|Marketing||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: Allen Butcher (allenbutcherjuno.com)|
|Date: Sat, 2 Nov 1996 12:52:32 -0600|
As a number of folks have been asking about marketing, I thought to present here an article printed in vol. 9 no. 2 COHOUSING JOURNAL summer '96. This article doesn't talk about how to do marketing, only what might be said in marketing efforts, or how cohousing might be presented in marketing campaigns. Any comments you may have I'd be interested in receiving. Allen Butcher COHOUSING AS AN AMERICAN LUXURY THE MARKETING OF COMMUNITARIAN VALUES A. Allen Butcher, for the CoHousing journal, March, 1996 When we think about how best to present the cohousing concept to the American mass market, we might do well to frame the issue of building community as an opportunity for people to secure for themselves the luxuries that we sometimes refer to as communitarian values. In developing this marketing concept we might do well to first acknowledge that we are not simply a sector of the housing industry, but are actually creating a new industry; a community-building industry offering luxuries about which people living without community can only dream. In order to see the cohousing idea fulfill its potential of transforming the American Dream, we need to boldly go where the housing industry has already visited; to a campaign of media hype and marketing savvy which this time defines community, rather than mere housing, as a set of luxuries within the grasp of not one family on its own, but any group of families working together. As fifty years of the post-war housing industry has shown, communitarian values are luxuries that we do not absolutely need if all that we are trying to do is acquire housing. Today, however, the challenge is to build a social fabric that provides, in addition to mere shelter, a culture that engenders in the individual an awareness of and appreciation for others, and for the environment that we all share. Such an awareness would be built upon a set of values that comprise what may be called communitarian theory or ideals. Communitarian values include such basic concepts as: a safe and mutually beneficial environment for children and seniors; the provision of basic needs such as food service, child and health care, landscaping, building and auto maintenance and other collective services involving people working together for mutual advantage and greater efficiency, rather than each contributing separately to the profit of corporations; neighborhood forums for local governance to resolve disputes or address challenges from both within and outside of the community; and architectural and land use designs that facilitate interactions among neighbors, the development of friendships, random kindness and senseless acts of beauty. All of these are luxuries that are difficult or impossible for individuals to provide for themselves, but which a group of people of even modest means can secure by common agreement and collective action. With a little creative thought we could develop quite a list of luxuries inherent in the cohousing dream. Consider the priceless value of the peace of mind that comes with knowing on a first name basis everyone in your neighborhood, because you talk and work with them regularly as a matter of course in day-to-day living. This we might call a "trust luxury." The informal ambience of the cohousing common house we might call a "social luxury." Many who write about cohousing have also recognized the luxury of inter-generational community, in which both young and old are encouraged to care for the other. More than mere luxury, compared to the usual pattern of age segregation in America, this is cultural elegance. Consider too how much more completely than living separately does the fellowship of community come to the spiritual ideals of brother- and sisterhood, of living by the Golden Rule, or of practicing a love-thy-neighbor ethic. The opportunity of conforming our lifestyle to our spiritual ideals can be cast as a luxury that not many outside of community enjoy. This is in addition to the obvious potential for quantifying how much more ecologically responsible than tract-house-living cohousing is proving to be; perhaps this one we would call a "politically correct luxury." An additional luxury that may be explained is how people living in cohousing have a kinship with people in other cohousing communities around the country. The networking carried on between communities builds relationships that provide friends for us to visit while on vacation, even potentially around the world. Call this one a "holiday luxury." The point to be stressed is that community, and communitarian values, are luxuries that money alone cannot buy; priceless commodities that we should be careful not to undersell. The fact that cohousing is a proven catalyst for the creation of genuine community (to use Scott Peck's term) is a market advantage that can be employed in our efforts to work for positive social change, while also realizing a comfortable level of remuneration for our work. Establishing a community-building industry begins with creating a market demand for community. Promoting the communitarian values experienced in cohousing is an opportunity for us to take advantage of the greatest set of new found luxuries since the invention of indoor plumbing. In a sense, what we want to do is repeat history, at least that part of our history that led to the replication of design innovations across our country and increasingly around the world. Understanding how we arrived at our fabled American Dream of ubiquitous suburban monocultural design can help us to build a marketing plan for the cohousing design for community. My favorite authority on the American Dream is Dolores Hayden of the Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning, University of California at Los Angeles. In her works, The Grand Domestic Revolution (MIT Press, 1981) and Redesigning the American Dream (W.W. Norton, 1984), she outlines how the housing industry came to be the defining feature