Do you remember the kid who blew the grading curve in class by not making the same mediocre grades as the rest of us? Now days everyone is blowing the curve. No one is doing what everyone else is. I think I would be about the average person based on my demographics. 48 year old white male coming of age in a southern college town in the mid 1980’s. One generation off the cattle farm, I grew up watching the Beverly Hillbillies, football, and bluegrass music. You would think I would be right in the middle of the class.
I think I am typical yet why don’t I fit into that old mass marketing mold. Hardly anyone does anymore. Twenty years ago you could rely on my cohort to be watching one of 2 things on TV on a Thursday night. There was just not much choice. We listening to the same 2 radio stations and read the same magazines. You could make a couple of easy advertising investments and put your message in front of most of us.
Today I get the news I am interested in tweeted to me directly from a myriad of online print and video sources. I don’t watch television in the traditional sense. I buy only the television shows I want and have not seen a traditional commercial since the Superbowl. There is no channel guide or schedule in my life. I don’t have cable and gladly pay to stream my favorite radio station which is from several states away over my truck stereo. The print material I do faithfully follow; Garden and Gun, Covertside, Urban Land, and Fast Company are so niche specific only those that have an insider position dare to advertise. There is no middle of the class. No way to get in front of the majority.
We can find our interests so specifically; we have no need to be a generalist. Seth Godin said there is no longer an American canon of materials that we can reliably expect to be common knowledge. We have an unlimited supply of media but can laser focus on our interests only and tune out the noise of the advertising machine.
This specificity along with the mobility of Americans means we do not have to live in a generic place and take our chances that we will find our “people.” Today we can just go on Meet Up and find a group that shares our affinity for eclectic banjo covers of baroque composers or whatever your weird interest may be. Generic is dead. Average is dead. Compromising to the least offensive denominator is dead.
In creating a community, you must build the environment for the specific to thrive. In my experience developing outdoor sporting venues, I have always found that if you create the conditions for the expert, the fanatic, the gear head to flourish, the interested amateurs will flock there. These are the people that buy the homes, fill the restaurants and create the demand for services. These folks build community.
It is so easy to find the real. We can find our authentic people living our favored experiences. Building a community for the generic average is a failing proposition. We cannot continue creating simple monocultures but must embrace inter-related layers of complementary subcultures sharing the same natural resource. It could be a tremendous surf break, a beautiful mountain region, or lake system. Many subcultures can love a region for many different reasons. If no one loves a thing, no one will care about it. Diverse communities are resilient, listen to the investment gurus: diversify. Embrace individuality and the diverse subcultures that share the same love for quality of place.
If you listen to the investment gurus all we hear is diversification. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Yet many communities for the last 30 years have basically put all their eggs in their golf basket. Nothing is wrong with the golf basket unless it is your only investment. Today people want a more holistic experience yet still based on their values of place.
What will attract people to band together in communities in the future, it could any of thousands of interests that will tie these places together.
It starts with:
Quality of Place: Is this place beautiful to me? Does it have the natural resources that support my interests? Does it have the provisions and third places I need?
Complimentary Sub-Cultures: What different groups can share the same resources compatibly. Is it attractive to more than a single monoculture?
Authenticity: Is the lifestyle real or a construct. Does it really deliver the potential for personal growth and challenge.
We will explore recreation and sporting subcultures as we continue the conversation.