The Power of Audience: Urbanization and megaregions

According to the United Nations, a majority of the world’s population now resides in urban areas. The trend towards urbanization shows no signs of slowing, either. By 2050, two-thirds of the planet’s population will be urban. Urban areas are organically connecting into megaregions that don’t always respect existing political or natural boundaries. Marketing in urban areas and megaregions demands that social and public sector marketers think in new ways about their markets.

Megaregions Forming

Megaregions are markets, because they are based on the interactions of people.

In a study project published in PLOS One and described in National Geographic, researchers analyzed four million commuting patterns as reported in U.S. Census Bureau data. These commutes revealed areas tied together by transportation and economics more than political or geographic boundaries.

marketing in urban areas and megaregions
Megaregions of the United States. Image courtesy of Plos One

For instance, the Pittsburgh region encompasses western Pennsylvania plus portions of Maryland, Ohio, and West Virginia.

In the video at the top of this post, Parag Khanna describes similar megaregions forming across the globe. Khanna points out that the millions of miles of roads, pipelines, transmission wires, and communications cables have little relation to political boundaries. The systems that they comprise tie together megaregions–Khanna calls them megacities–into a global body.

marketing in urban areas and megaregions
The 50 megacities of the world

For Khanna, connectivity has replaced geography.

Governing Megaregions

As you can see in the maps above, megaregions cross existing political and natural boundaries such as cities, counties, states, rivers, mountain ranges, water sheds, and climatic regions.

If we think about how we govern the commons, what are the right layers of oversight for a megaregion that cross boundaries? Cross-border immigration is just one issue that highlights the conflict between megaregion boundaries and geopolitical boundaries. Taxation, pollution, and water consumption are also driven by economic concerns of megaregions but constrained by geopolitical boundaries.

Some areas have already or are considering merged local agencies to address problems at the right level.

Implications of Megaregions for Social and Public Sector Marketing

Many social and public sector organizations serve areas that respect existing geopolitical and natural boundaries.This is certainly true for governmental agencies and for many non-governmental organizations.

But as more social and public sector organizations find themselves located or working in megaregions, several marketing concerns arise:

  • Have you designed your product or service to reach all potential clients in your megaregion, and not just those within political boundaries?
  • Do you have distribution that reaches throughout your megaregion? Can your staff and your clients easily move to where goods and services are distributed?
  • Does your promotion address all of your megaregion?
  • Do your pricing mechanisms, such as payments, taxes, and accounting, address the complications of serving a megaregion that crosses legal jurisdictions?

Larger markets mean larger challenges and larger opportunities for marketers. How are you responding to the on-the-ground impact of urbanization on your marketing?

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