Lifestyles of the Cultural Creatives (CCs)

Readers and radio listeners, much more than TV watchers: Cultural Creatives buy more books and magazines, listen to more radio, including classical music and NPR, and watch less television, than any other groups. About half of them are regular book buyers, which is far more than the general public. They are literate and discriminating, and dislike most of what is on TV. They demand good information, and have exceptionally good deception-detectors for ads and for misleading corporate or political claims in the media. They are particularly unhappy with the quality of TV news.

Arts and culture: Most CCs are aggressive consumers of the arts and culture. They actively go out and get involved in it. They are much more likely than most Americans to be involved in the arts as amateurs or pros, and are more likely to write books and articles, and to go to meetings and workshops about creative endeavors.

Stories, whole process and systems: CCs appreciate good stories, and want views of the "whole process" of whatever they are reading, from cereal boxes to product descriptions to magazine articles. They like a systems overview: they want to know where a product came from, how it was made, who made it, and what will happen to it when they are done with it. They hate to read mail or articles that come in bullet points and race to the bottom line (unless they are very time pressed and donŐt care much about the topic). They also want symbols that go deep, and, more than most Americans, they actively dislike advertising and children's TV.

Desire for authenticity: CCs are the ones who brought the criterion of "authenticity" to the marketplace. They lead the consumer rebellion against things that are "plastic", fake, imitation, poorly made, throwaway, cliche style or high fashion. If they buy something in a traditional style they want it to be authentically traditional; Smith and Hawken garden tools speak to this desire for authenticity, as does much of the natural foods industry.

Careful Consumers: CCs are the kind of people who buy and use Consumer Reports on most consumer durables goods, like appliances, cars, consumer electronics. For the most part, they are the careful, well-informed shoppers who do not buy on impulse. They are likely to research a purchase first, and are practically the only consumers who regularly read labels.

Soft innovation: They are not the technology innovators who buy the latest and greatest in computers, and many are just getting onto the Internet. But they are at the leading edge of many cultural innovations: CCs tend to be innovators and opinion leaders for some knowledge-intensive products, however, including magazines, fine foods, wines and boutique beers.

The Foodies: They're the "foodies" - people who like to talk about food (before and after), experiment with new kinds of food, cook food with friends, eat out a lot, do gourmet and ethnic cooking, and try natural foods and health foods.

Home is important, but they buy fewer new houses than most people of their income level, finding that new houses are not usually designed with them in mind. So they buy resale houses and fix them up the way they want. They don't like status-display homes with impressive entrances, columns, gables: theirs are more inward-looking and hidden from the street by fences, trees and shrubbery. They tend to prefer established neighborhoods with a lot of trees and privacy, and want to stay far away from tract houses in treeless suburbs.

Authentic Styling in Homes: Their notion of what's included in this category is all-embracing, including authentic New England salt box, authentic Georgian, authentic Frank Lloyd Wright, authentic desert adobe and authentic contemporary Californian. "What's good," as far as CCs are concerned, is the building that fits into its proper place on the land. They want access to nature, walking and biking paths, ecological preservation, historic preservation, and to live in master planned communities that show a way to re-create community.

The Nest: When Cultural Creatives buy homes, they like homes that are "nests": not only a lot of privacy externally, but private spaces within, including the buffering of childrens' space from adult space, and with lots of interesting nooks and niches. They are more likely to live out of the living room and not bother with a family room. They are far more likely to have an office in the home, and to have converted a bedroom, den, or family room into that office.

Interior decoration for CCs is typically eclectic, with a lot of original art on the walls and crafts pieces around the house. Many of them seem to think a house is not properly decorated without a lot of books. The same house that vanishes from the street should be personalized so that it shows on the inside who they are. Status display happens inside the house not outside, though it is not blatant: it is display of personal good taste and creative sense of style. CCs would not buy a single decorator style that goes through the whole house.

A different kind of car, please: CCs are far more likely to want safety and fuel economy in a mid-price car. If they could also get an ecologically sound, high mileage, recyclable car, they'd snap it up. If ever the auto industry were to provide the car they want, it would be more like a gas-electric hybrid car, or one with fuel cells. The Volvo appeals to many CCs, but so do well-made Japanese cars. They loathe the process they go through at car dealerships even more than most people do. A car like the Saturn with its fixed, no haggle price, and top dealer service is designed for CCs.

The leading edge of vacation travel: CCs define the leading edge of vacation travel that is exotic, adventuresome-without-(too much)-danger, educational, experiential, authentic, altruistic and/or spiritual. They like tours of temples in India, tours of the back country where tourists don't go, eco-tourism, photo-safaris, fantasy baseball camps, save-the-baby-seals vacations, help-rebuild-a-Mayan-village-vacations. They don't go for package tours, fancy resorts or cruises.

Experiential consumers: Many CCs are the prototypical consumers of the experience industry, which offers a more intense/enlightening/enlivening experience rather than a particular product. Examples include weekend workshops, spiritual gatherings, personal growth experiences, experiential vacations, the vacation-as-spiritual-tour, or the vacation-as-self-discovery. The providers of these services have to be CCs too, or they can't do it authentically (the kiss of death), and so one sometimes gets the impression that everyone is taking in everyone else's wash - or workshop.

Holistic everything: CCs are the prototypical innovators in, and consumers of, personal growth psychotherapy, alternative health care and natural foods. What ties these together is a belief in holistic health: body-mind-spirit are to be unified. CCs are forever sorting out the weird from the innovative. Some CCs are those whom unsympathetic physicians describe as "the worried well," who monitor every twitch and pain and bowel movement, in a minutely detailed attention to the body. This tendency may be why CCs spend more on alternative health care and regular health care even though most are fairly healthy. They may live longer, because they do at least some kinds of preventive medicine - in contrast to the Modernist executive pattern of treating the body like a machine that you feed, exercise and vitaminize, and otherwise ignore until it breaks down.