We Know The West

Cassie Smith

The American West still has a hold on the world’s collective imagination. Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and other horseback-riding cowpokes continue to make their way into films, fiction, art, and poetry. To many, the conception of the “west” remains peppered with dusty mining towns, Native American artifacts, and gambling saloons.

While much of these “historical” caricatures blur the line into fiction, what’s remembered of the American West has given way to advancing technology, actual working governments, and solidarity for Native American rights. The American West is, in reality, a unique combination of cosmopolitan metropolises, millions of acres of protected wilderness, and rural towns. The landscape itself includes rugged mountain ranges, temperate rainforests, deserts, glaciers, and sprawling cities.

The people of this region are as diverse as the landscape. As such, advertising to those in the West should be an exercise in thoughtfulness and nuance. If your target audience is in the western region of the United States, here are some things to consider.

How, why, and where people spend money is often congruent with their values. By understanding those values as they pertain to those living in the west, businesses and marketers can tailor messaging, images, and ad platforms to better reach potential customers.

So, whether you’re a large company doing a national campaign, or are a small shop working on setting up a new branch in a nearby city, it’s important to recognize these nuances and, if applicable, speak to those values.

Some things to consider when marketing to people of The West (including national campaigns):

  • Individualism
    • Westerners may often feel that individual needs and rights are more important than those of the broader community.
  • Open space
    • People of The West value the concept of open space. Back yards, recreation, and seeing the horizon are important parts of life.
  • Nature/animals
    • The West is home to the vast majority of protected wilderness and public land. Public land usage is fiercely protected.
  • Teamwork
    • While individualism may be a pervasive sentiment, Westerners also understand the value of teamwork, especially as it pertains to the care of land and animals.
  • Physical labor/activity
    • Because farming and ranching are still large economic drivers, physical labor is a necessary skill. Moreover, the vast National Parks and recreational areas provide ample opportunity for outdoor physical activity.
  • Politeness
    • In general, people of The West are considered “nice.”

Although it’s probably unfair to assume each person in The West would prioritize these values in the same way, it may be at least worthwhile to consider how these values differ from those in the Midwest or the Eastern regions.

For example, if you’re running a national campaign, it may be beneficial for you to alter your messaging and images for The West. At the very least, your marketing materials should take into consideration these differences, and not assume every person in each region will respond to your ad in the same way.

Economic Variability
Although the collective Western mindset includes these tenets, it’s essential to remember that marketing to The West should be nuanced–even within a state. Each state has white-collar workers who live in skyscraper apartments, migrant agricultural workers, actual cowboys, and everything in between.

Take for example, Oregon. Not only is that state incredibly diverse in its geography, it’s inhabitants differ politically and economically, depending on the region of the state. The western part, which includes Portland and the state capitol, Salem, is part of a temperate rainforest that borders the Pacific Ocean. It rains here a lot. Economically, this part of the state is heavier with population, has a higher income level, and more white collar jobs.

To the east of the Cascades, however, the landscape becomes the high desert, with agriculture as one of the main economic drivers. People in the eastern part of the state tend to be more conservative and make less money.

So, if you’re an Oregon business that wants to reach customers in every corner of the state, you may need to alter your advertising to better reach a particular audience.

The western region of the United States is also the most diverse in terms of race and culture. While most of the history books focus on the European influence, the flavor of the West is strong with Latino, Asian, and Native American cultures. In fact, in many cities, Latino and Asian people outnumber white and Black people.

This diversity is often overlooked in how businesses market to their target audience. The images you choose should reflect the people you want to reach. It may even be beneficial for your company to advertise in various languages.

It shouldn’t take the current political climate for your business to understand the importance of representation, especially in advertising.

Rural Media
Because much of the western United States is made of small, rural communities, it’s also important to remember that the people you want to target may have very limited access to television or the Internet.

For small communities, such as Salmon, Idaho, PBS is about the only broadcast television channel with strong frequency. So, reaching people in that area through a television commercial is obviously not the best choice.

Other small Idaho towns, such as Orofino and Kellogg, may not have Internet connection outside of dial-up. Many people in these towns don’t even have computers in their home, so digital media may not make sense.

In general, you may get away with running national campaigns for everyone in the country. You may also have successful state-wide campaigns that aren’t tailored to any particular region of that state. However, you may have more successful campaigns if you pay attention to how the West, each state in The West, and the regions in each state may differ, so you can tailor your ads to meet your target audience where they are.

Need help advertising to The West? We know what we’re doing. Let us help you: whatsup@116and west.