Agencies’ rural research blasts a few stereotypes out of the water

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

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.

Text Box: Under 40s       40-60           

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%      

Community                    23%                 16%

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

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.” 

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