Defining My Midwestern Identity: Who Am I?

Living in Iowa all my life, I strongly identify myself as a Midwesterner. While I love to travel and see other parts of the country and the rest of the world beyond our borders, home is where The Heartland is. Naturally I was intrigued when I saw the post “What States Are in the Midwest?” on FiveThirtyEight.com. The author, Walt Hickey, is a New Yorker who always considered anything west of Philadelphia as the Midwest. He wanted to see what those who self-identify as “Midwestern” thought about the borders of the Midwest.

That got me thinking … how would I define the Midwest? Is it as simple as state by state? Can a state be split in different regions? Omaha feels Midwest, but is Scottsbluff too far west? Does that disqualify all of Nebraska? I view Kansas City & St. Louis as Midwestern, but go south of I-70 and Missouri feels more like the South.

Beyond geography, are there cultural definitions? The bright lights, endless skyscrapers, and buzz of a great city like Chicago shares little in common with the quiet, natural beauty of the bluffs and peaceful river running through Decorah, Iowa. Both are beautiful in different ways, both in the Midwest geographically, but nothing alike culturally. As Hickey points out, even within the Midwest there are many subdivisions that need to be investigated.

There are so many different ways in which we identify ourselves. Some of my identifiers include: Christian, Lutheran, American, Midwesterner, Iowan, Des Moines-ian (Des Moines-er? Des Moines-isian?), Caucasian, male, mid-20s, single, never married, Democrat, Hawkeye, college graduate, office worker, marketing researcher, IT/Operations, golfer, fan of all things Anna Kendrick (did I mention single? How you livin’, girl?). And that’s just the start.

With all these different identifiers and classifications, it’s no wonder big data and hyper specialization are taking over the research industry. Consumers are bombarded by marketing materials, so if you want to stand out you have to be more relevant than ever before. No longer can you put together a generic ad campaign and hope to reach as many people as possible. To get good return on investment, you need to truly understand your customers and target them in ways that are relevant to them in language they understand. That means you not only need to learn who your customers are, you actually need to listen to them too.

Giving consumers a voice is one of the biggest draws of Quester. The best person to tell you what consumers want are consumers themselves. Advanced interviewing techniques, propriety software designed to probe for depth & clarity, and a well-trained staff of linguistic analysts allow for the consumers voice to shine through. It’s no longer good enough to just learn who is in the Midwest. You also need to know what “Midwest” truly means to me and my fellow Midwesterners.

So, think about the region in which you live. Tell me a little bit about yourself and what that regional identifier means to you personally.


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