I recently returned from an annual trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to play golf with what are now friends for more than 20 years. Obviously the South is very different from the Northeast. To add to that I am also a city person and Myrtle Beach might be considered a city but to me it’s really a beach town.
There are many things I like about Myrtle Beach. Not the least of which is the South Carolina accent. I like that I am referred to as ‘darlin’ and ‘honey’ as that is indicative of the warmth and spirit that is evident in so many places there. Over the years however, I’ve noticed there are more and more non-native Americans (not to mention southerners), that haven’t adopted the Southern drawl. And that southern drawl isn’t as prevalent as I recall. That’s not really surprising when I think about it since even in New York accents in general aren’t as strong as they were years ago.
Television, radio and video have done much to homogenize regional accents. We hear news and commentary delivered by talking heads that have worked to flatten whatever accent they might have had growing up. In the New York City area a Brooklyn accent used to be discernable from one from Staten Island or Long Island. Today it is more difficult to tell the difference. A New York accent still exists but in general it is not as pronounced. It’s not as if accents are disappearing entirely, but I am concerned that at some point in the future it will be harder to tell where someone comes from by their regional accent. I don’t feel this is a good thing but nothing can be done about the march to homogeneity when it comes to accents.
When I go to Myrtle Beach I enjoy eating grits. Grits are rarely served in restaurants in the northeast (or the Midwest or the West coast), and I look forward to being able to get them at every breakfast. Speaking of breakfast, Myrtle Beach is replete with pancake houses, lots and lots of Pancake Houses. There are more than 20 on the Grand Strand alone.
All seem to open at 6AM and close at 2PM. Most appear to have many customers throughout the period to serve vacationers and locals alike. I am impressed that these large buildings can afford to only be open 8 hours per day (7 days a week) and wonder how long this pancake house thing will last? In general people even in the U.S. are trying to eat fewer carbs and healthier overall. Grits, biscuits and gravy, bacon, and eggs with hollandaise are opposed to that end. Sure you might like to spoil yourself every now and again but good old-fashioned diners have been in decline in the U.S. for years which I wrote about, and I fear the same will be eventually true of pancake houses in Myrtle Beach.
To me regional attitudes and behaviors are big reasons to visit different areas of the county in the first place. It’s interesting and diverse. While we are far from the U.S. having zero regional differences (perish that thought!), where things were more isolated before mass media, the trend is away from strong regional accents and behaviors. I feel this is not a great thing but there’s little to be done to forestall the trend.
It’s too hackneyed to think of the world still being filled with ‘Southern Belles’ and ‘City Slickers’. Both are still in evidence but you’d be wrong to think just because someone lives in a southern town or a northeast city they will behave in a particular way most of the time such as ‘Southern Belles’ wearing petticoats and serving sweet tea or New Yorkers saying ‘fuggedaboutit’.
Importantly, as marketers we have to fight these kinds of biases or else we will miss opportunities and successes. Challenging your own biases helps you to get closer to the truth of what really is happening.