smaller towns with older populations and large agricultural sectors
Maintaining a Strong, Self-Reliant Community Increasing Global Competition in Agriculture


These summaries of affluent motivations and barriers are made on assumptions and are a bit oversimplified. Also, these summaries tend to be focused on community matters versus individual matters. Overall, the main point of the above grid is to illustrate that consumer segments can’t be easily blanketed across the nation. The communities that consumers live in will have a large impact on the decisions they make. I recommend reading Patchwork Nation; it might make you rethink your nationwide communication strategies and encourage further geo-market research before any major marketing push.


Our Patchwork Nation: The Surprising Truth About the “Real” America; Dante Chinni and James Gimpel; Published by Gotham Books; Copyright 2010

Marketing to Affluents: Savings Appeal

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by Maureen Dyvig

In volatile economic times, most consumers tighten their belts and make better-informed shopping choices, especially when it comes to luxury items. An interesting side effect of the recent economic recovery has been affluent consumers’ new focus on value. Deal-seeking is now a trendy activity among all socio-economic segments. Affluent individuals are seeking a balance between luxury and price savings. Below are a few sources to support this new value orientation:


1. Mediapost – January 2012: “2011 Ended On a Positive Note for Affluents”

At the end of 2011, a survey among affluent individuals showed a renewed sense of economic optimism. Though shoppers’ confidence has been boosted, cutting back on spending is important.

“Affluents are looking forward to 2012 with a renewed sense of hope and with full agendas. Eight in ten made resolutions or set specific goals for themselves, with most focused on spending more time with family, saving money, and/or living healthier lifestyles.”

Source: Steve Kraus, Bob Shullman, MediaPost Blogs


2. Trendwatching- November 2011: “Dealer-Chic”

Trendwatching dedicated a whole month to consumers’ changing attitude on deals. Businesses are beginning to recognize that even those individuals with money are looking for ways to build social value through deals, savings, and savvy coupon usage. Below are the article’s main support points behind this trend:

  1. “MORE FOR LESS: While many people in developed economies may have less money to spend right now, consumers everywhere will forever look to experience more.” 
  1. “THE MEDIUM IS THE MOTIVATION: Consumers are now being alerted to, using, reusing and sharing offers and deals via new (and therefore infinitely more exciting and attractive) technologies.”
  1. “BEST OF THE BEST: With instant mobile or online access to not only deals but reviews as well, consumers can now be confident they’re getting the best price for the best product or service.”

Source: One of the world’s leading trend firms, sends out its free, monthly Trend Briefings to more than 160,000 subscribers worldwide.


3. AdAge Blogs – January 2012: “Affluency: Three Trends to Watch for 2012”

According to a study released by Ipsos Mendelsohn and reported by AdAge, affluent consumers have changed their attitudes towards value and shopping in general. For example, affluent consumers will continue to indulge in luxury goods but are less turned off by sales and embrace the idea of price-based shopping:

“89% [of those surveyed] agree, “When I decide to purchase a luxury item, I go out of my way to find the best price possible.” Conversely, only 22% of affluents agree, “If a luxury product goes on sale, it lessens the perception of luxury.”

Another interesting finding is that affluent individuals are putting more emphasis on strategic shopping; they’re spending more time comparing products based on perceived value. Instead of buying based on immediate needs and wants, more time is put in researching products:

“64% [of those surveyed] agree, “I regularly read online reviews of products before making an online purchase.” 47% agree, “I regularly read online reviews of products before making a purchase in a retail store.” 68% agree, “When I go shopping online, I usually know exactly what I want to buy.” 63% agree, “When I go shopping in a retail store, I usually know exactly what I want to buy.”

Source: Steve Kraus, Bob Shullman, AdAge Blogs


As shopping attitudes change, businesses need to identify how to utilize sales promotions to add greater value to affluent consumers. The days of coupon-cutting may be long gone for this segment, but the importance of sales and deals is just starting to warm up.