By Published On: April 19, 2012


by Jordan Bainer

The book Our Patchwork Nation: The Surprising Truth About the “Real” America has piqued my interest regarding how to better define consumer targets across the United States. Media tends to define states and even entire country regions by either red or blue, alluding to the different political party designations.

As with many elements of sociology, the answers are not black and white but very different shades of grey. Red and blue do not address the many idiosyncrasies that make up U.S. citizen behavior and viewpoints across the nation. Using 12 different archetypes, the authors of Patchwork Nation explain these various community types and match them up to counties across the nation using demographic, economic, and sociological factors. Though still rudimentary (as 12 community types only widens the explanation so far), it’s a compelling method of analyzing our nation.

While reading Patchwork Nation, it made me think that these community definitions would have a huge impact on how we market to certain demographic groups – in this case, affluent individuals. Assuming that an affluent consumer is going to have the same motivations and concerns across the nation would be a very black and white approach. Using Patchwork Nation’s 12 community types, below is a summary of a few key affluent motivations and concerns for each community. Though we don’t have any specific market research backing up these hypotheses, conducting a similar exercise may be a good starting point when considering communicating to “affluents” across the nation.


Community Type Definition Potential Affluent
Potential Affluent Concern(s)
Boom Towns Fast growing communities with rapidly diversifying populations Building a Stable Community Housing Equity Slumps
Campus and Careers Cities and towns with young, educated populations Supporting the Nearby Higher Education Institutions; Increased Private and Public Investment Into Local Institutions Major Shifts in Enrollment; Drops in Community Investment
Emptying Nests Home to many retirees and aging baby boomer populations Enjoying Life’s Simple Pleasures Dips in 401(k)’s, Long-term Investments, and Retirement Funds
Evangelical Epicenters Communities with a high proportion of evangelical Christians Supporting One’s Specific Congregation; Maintaining “Family Values” in Community and Larger Nation Larger Social Changes that Affect Community; Maintaining Community Voice in National Politics
Immigration Nation Communities with large Latino populations and lower-than-average incomes Supporting Programs and Employment that Creates Cultural Balance Stability of Community; Property Value Slumps; Immigration Reform
Industrial Metropolis Densely populated, highly diverse urban centers Keeping (and Improving) One’s Standard of Living; Supporting Poverty and Education Programs Loss of Major Industrial Industries; Property Value Slumps; Education Reform
Military Bastions Areas with high employment in the military or related to the presence of the military and large veteran populations Supporting and Keeping the Nearby Military Communities and Bases Major Changes in Military Deployment; Relocation of Nearby Military Population
Minority Central Home to large pockets of African American residents but a below average percentage of Hispanics and Asians Supporting Programs that Create Greater Employment Equality Stability of Community; Property Value Slumps; Education Reform
Monied ‘Burbs Wealthier, highly-educated communities with a median household income $15,000 above the national county average Keeping (and Improving) One’s Standard of Living Stock Market Dips
Mormon Outposts Home to a large share of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Supporting the Greater Mormon Community; Giving Financial Support to the Church Larger Social Changes that Affect Community; Balancing Individual Success with Success of the Community
Service Worker Centers Midsize and small towns with economies fueled by hotels, stores, and restaurants Attracting More Tourist Attention and Diversifying the Population Small Business Closings
Tractor Country Mostly rural and remote
smaller towns with older populations and large agricultural sectors
Maintaining a Strong, Self-Reliant Community Increasing Global Competition in Agriculture


These summaries of affluent motivations and barriers are made on assumptions and are a bit oversimplified. Also, these summaries tend to be focused on community matters versus individual matters. Overall, the main point of the above grid is to illustrate that consumer segments can’t be easily blanketed across the nation. The communities that consumers live in will have a large impact on the decisions they make. I recommend reading Patchwork Nation; it might make you rethink your nationwide communication strategies and encourage further geo-market research before any major marketing push.


Our Patchwork Nation: The Surprising Truth About the “Real” America; Dante Chinni and James Gimpel; Published by Gotham Books; Copyright 2010

About the Author: cat-tonic

Born of curiosity and enthusiasm, we’re a scrappy group of smart, passionate marketers who work hard and play hard. We show up every day and fight for our clients who are making the world a better place. We listen with curiosity, explore deeply, ask hard questions, and sometimes put forth ideas that might make you squirm. Because we believe the status quo is good for growing mold but not much else. The way we see it, change is the way forward and the magic happens when curiosity, math, science, instinct, and talent intersect.
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