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The president is talking up ethanol. Chevy is marketing
E-85 in TV spots. The term 'ruralpolitan' is being added to marketing vocabularies. It all begs the question, is rural the next big thing?

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, just over 17 percent of residents reside in communities defined as rural, which have populations of 2,500 or less. Add that to the 'ruralpolitan' audience, many of whom in metro populations, and you have a sizeable group of consumers.

That's why Dean Broadhead, president of Broadhead + Co, a 12-person marketing agency in Minneapolis, sees so much opportunity for traditional vertical ag marketers in the rural segment.

"We've seen the rural lifestyle segment defined by extensions of traditional agriculture with products like compact tractors, four wheelers and woodchippers," says Broadhead. "That's fine but we're missing key consumer issues such as education, healthcare, and financial services that could be great opportunities for rural marketing agencies."

Broadhead's optimism for the rural segment begins with the ever-broadening availability of lifestyle services, such high speed Internet, access to better healthcare, and new entertainment options. Couple that with the political pressure being placed on rural development and you have incentive for communities to reinvent and revitalize themselves.

Broadhead cites Door County, WI, as an example. A Broadhead + Co client, Brilliant Cities, is a telecommunications company that's linking every home and business in Door County with a fiber network. While Door County is well known as a tourist destination, that's only been a portion of their true economic engine. In fact, ship building and agriculture in and around Sturgeon Bay, WI, have been the stabilizing economic force there for decades.

Brilliant Cities approached the communities and residents of Door County about their willingness to subscribe to the fiber network if it was built — a network that will deliver hyper-speed internet and hundreds of entertainment and communication options over a single fiber. Door County residents have signed on their support, knowing that these are just the type of services that make them competitive for business development — beyond tourism alone.

"Brilliant Cities' work in Door County is one example of many that make me bullish on this segment," says Broadhead. "And long-term those opportunities are only going to grow as technology enables more people to choose the rural lifestyle."

An independent phone company serving several small communities in western Minnesota, Woodstock wanted to add DSL to their service offering, a step that required significant capital investment. But the company had some reservations, considering that 65 percent of their households are over the age of 55. Would their customers invest in high speed Internet?

To pay off their investment, including marketing costs, Woodstock needed a 3.5 percent share of households and businesses in year one. Broadhead says the actual results can only be attributed to a hunger for progress.

Broadhead + Co helped Woodstock launch DSL with a mix of radio, print, outdoor and direct. However, one of the strongest vehicles the agency put in place was trial computers in community gathering places. Woodstock installed complimentary DSL in a coffee shop, gas station cafe and a local bar to provide citizens with a taste of DSL. They were hooked.

Within nine months of the launch, DSL adoption topped 15 percent and continues to grow. That's a 6:1 Return on Investment (ROI) on Woodstock's total investment in technology infrastructure and marketing —and a great example of the appetite for progress in rural America.

Broadhead + Co
Founded: 2001
Locations: Minneapolis, Sacramento
Size: 12 full-time professionals
Focus: An agency focused on the business and life of Rural America
Key Clients: Adayana; Almond Board of California; Brilliant Cities; Emerald BioAgriculture; EPIC; Finley Engineering; National FFA Foundation; Redball; United Phosphorus, Inc.; Woodstock
Key Personnel:
Dean Broadhead, president; Beth Burgy, vice president; Troy Schroeder, account supervisor; Clifford Owen, account supervisor; Dee Weeda, senior pr manager; Linda Romander, senior pr manager
Contact Info:

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