I heard again a radio ad recently from the suburb of Schaumburg extolling the benefits for businesses, including a central location, if they relocate there. I thought about this in January 2021 and I wonder now if this ad hints at three patterns:
- Schaumburg is an edge city with a lot of office and retail space. The suburb grew rapidly between 1960 and 1980, going from under 1,000 residents to over 50,000 residents. It is home to Woodfield Mall and numerous sizable office buildings. It is featured in Joel Garreau’s book Edge City. If Schaumburg has a lot of vacant space and is struggling to find businesses to sell goods and services or to set up operations, what hope is there for other suburbs that do not have these concentrations that were successful in the past? Brick and mortar operations are declining and COVID-19 has encouraged working from home and this has particular effects on communities highly dependent on both.
- This may be less about the troubles of Schaumburg and more about the game that suburbs have to play today. Suburbs market themselves and attempt to differentiate themselves from other suburban communities. The Chicago area has a number of these, including Elk Grove Village hoping to attract makers and Bedford Park touting its industrial space and resources. It is less clear how successful these efforts are but more communities seem to think they need a media presence.
- Is there something preferable in advertising a place on the radio? Are people listening in the car more likely to be mobile and/or move? Communities have other options but I do not how attractive they might be. Television is a very broad audience. Targeted Internet or social media ads could be worthwhile if particular categories could be identified. Print may only work in certain outlets. Would billboards catch people’s attention? This may be an emerging branding landscape for which I have not yet found an overview.
If these trends continue, I can imagine a media landscape where ads for suburbs and cities play back to back or near each other, directly juxtaposing their different perceived advantages and trying to chase the elusive businesses and residents who might move.