The image of the staid, forelock-tugging old-school soul of the land who only reads things on paper and drinks beer in front of the races still has a degree of truth to it. But things are changing quickly and King St and Tracta are hoping the results of two research projects might help clear up a few misperceptions about the rural market, both in terms of media usage and the role of women.
For Waikato/Bay of Plenty-based agency King St's research, 759 farmers—314 dairy and 346 dry stock—participated in a 15-minute phone survey conducted by independent research firm, Versus Research. And the study provides a full picture of farmers’ media habits.
"It’s the largest study of its kind to be conducted and provides some extremely valuable information, along with some fresh insights," says King St chief executive Chris Williams. "If you think farmers are behind the times as an audience, you need to think again. Radio, TV and print are still going strong but it’s in digital media where we saw some big moves, particularly with the under 40s. And rather than being behind, they are ahead in some instances."
The big three traditional areas of TV, radio and print are still very highly used across all segments:
- 95% watch TV daily
- 87% read the newspaper daily
- They all read the rural publications; all have a weekly repertoire
- 82% listen to the radio daily
But a close look at the findings reveals a changing landscape and the emergence of a smart, digitally savvy, connected audience with a wide media repertoire and hunger for knowledge and information. And as digital tools become more prominent on farms, and as mobile coverage and rural broadband improve, this growth looks set to continue.
Some of the digital numbers include:
- 95% have some form of digital TV
- 72% have SKY TV (compared to 49% for the rest of the country)
- 92% have internet access – 73% have a high speed connection
- 55% belong to a social networking community
- 70% read the news online daily
These numbers apply to the total sample. But by drawing a line at 40, you get a clear picture of what the future holds for rural marketers.
Under 40s 40-60
5+hours radio/day 24% 13%
Don’t read newspaper 24% 10%
Get news online 44% 24%
Online 1-5 hours per day 42% 20%
Belong to Facebook 56% 35%
Trademe Community 23% 16%
Smartphone Ownership 45% 26%
"It’s great to be able to gain a full picture of what farmers are up to," says Williams. "And while the overall numbers are going to be very helpful, the real story is that anyone who is talking to farmers needs to be aware that it’s a 'game of two halves', so to speak. The under 40s are a completely different kettle of fish to their older counterparts and will only continue to change over time."
Williams says the figures around smartphone ownership were interesting, as the under 40s rate of 45 percent is higher than the overall ownership rate in New Zealand of 35 percent.
All the data is broken out by age, region farm type and gender and Williams believes it's more in-depth than Nielsen's recent study.
Napier-based Tracta also carried out a study on the role of women in rural New Zealand and in on-farm decision-making, and it thinks common misunderstandings could be detrimental for some agricultural marketing companies.
"Our proprietary Women in Rural New Zealand survey strongly hints at a degree of frustration and lack of recognition for the intelligence, energy and contribution rural women make," says St John Craner, Tracta’s strategic director. "These results and our interpretation of them show that those targeting all major and many minor farm purchases need to have a much clearer idea of who to, and how, they are delivering their messages."
Craner says the level of education among the more than 250 surveyed women shows that marketers need to take into account the fact that 80 percent of respondents have some type of post-secondary school qualifications and almost 20 percent have a postgraduate qualification or higher.
Rural women are largely involved in making big purchasing decisions, "yet only 35 percent of them feel they are understood and respected by rural marketers," says Craner.
"About 65 percent feel that providers do an average to extremely bad job of talking to them."
One woman’s comment was that people inside and outside the industry continue to attribute the success of their farming business to her husband. The industry sees little value, or certainly doesn’t acknowledge the value she plays in it.
"Just because I’m the one that meets the school bus doesn’t mean I’m not a key player and decision maker in our agribusiness," she said.
Almost 85 percent of respondents identified balancing career and family expectations as a key issue, as well as loneliness. What particularly stands out says Craner is the lack of respect and appreciation for the role of women working ‘at home’ raising children while undertaking that, and a lot of other work in the background, for the benefit of the farm and rural communities they live in.
Another feature of the survey was women’s requirements when selecting a supplier of goods or services. And the top four traits were reliability, trustworthiness, quality of products/services and service
“What this clearly indicates to us is that when it comes to dealing with rural women, you need to deliver on your promises,” says Craner.
Another part of the survey showed that search engines and email were the preferred way of communicating new products and information to this group.
"Given that this digital conversation is getting even stronger, the reputation of a supplier around reliability and trustworthiness will be even more quickly promoted or discounted among this savvy group," he says. "It is clear that marketers looking to promote products and services without a deep understanding of the combined male/female psyche do so at their own peril."