Creative Differentiation in Rural America

Creative Differentiation Steve Ahrens

Digital Streaming TV and the Power of Video

OUTdrive Episode 8 with Steve Ahrens

In this episode of OUTdrive, Cliff has the opportunity to visit with Steve Ahrens, president and CEO of the Missouri Propane Gas Association (MPGA) and the Executive Director of the Missouri Propane Education and Research Council (MOPERC). As a client and friend, Steve is very involved in “propane country” across the state of Missouri and throughout rural America, where propane fuels a wide variety of applications. Here’s some of the highlights from the podcast.

Creative Differentiation in Rural America

Staying on top of new trends is important for marketers. In this episode of OUTdrive, Ahrens makes a great point about the opportunity for marketers recognizing new trends as they emerge and putting their unique spin on that trend. This allows them to create something that no one else has done before to really stand out and differentiate their brand.

“Once you see where everyone else is going and once there’s a trend out there, there’s an opportunity for anybody in marketing to say what can we do differently and not go where everyone else is going,” said Ahrens. “So you come up with something new or special or different and you can see a lot of benefits of that.”

Ahrens went on to share an example of a mini-campaign in the works capitalizing on the experiential and interactive trend. Listen to this episode of OUTdrive at 28:35 to see how MOPERC was able to put their unique spin on a sponsorship opportunity to differentiate themselves and create a memorable and meaningful experience.

Digital Streaming TV and the Power of Video

One of the bigger initiatives of MOPERC has been an awareness campaign to educate a rural American audience in Missouri about the benefits of propane as an energy source for home appliance applications, such as heating, cooking and backup power. A large component of this initiative has been an integrated, multi-media campaign called Welcome Home. Ahrens mentions that one of the components of this campaign he is most excited about is digital streaming TV advertising on HGTV.

“One of the campaigns I’m really excited about is the digital advertising we’re doing on HGTV. If a Missourian is streaming HGTV, they will be served our ads,” said Ahrens, “not over cable and not over satellite. That’s exactly the audience we want, and we can target those eyes and ears through the streaming platform.”

Video advertising has become a very powerful and effective marketing method based on media consumption trends and preferences. With precise targeting capabilities and high-quality creative content, marketers can reach the right audiences with the right messages in a meaningful way.

Screen-driven vs. “Seen-driven”

An interesting point brought up during the podcast is one of the key ways America is changing and one of the benefits of being in rural America, and that is a movement from being less “seen-driven” to more “screen-driven.” Steve Ahrens jokingly made up and coined the phrase “seen-driven” during the episode, but there’s a lot of merit to his point.

“The benefit of being in a rural area is that you have kind of a small tribe,” said Ahrens. “In rural America, we know who we’re going to see that day. We know their names. They know us. That’s the theory of our optimal tribe.”

Ahrens was referring to a study about human nature that cited when humans first began to socialize with one another, an “optimal tribe” was about 30 people. This made sense for a lot of reasons including food, protection, cooperation and many other factors.

Callis backed up Ahrens by noting the benefits of smaller, more close-knit circles in rural America and the importance of “being seen” and nurturing those relationships and making the most of these connections through regular communications and collaboration.

Freedom and Independence in Rural America

The rural American audience has a great level of appreciation for their rights to choose, now more than ever. Whether it’s the products they use or the media they consume, independence is becoming more and more important. Ahrens recognizes the importance of freedom and independence among the rural American and rural Missouri audiences.

“Propane is a great example of energy independence. You’ve got that independence and that security of on site power,” said Ahrens. “It’s sourced from the United States or North America. In rural America, you do have that freedom to choose not only the power source, but from who’s going to supply it to you.”

Independence is a key benefit of propane for its users. It’s also a good reminder to keep independence in mind as you’re developing creative messaging for rural audiences.

Hear more about these topics and a unique trait of great leaders from Cliff Callis and Steve Ahrens in this episode of OUTdrive.