The Eleven Nations of America

Back in the day, I supervised a woman from France in Leo Burnett’s research department. It was clear to both of us that in order to be most effective, she needed to understand American culture. All her brilliance (and she is) combined with her outsider perspective that allowed her to question the obvious wasn’t enough. So she read a lot of magazines, watched a lot of tv shows and quickly tried to ‘get’ us like we ‘get’ ourselves.

One day she came to work excited to share the book that gave her the code. It was Joel Garreau’s “The Nine Nations of North America” (1981). It explained why focus group respondents were so different in Chicago than Boston. And so much more. Garreau’s book and the later, more deeply historically-based “American Nations” by Colin Woodard (2011) expose the basis for some of the powerful cultural forces that explain much of our political behavior (red state/blue state; Tea Party, libertarian and liberal) as well as (I think) many of our consuming behaviors and attitudes.

Today we can micro-target and create messages crafted for a particular individual’s life and behavior. Yet I think it behooves us to step back sometimes to explore and understand some of the larger forces that drive individual attitudes and behaviors. Context matters. Frameworks and

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fundamentals can inspire new ideas and give us insight that drives micro-messaging.

And here’s an article with a quick summary of each of the eleven ‘nations’ according to

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