4-H Families: a Hidden Marketing Opportunity

4-H Families: a Hidden Marketing Opportunity

4-H families represent an untapped growth market and hidden marketing opportunity for many brands, products and services. Very few marketing strategies target this market segment, although there are many that could directly benefit from appealing to 4-H families.

Across the country, six million youth and their families are members of 4-H, “the nation’s largest youth development organization.”  Children aged 5-18  join local clubs, learn skills and compete with peers for county fair accolades. During the summer, 4-H families spend much of their time training animals, growing produce and preparing “projects” ranging from arts & crafts to cooking to scientific pursuits. Moms are affectionately dubbed, “Fair Moms,” since they sometimes spend the entire week at the fair during competitions.

Julie Milum, Senior Manager of Strategy and Insights at Whirlpool, highlighted her experience with as a fair mom whose 12-year-old son had his first 4-H experience this summer, talked with me about the effort that went into showing the family dog and her observations on the marketing activity at the fair:

“My son showed our Golden Retriever at the local 4-H Fair. To prepare, we joined a club, which provided obedience classes. We went twice a week for each hour-and-a-half class. For the competition, we spent two full days at the fair. We also had to make some purchases, like four different kinds of collars, two different kinds of leads, grooming for the dog and khaki pants for my son… As a business executive, I was surprised that there were almost no marketing efforts made by brands to connect either with our local chapter or at the fair. It’s an untapped market. ”

4-H Families - A Hidden Marketing OpportunityThere’s an opportunity for marketing strategies that package the needed products and services to make it easier on Fair Moms or to help the 4-H member gain a competitive edge. Families are usually loyal to 4-H and would welcome publicity for the organization.

Children and their families often join 4-H because their parents participated in their youth, and it’s a good opportunity for high school students to engage in extracurricular activities that can be included on high school transcripts. The entire family takes part in the competition, cheering on children from the stands.

This month, retailer jcpenney is taking advantage of this untapped marketing opportunity with their JCP Cares program and Round-Up marketing promotion. Customers are invited to “round up” their purchases to the nearest dollar and donate the change to 4-H, helping more children join the organization and participate in after-school programs. Donald T. Floyd Jr., National 4-H Council president and CEO adds:

“For more than 80 years, jcpenney’s partnership with 4-H has provided millions of youth across the country the opportunity to learn from 4-H high-quality positive youth development programs.”

There’s certainly enough opportunity in this market segment for more than one brand to take advantage of marketing strategies targeted towards 4-H families. If you’re looking for a growth market, perhaps you should examine this segment.


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  • I can always depend on Michal to provide valuable strategic information to help me target business segments appropriately.

  • In reply to Steve:

    Thanks Steve!

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    Michal Clements

    Michal is co-author of Tuning Into Mom and an experienced consultant. Michal develops winning growth strategies and detailed go to market plans for some of the world’s outstanding organizations including McDonald’s, Gatorade, Abbott, Barilla, Tylenol, Clorox, Key Bank, Eagle Ottawa, Quaker and the Baker Demonstration School.

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