(Summer ’11) Cydnie Trice ’12

MIT undergrad and Public Service Intern Cydnie Trice is developing a marketing plan for the Hawai’i Alliance for a Local Economy this summer.

July 28, 2011: What does ‘buy local’ mean to the people of Hawai’i?

For the past couple weeks, I’ve been surveying at local grocery stores and farmers markets around the island. We designed a survey for consumers aimed at understanding what factors influence the residents’ decisions to shop at a particular store or retailer. We also inquired about their ideas of what it means to buy local, if/why that’s important, and what circumstances would help to increase the likelihood of them shopping locally more often.

Post author Cydnie Trice surveying at a local grocery Store

In general the responses showed that price was the leading factor in store selection. We also found that the quality of the products played an important role for the residents. Many of those surveyed felt a personal obligation to support local businesses, farmers, and the community by buying from local businesses.

Chart 1: ‘Choosing Where to Shop’ Average Responses

While the results of the survey are somewhat in line with our assumptions, we were still surprised to see that the Friendliness of the Staff and Coupons were not among the tops ranks.

Chart 2: ‘Buying Local’ Analysis

Results showed that a decent number of consumers were willing to pay a little bit of a price premium in order to support their neighbors. Our hope is that this spirit will spread to a larger section of the island’s population through our consumer education initiatives.

Another important aspect of preparing to market a campaign like this one is understanding how people receive communications. Knowing what sources the residents’ trust and how news spreads around the island is crucial to the development of the Think Local First campaign. We found that the majority of those we surveyed so far depend on newspapers and word of mouth to receive information (see chart 3). For an island that is heavily focused on the community, these results are not surprising.

Chart 3: Communication Venue Analysis

When asked what they thought the term ‘buy local’ meant, the consensus was that it was related to goods made, grown, produced on the island (or in the state). With this we have a much better idea of what education is needed and also how to focus our campaign to have the most impact. The next steps in this campaign are to bring local businesses on board and create the messages/images to help inform and educate the community.

In this post, MIT undergraduate Cydnie Trice introduces a four-part series on the challenges of building a local economy in Hawai’i. Trice is a marketing intern for the Hawai’i Alliance for a Local Economy this summer.

June 21, 2011: Building the Local Economy, Hawaii Style

First, lets start with a short geography lesson.

The state of Hawaii is made up of four major Islands: Oahu, Kauai, Maui, and Hawai’i. The largest of these islands is Hawai’i, which is often referred to as the Big Island of the state. Here is where my summer adventure takes place.

The Big Island, while the largest in landmass, has the smallest population density and the strongest display of pride in the culture and history that lives through its residents. This diverse population thrives on family values and community driven efforts, but the Hawai’i County economy is not as interdependent as one may assume. Like many other U.S. counties, Hawai’i has developed a number of the mainstream comforts we have grown accustomed to in the states. Large fast food and grocery store chains are slowly rooting themselves in the hearts of the towns around the island.

There is a Starbucks, Wal-Mart and Safeway grocery store in every major city around the island now. In some towns, it wouldn’t be hard to find more than one of these franchises. These large chain establishments are always busy, and well-stocked with supplies from the mainland.

The only problem is, the entrepreneurs, small businesses, and locally owned companies on the island suffer. Each fight to gain patronage, resources, and support from those they are here to service: the residents of Hawai’i Island.

With this in mind, several community leaders from around the Big Island have gathered to begin a “Think Local First” Campaign for their county. Appropriately naming the campaign HALE (Hawai’i Alliance for a Local Economy), which means house or home in Hawaiian, they are working under the model of the national umbrella of BALLE (Business Alliance for Local Living Economies). This new committee is dedicated to making this campaign a successful and sustainable endeavor.

Building the Local Economy, Hawaii Style The crew at Big Island Pizza in Hilo, Hawaii.

Building the Local Economy, Hawaii Style The crew at Big Island Pizza in Hilo, Hawaii.

The committee has just recently kicked of their journey by gathering opinions, insights, and voices from the community. The next few weeks will be focused on gathering and interpreting this data. The next steps will be to promote the campaign and get local businesses and consumers on board to boost the economy on the island and take this campaign to the next level.

My assignment for the summer is to assist with the marketing plan for the campaign. My tasks include helping with data collection and analysis, imaging and messaging, and evaluation of the campaigns success. The challenge the HALE committee is faced with is one that hundreds of counties around the US struggle with too. Hopefully, this “Think Local First” idea will spread and we can truly say we all support things “Made in America”.

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