Faced with an overwhelming deluge of global information pouring in through powerful portable devices, Americans are cultivating a greater sense of connection and control by focusing on their local area, according to new research from Havas PR North America—an emerging phenomenon of global awareness with local focus that the firm is calling “localism.” The agency recently launched its Localism: The New American Mindset report that sheds light on why and how many Americans are seeking new and stronger connections with what’s local to them.
The report is based on more than five years of the agency tracking the localism trend, leading to a major survey of 1,000-plus Americans online in spring 2015. The survey found that 12 percent of respondents self-identified as “globally minded, locally active,” more than half (54 percent) said they were more interested than previously in what’s happening locally, and 62 percent said their ideal is to live more fully in their local area, wherever that may be.
One of the factors identified as fostering localism is the way so much of life is moving online and becoming more virtual. This is driving a growing desire for hands-on sensory experiences rooted in the physical world. For marketers, this desire has given rise not only to locavores buying from farmers markets and seeking out locally sourced products, but has also fueled interest in products from identified locations that might be farther away than a few miles but are nevertheless marketed in ways that give consumers a satisfying sense of connection to real people and places.
Among other striking findings of the Havas PR survey of Americans online is good news for America’s small independent businesses: Almost two thirds of respondents (65 percent) prefer to shop locally if possible, and 50 percent prefer to eat out at locally owned restaurants rather than in branded chains.
Attesting to the localist-fostering effects of technology, 61 percent of those surveyed said the Internet helps them connect more easily with local people and events; almost half (48 percent) said they feel more connected to their local area than they used to.
“There’s a fascinating and paradoxical dynamic at play as technology literally puts the whole world in people’s hands. Localists are ahead of the curve in finding ways to use always-on, world-spanning, distance-shrinking devices to explore their local area and to build stronger local connections,” said Havas PR North America CEO Marian Salzman, in a news release. “They appreciate the benefits of digital, but they want to live a life that extends beyond the glowing rectangle of screens. They’re living in the sweet spot where virtual and physical reinforce each other. Marketers need to get smart in the many ways consumers are creating their own versions of that sweet spot.”
In Spring 2015, Havas PR North America commissioned its long-term research partner Market Probe International (MPI) to conduct an online survey into American attitudes and behavior relating to localism. The survey netted a random and representative sample of 1,008 respondents from across the United States. MPI processed the resulting data and Havas PR analyzed it. Four smaller-scale but identical localism studies were fielded to separate samples in four states where Havas PR now has offices: Arizona, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.
Source: PR Newswire; edited by Richard Carufel