of American culture. In The Grand Domestic Revolution, Ms. Hayden points out that period visionaries at the turn of the century expected that technological advances in home appliances would be employed to create collective domestic services in large residential complexes, and facilitate the social as well as political equality of women and men. Instead, these innovations were miniaturized as consumer commodities to fill individual households, with consumption defined by advertisers as a "patriotic duty," followed by "Mr. Homeowner" marrying "Mrs. Consumer." Builders, bankers, and manufacturers agreed that the type of home they wished to promote was the single-family suburban house on its own lot. ... To dislodge many women from paid jobs in the 1920s and 1930s, conservative advocates of home ownership and family wages attacked all feminists indiscriminately. ... Government-sponsored mortgages and tax deductions for home owners in the post World War II era ... provided a boon to speculative builders, appliance manufacturers, and automobile manufacturers. As women were ejected from wartime jobs, they moved into suburban married life and the birth rate rose along with mass consumption. By the 1960s, the suburban rings of cities held a greater percentage of the national urban population than the old city centers. By the 1970s, ... (s)even out of ten households lived in single-family homes ... on long mortgages. Builders and industrialists in the 1970s continued to glorify the Victorian home a century beyond its time .... They used mass media to glorify this accomplishment as progress and to befuddle the housewife. ... As Meredith Tax wrote about the housewife's day in 1970: "I seem to be involved in some mysterious process." (Hayden, 1981, pp 23-26) In 1990 the total of detached houses and trailers equaled 66.2% of all housing units (U.S. Bureau of the Census, Statistical Abstract of the United States: 1994, pp 735). Today there are many programs to help families acquire housing, and home ownership is an election time quality-of-life issue. Bringing communitarian values into this picture, countering generations of acculturation to the paradigm of home as moated castle, is the challenge we face as we work to create a community-building industry. As monumental a task as this may seem, Dolores Hayden suggests that this is not a new idea. "For hundreds of years, when individuals thought about putting an end to social problems, they designed model towns to express their desire, not model homes." (Hayden, 1984, pp 18) With respect to the lessons of the past concerning the creation of new industries, we ought now to define a "community mystique" in terms of communitarian luxuries to replace the "domestic mystique," and seek to forge a government-corporate consensus on the relevance of communitarian values to American society. Of these two goals, the former was discussed in the first part of this article. What of the latter? Much is being said about values today by the media, by government, by religious groups, by social organizations and others. Conservative rhetoric challenges the teaching of "moral relativism" as a cause of social decay, while liberal litanies of cultural demise decry the individual's focus upon what Gregory Bateson termed the "skin encapsulated ego." Note that there is a level of agreement in the views espoused by these two cultural poles. Focusing upon this common concern about the excess of individualism in our society can provide a foundation for a consensus, upon which a program of advocacy for communitarian values may be built. Some ground work for this discussion has already been done by Amitai Etzioni and The Communitarian Network. (See: Amitai Etzioni, The Spirit of Community: The Reinvention of American Society, Touchstone: 1993.) To successfully advance cohousing it is important to not permit the debate to be defined as the individual versus society, or vice versa, but rather to advance the anthropologist Paul Radin's preference that "... the individual and the group ... resist submergence of one by the other." (Arthur Morgan, Guidebook for Intentional Communities, Community Service, Inc.: 1988) A dynamic balance between individual and society is the goal, encouraged in the local community by its provision of a human scale, knowable society in which the individual has reflected to them, and recognizes, the importance of their personal role. The community, then, is comprised of a range of different types of families, always changing with the lifecycles of birth, growth, new births and deaths. Through all this the local community seeks to maintain itself as an ongoing entity, providing a fixed context against which to measure the changes in our personal microcosms, and of the ever quickening and often unsettling changes in the vast, global culture beyond the community. Through first identifying just what communitarian values are, then how they relate to the issues of the day, a basic strategy can be developed for creating a community-building industry. And we may not be as far from this ideal as it may seem. Consider that in 1988 the Community Associations Institute (1630 Duke St., Alexandria, VA 22314, 703-548-8600) estimated that approximately 12.1% of our population lived under the jurisdiction of community associations. These use the same legal designs, the PUD and the condominium, that are used by most cohousing communities. Identifying the differences between cohousing and non-cohousing community associations, and emphasizing the positive nature of these differences, would be a community-building industry strategy. If we would like for cohousing to be seen in the future as the defining cultural ethic of 21st Century Western civilization, rather than simply as the last gasp of 20th Century Western cultural innovation, we would do well to consider the dynamics of cultural change, and consider what strategic steps might be taken to raise cohousing from a marginal role in our cultural milieu to a central influence in American society.
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