An international brand resource for neighbourhoods, towns, cities, regions and economic clusters.

Famous in song and story

Posted by Claire Matthews

We’ve probably all heard the expression “But will it play in Peoria?” at one time or another. So, where the heck is Peoria, and why do we care if things will play there?

As it turns out, Peoria is a mid-sized city along the Illinois River, and for better or worse has long been considered as representative of the average Midwestern American town. It was from this archetypal status that the expression arose: in the days of Vaudeville it was felt that if an act succeeded in the white bread, mainstream town of Peoria, it could succeed anywhere in the US. Of course, the fact that the word Peoria sounds great in the mouth of a comedian – think Groucho Marx – didn’t hurt either.

Turns out, the vaudevillians aren’t the only ones who considered Peoria as a great test market. In the 1960s and 70s, the town was used extensively to gauge the potential of everything from consumer products to movies. Even politicians used Peoria as a testing ground. Even though other centres are used more often now, Peoria is still sometimes called the “test market capital of America.”

Considering that notables as varied as feminist Betty Friedan, comedian Richard Pryor and actor David Ogden Stiers grew up there, being average seems to yield some pretty good results.

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