Buying Woodstock

Is Ladera Ranch the green revolution or the same development crap in a new package?

Talking to Hernandez, I get the feeling that Terramor's marketing is Greenwashing, a word that now has its own place in the Oxford English Dictionary: "Disinformation disseminated by an organization so as to present an environmentally responsible public image." In practice it means advertising with montages of lush green rain forests, condors in flight and pristine streams sparkling in daylight—all brought to you by major polluters.

In Terramor's case it means that the marketer's "Visionary Village" may exist simply to give developers leverage as they expand suburban sprawl to San Onofre and points beyond. After all, favorable public opinion generated by a culturally creative lowercase green development like Terramor could justify the latest toll-road extension through San Onofre State Park or the newest development of 14,000 homes proposed for Ortega Canyon. In front of a county or city planning commission, 360-Degree Living might serve as the developer's crowbar for massive anti-green sprawl.

I tell Hernandez the brochure at the iGallery says 360-Degree Living "approaches home as a nest responding to individual needs for privacy, individuality, and efficiency."

"I think the whole thing sounds really phony," she replies.

I walk to the front of the iGallery and ask the receptionist how many degrees of living I'm experiencing right now, here at the iGallery—360? Perhaps 240? If I live in Long Beach, am I likely to experience more degrees than if I live in Yorba Linda?

The receptionist smiles and gives me the once-over twice. It wouldn't surprise me if she's sizing me up as a Cultural Creative. She certainly works for a place that has the credentials. Housing Zone, an online magazine for the real estate community, says, "Nobody is better at creating and executing detailed marketing programs directed to distinct like-minded groups than Rancho Mission Viejo Company."

Pinpointing like-minded groups is standard operating procedure for marketing people. In the past, straight-up demographics were the rule—age, income, education, occupation and geographic location determined the sales pitch. But by the late 1970s—with the rise of personal computers—marketing departments found they could increase sales by tossing personal values, attitudes, behaviors and tastes into the mix. As with all things in marketing, they came up with a cool new name for this strategy: psychographics.

An advertisement built on psychographic data doesn't describe the product so much as it describes the personality and character of the prospective consumer—a campaign that almost ignores the product so that it can flatter you for having the good taste to want it. In Terramor's world, you're the kind of amazing person who "dreamed" of a "home in harmony with nature" in a "village in touch with its soul." And because you dreamed it, the Mission Viejo Company can have only one response: "we will build it."Personal cultural values are identified with specific psychographic segments of the population. You may be "Bohemian Mix" or "Pools & Patios," or "Shotguns & Pickups" or "Rural Industrial" or "Winner's Circle." You Shop at Banana Republic, watch Wall Street Week, live a granola-and-grits lifestyle. You're urbane or rustic; hunt with a gun or buy jazz.

I wonder how this all fits into the Cultural Creative/Modern/Traditional grid. So I call Brooke Warrick, president of American LIVES, a value- and lifestyle-based market research firm. Warrick founded American LIVES 17 years ago with Paul Ray—the man who coined "Cultural Creative." Warrick also did the market research for Terramor and helped with its development and marketing plan.

"Ladera Ranch was an evolution," Warrick says. "There were five phases and we marched our way through each, pushing the envelope. We were going after different kinds of people at each phase. We decided in the last phase, Terramor, that there was one part of the market that wasn't being served: a segment that wanted some sort of green development phenomena. We knew what their values were. We knew what was important to them.

"We said to ourselves, 'Why don't we design a part of the community that appeals to Cultural Creatives?' If we did the Green Thing—internally we called it 'the Green Thing'—if we did the Green Thing, couldn't we capture another part of the market?"

I ask him what other markets he targeted. Warrick tells me about Covenant Hill, another Ladera Ranch development. "I talked to a builder about that development the other day. I said to him, "Remember everything we said about the target for Terramor? Forget about that. The target for Covenant Hills is exactly the opposite. It's for Moderns and status-oriented people."

And how do you market homes to Moderns?

"They want a lot of baubles and bangles on the front of their homes," he says. "We came up with the term 'statement-oriented architecture' to describe the embellishments for Moderns."

What about Traditionals?

"There are parts of the development [at Ladera Ranch] that went after Traditionals, too," he says. "For Traditionals, the fewer things on the home the better."

As far as marketing to the 28 percent who think the earth is worth preserving, Warrick says, "We want all that 28 percent."

Statement-oriented architecture? The Green Thing? My head is spinning. I hear the squeal of feedback, statistical white noise emanating from the movement of marketing information between consumers and researchers and market and back again. It sounds like this: poll-data-marketing-poll-data-marketing-poll-data-marketing. And this: You want/I want/ You want/I want/You want.

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