The Challenge of Dichotomies

Every audience is diverse. If you’re selling cola or sneakers, the range is vast: your target market consists of everyone in the world except (respectively) health-food devotees and double amputees. But even for highly niche products and services, the message always needs to reach across a range of attitudes.

If your product is a vegetarian health food, you recognize that some, but not all, of your audience are vegans. Some are additionally gluten-free; Hispanic; upper-income; Presbyterian; bald; saxophonists. Any of these characteristics might influence an individual’s response to your product. Most marketers attempt to span these differences in their messaging, to smooth out the hills and valleys, find the common ground, appeal to as many as you can and offend as few as possible.


Rob Dietz, Principal at Pica Design + Marketing

This assumes that variability is somewhat evenly distributed across the audience, but not all markets demonstrate this quality. Rob Dietz, principal and creative director at Pica Design + Marketing in Belfast, feels that a defining characteristic of the Midcoast marketing environment is the dichotomous nature of its population: most people fall into one of two groups with rather distinct characteristics.

“Many folks in the Midcoast are local, native, deeply rooted here, proud of Maine and proud to be Mainers,” he says. “Many others are from other places, to a large degree well-educated, with a variety of interests, passions, backgrounds, experience, and connections with other parts of the world.” In other words, Maine’s perennial From Here/From Away division has implications for marketers.

Dietz says that in helping clients reach local consumers, Pica generally leans more toward “From Here” attitudes, without excluding or alienating those “From Away.” After all, many émigrés are here because they appreciate the local values. As a result, he says, “The methods that might succeed in New York or San Francisco may not apply here.”

“We generally take an authentic, straightforward approach,” he continues. “We’ll reflect on what makes a client special in this market without trying to make him or her out to be more than what he is. It’s a modest approach to marketing that requires sincerity on our clients’ part and in our recommendations to them.”

Another dichotomy that Pica deals with is not strictly local in character: it’s the shift away from compromise and shared purpose that’s discernible nationally. This, says Dietz, tends to affect attitudes and confidence throughout our communities.

“Uncertainty among consumers can change attitudes rapidly and dramatically,” he says. “Everyone is on an emotional roller coaster. I’m all about change: you have to adapt. But it’s a challenge to market to people who might be euphoric one day and reserved or frightened the next.”