Since moving to West Michigan about 4 years ago, I began to notice some very unique regional offerings. I began noticing a good number of products available which I had never seen of or heard of before. As I started learning more about the consumer market in West Michigan, I came to understand that West Michigan is often a test market for consumer products. So West Michiganders often get a sneak peek of a product before it hits the market, or is never heard from again. Here are some examples that I have come across:
• Dollar Coins
• Subway personal pizzas – I have only seen these in West Michigan
• Wild Blue – An Anheuser-Busch blueberry beer
• McDonalds Specialty Coffees
• EX®, a quit smoking campaign
• Special K Red Berries
What do marketers look for in a test market? Without doing any actual research I would answer diversity. Diversity in income levels, education levels, ethnicity, ages, and family situations. Of course most marketers have an idea as to what kind of audience would be interested in a new product of service, so of course that would come into play with finding an ideal area to test a product.
Apparently one of the reasons why the city of Wyoming was able to land Booking.com (a Priceline company) was the number of languages spoken in West Michigan, in this story it mentions 49 different languages spoken in GR Public Schools.
So how diverse is Kent County per Wikipedia, and how about Ottawa County. Seems to be a good mix upon a glance . Perhaps a future project would be comparing some of these demographic figures to some of the other regions on the Acxioms list of top test markets. Right now West Michigan is ranked 39 out of 150 on their list.
So not only do West Michiganders enjoy four seasons, lakes and beaches, dynamic cities, but also we get a chance to try out products before anyone else does, or relegate a product to scrap heap before it is launched. Take pride that you have the power to decide – pass or fail. Go ahead and play God when you are at the grocery store, it can be fun.
What test products have you come across?