Updated: Nov 9
The why and the what of including sense of place in your marketing
As the publisher of local guidebooks and regional histories for over 20 years, I traveled in the circles of local everything — local knowledge, local lore, local businesses, local street cred. From the beginning to the end, I was surprised by, enlightened by, and in service to the power of all things local. It left no doubt that any enterprise could and should tap into the potent energy of their place in their outreach, customer service, and marketing.
Top Reasons to Engage Sense of Place
The power of place resides in two main categories: your local connections and all the things that comprise a sense of place for others. Here are the benefits I’ve seen from those who harvest this area for marketing:
1. It establishes your roots and local credentials Your customers want to know who you are. Who do you know? What neighborhood are you from? Why did you stay? Which local people, places, ideas, anchors, networks, and circles are important to you?
If you’re from somewhere else, no worries! You picked our place on purpose. What brought you here and why do you stay? What makes this place better for you? When you draw on the local in your marketing, customers know you’re one of them; you have things in common.
2. It establishes a context People have mental maps of their place that are incomplete representations of objective geography overlaid with cultural knowledge, subjective experiences, nostalgia, and the like. Establishing your business’s local context and paying homage to things local is a way to make it onto these personal maps everyone carries around with them.
3. It enhances your story Customers more readily become emotionally invested in your business through its story. Tying your personal local angle and regional things they adore into the narrative provides a double whammy of attachment.
4. People like their place They’re proud of it. They talk about it. They dissect it. They compare it. They even love complaining about it. It’s theirs and that sense of ownership is a brawny intangible. Make your business part of their place, your shared place.
5. People know their place This is the matter-of-fact counterpart to all of the above. People have vast stores of local knowledge to call upon. If your local context is known, it gets thrown into their massive databank devoted to their home place; likewise, if your marketing triggers the enhancement of this particular knowledge base of theirs.
6. People search for and find grounding in a sense of place In a highly mobile and virtual world, people (maybe even subconsciously) look for and value the grounding a sense of place provides. Emphasizing your local connections and tickling that real-world-outside-their-door sweet spot aids this important, contemporary quest.
Top Local Interest Ways to Promote Your Business
Use the following broad categories, the most popular I’ve found in this space, to spark fresh ideas for your marketing:
1. Biography Your biography, roots, ancestors. Stories of well-known current or past people relevant to your business and their role in your place’s history. Examples: Reporters, news anchors, and politicians whose reputations are heavily connected to their deep local roots. Restaurants that name their sandwiches after local celebrities. Restaurants that plaster their walls with signed photos of famous people who have eaten there. Businesses with plaques telling you who slept here, who was born here, who got their start here.
2. History Historic people, places, events, anecdotes. Historic preservation efforts. Examples: Businesses that maintain the historic personality of their building or showcase historical artifacts to create atmosphere. Company websites and café menus that discuss the history of a location, or even better — their own long and storied history. A solo career that was launched due to a historic event that everyone remembers.
3. Geography Interesting features of local topography, the weather, your relative location. Examples: Firms and services that may benefit particularly from their location in or proximity to Hollywood, Washington DC, New York City, Disneyworld. Nightclubs with a view. Restaurants and bars on rivers, lakes, and beaches. Seasonal services unique to your locale.
4. Lore and legends Ghost stories, tall tales, bragging rights. Examples: Writers, publicists, and designers who use local legends and iconography in their creative outputs. Interior and exterior signage boasting local awards and heights of accomplishment. Haunted taverns and Airbnb options. Tying local lore to your company’s origin story.
5. Current events and happenings Festivals, holidays, politics, scandals. Example: Businesses with sales related to local holidays and big festivals. Ads that poke fun at local scandals. Writers tied into the political scene. Bars known for their see-and-be-seen scene, for being a gathering place for politicians and reporters. Parade floats and festival booths for any business at all.
6. Heritage and culture Music, art forms, ethnic heritage, local cuisine. Examples: Local musicians and/or heritage music playing at your neighborhood bar or coffee shop. Professional service providers whose marketing is aimed at different ethnic groups or subcultures or that emphasizes their dual-language abilities. Creative window displays based on local crafts and industries.
7. Spirit and character City mottoes. Quirks and vernacular. Your place’s esprit de corps. Examples: Using local slang in radio and TV interviews and ads, and in day-to-day customer conversations. Contractor vans with images and words of a local flavor. Promotional giveaways incorporating a sense of place.
Are you convinced and motivated? Check out this master list of local and regional topics I’ve collected over the years for additional marketing inspiration. Local and Regional Topics For Days: A continually growing master reference list of hooks and angles for writers, authors, businesses, marketers, and publicists
Could local knowledge actually be a new or key aspect of your business? Check out the income streams and pillars of success for businesses that pursue this path. A Local Knowledge Business: Creating Work from, through, for, about Your Corner of the World: 7 income streams and 6 cornerstones of success to yield the ease, variety, and good income of a regional-based enterprise