Every Saturday morning, my better half and I stroll into our favorite local eatery. We don’t go there only because they have the best iced lattes in town, we also go because they offer locally baked bread (including gluten-free) and cook with locally grown produce. And then there’s Mary. We like having a relationship with the person who owns the place.
Maybe you have a similar story or a similar place. According to a new white paper from Communispace, many Americans have embraced the local movement. And it’s not just Americans – it’s now truly a global phenomenon.
Food continues to be the category most associated with local, and ironically, major international companies are starting to make local a priority. McDonald’s recently announced that almost all the apples, potatoes, milk and fish used in its Washington state restaurants are sourced from the Pacific Northwest.
When asked about their primary identity – do they most associate with their neighborhood, city/town, state/region, country, or world – slightly more than half answered their country or world. About a quarter of Europeans identified first as global citizens. So in this globally connected world we now live in – where purchases can be made in a click from anywhere – what are the benefits of local? What does it mean?
The respondents defined a product as local if it’s sold locally, if the raw materials come from local sources, or if it’s made locally. Strangely, Target and Wal-Mart were cited as two local sources despite their reputation for putting small businesses out of business.
Local is seen as having unique benefits. After checking off the usual boxes of price, quality, performance, local emerges as an important part of the value proposition. It provides connections to community and neighbors, it helps bolster local economies and provide jobs. It stands for safety, freshness and better customer service as well.
So what’s a huge, multi-national corporation supposed to do with the now mainstream local movement? Take a lesson from Nabisco, whose Triscuit brand is capitalizing on Americans’ increased interest in backyard gardening. In conjunction with the non-profit group Urban Farming, the brand launched a campaign to encourage and create more home farms, even including dill or basil seeds in 4 million packages. It doesn’t get much more local than your own backyard. Listen to what your consumers are telling you they think local is – and communicate it. Tell them where it’s made, where it comes from. Grow some roots – consumers prefer it if you give to local causes rather than international ones. Understand what’s important in the communities where you do business and make a commitment to make a difference.
In the meantime, you can meet me for brunch any Saturday over local eggs and freshly baked sourdough and we can discuss it a little more.