Add the North and Stir

“We need to ensure it’s not too London-centric” – how many times have we heard that before?

Samples are discussed and quotas are developed. Nobody really questions ‘why are we carrying out fieldwork in Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle?’ etc. It’s just a given, standard practice that we need representation from the North. But why? What does it really mean and what are the implications? Too often in research, marketing and advertising there is a tendency to start with London, add the North, and stir.

There are significant differences between Northerners and Southerners. Everyone knows it; most joke about it; some try to dismiss it; and others…the clever ones…consider it. I am not going share my funny list of differences between the North and the South (for those interested, this list can be found on my iPhone notes page). Instead, I wanted to take a moment to share three interesting places where I think there is a need for greater consideration - and exploration - into the dissimilarities between the North and the South.

·       Family and Relationships: for example, by looking at the differences in life stages, including family structures, household roles and attitudes towards dating; we will be able to help our clients understand how customer priorities may differ. Where some 25yr olds may have just bought a house, drive regularly to the supermarket and have a two-week holiday booked in summer. Others, (at the other side of the country) may be living in a flat share, buy everything online and are planning to move to Australia for 6 months.

·       Cultural exposure: for example, paying attention to the difference in access to cultural and creative experiences, such as fashion, art and music could be useful context in establishing how and why tastes are formed. What is appealing, desirable and where consumers are spending their money.

·       Career development and finances: for example, looking at the differences in work-life balance and how people come to enjoy their free time alongside career progression. Enabling our clients to see and consider how wages, job availability and progression are dictating consumers plans for the future, their response and management to worries and concerns.

With greater understanding and critical evaluation as to how these themes are shaping and contributing to consumer behaviour, we will be better able to support our clients in understanding their audiences.

Isobel Newton - Senior Research Executive