Pittsburgh is one of the fastest-growing, most vibrant places in the U.S. No, really! So many Millennials (aged 18-37), are finally leaving the security of home and finishing school, that there are literally droves of young workers moving to all kinds of places that have the magic combination of a relatively low cost of living and a robust job market. Pittsburgh's growth is enhanced by technology, health care and other fast-growing sectors as well as a "can-do" attitude that is always necessary when a population wants to completely transform its brand identity. The weather still isn't great most of the year, but a stodgy, old, rust-belt coal town Pittsburgh most certainly is not.
And so, to capitalize on this trend, one clever group of Pennsylvania marketers at an online language-learning platform provider called Duolingo has decided to target Millennials currently living and working in the Silicon Valley, which is unfortunately become an untenable place to live for the majority of people. A billboard of California's 101 Freeway reads "Own a home. Work in tech. Move to Pittsburgh".
The billboard's purpose is obviously to lure talent and uses the general public perception that the Bay Area is no longer a great place to live. Indeed California not only has the highest taxes in the nation overall, it also boasts the highest poverty rate and the lowest quality of life. The Silicon Valley, for its part, is one of the worst offenders, with the media reporting on a small home in an unremarkable neighborhood that was just utterly destroyed by a fire selling for $800,000. It's that bad. Perhaps there will be marketing efforts like this one paid for by entire cities to lure tax-paying, productive workers there. Maybe Duolingo is onto something big here.
So how is the talent targeting effort going so far? In the week since the billboard went up, mainstream media reports that Duolingo received over 50 phone calls ("phone calls", not emails) from people who mentioned seeing the sign. That such an "ancient" marketing tactic still works in our contemporary age of digital obsession is very refreshing to this middle-aged marketer. Outdoor signage has always been a very effective medium for geographically-targeted advertising. And perhaps this tactic could be blended with a social media campaign about Pittsburgh itself, and the Chamber of Commerce could get involved. A rising tide raises all boats, and so the entire region would benefit from an influx of high level tech talent. Companies go where the talent is. That's how Denver's Front Range has grown so much over the past 25 years. But Denver's getting prohibitively expensive too. Now it's Pittburgh's turn. This should be fun to watch.
Discussion: Would you consider moving to Pittsburgh? What are some of the factors you are looking for in a place to begin your adult life and career?
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