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The rural lifestyle market segment conjures up images of families who have moved from the city to a more relaxed, country lifestyle, and have a nice home with some acreage for the cat, dog and horse to run freely upon. It paints a nice picture, but until recently there has been no solid information to prove that this scenario is a reality in rural America.

Katz Dimensions, New York, has published a new study entitled Rural Lifestyle Group. The study is an analysis of data collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service, the U.S. Census and Simmons Market Research Bureau.

According to study author Lisa Chiljean, vice president and director of research for Dimensions, "The Rural Lifestyle Group is an area that has, up until now, been untapped by marketers. By providing a profile of the region, it affords current and traditional farm advertisers a vehicle to broaden the reach of their advertising message. It is also a great way for new advertisers to make an impact into areas they may have been unable to reach in the past."


The Rural Lifestyle Group has increased in importance due to growth in three main indicators - population, employment and earnings. According to the U.S. Census, 49 million Americans live in nonmetropolitan areas, which is 17 percent of the country's population. In addition, employment and earnings have risen steadily among this market segment (see box).

Another key factor to marketers is the tendency of the ruralpolitan to be very family-oriented. According to the study, residents are married with children and own homes. They are typically employed full-time in a variety of occupations and they spend their money on a variety of items targeted to their lifestyle. Chiljean says that most activities in the rural lifestyle revolve around property, such as gardening and hobby farming.

Another distinguishing factor is that rural areas are not necessarily "consumer-friendly." Chiljean explains that the rural resident often drives considerable distances to shop; therefore, large packaged goods stores are where most stock up for long periods of time. She says there is huge potential for both traditional agriculture advertisers and also marketers of everyday items.

Perhaps the most interesting finding of the study for marketers is that radio is the medium of choice and the primary source of information among rural residents. "In rural areas radio excels probably because of one of its most positive attributes - its portability. Rural residents can take it with them in the field, on the way to Sam's Club, practically everywhere they go," Chiljean explains. "Also, there aren't billboards on every block or access to a hundred or more cable channels, so there is somewhat limited access to other media."

She says that the potential for farm radio is enormous if advertisers "tweak their messages to target the person living in the rural areas."

This is likely just the beginning of efforts to further define this segment for marketers who plan to reach out and gain the attention of the rural lifestyle. In fact, the National Association of Farm Broadcasters is currently conducting a study to learn more about radio's potential in rural areas. For more information, the Rural Lifestyle Group study is available in the Dimensions section of the Katz Media Group Web site at AM

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