Marketing Sustainable Communities – Survivalists on the Rise

"You really need to know who you’re speaking to."

That’s a fundamental point in any marketing program. But Andres Duany reminded his audience of it Wednesday morning at a day-long DPZ workshop on the "new" New Urbanism.

New Urbanism is fundamentally pro-environmental; that is a given of the conversation within the movement. But potential buyers have different ways of thinking about green building. They fall into different groups, and the marketing messages must be tailored to those groups.

Duany’s four groups are:

• The Ethicists
• The Trend-Setters
• The Opportunists
• The Survivalists

"These are not the most politically correct names," Duany said, "but in fact they are the clearest names."

Since he last presented these concepts to a CNU audience, he’s found some shifts in the market. The "cool green" Trend-Setters, the ones who want to be like Leonardo DiCaprio and drive a Prius, are becoming somewhat less important. The Opportunists, the ones who see green building as a way to create jobs and reenergize the economy, are coming to the fore. President Obama, he noted, is in this camp. "They count on economic self-interest rather than regulation."

But the Survivalists, the ones who want to be able to grow their own food and produce their own electricity, if need be, are coming to be ever more a force to be reckoned with.

For each group, Duany has identified a "poster child." For the Survivalists, it’s James Howard Kunstler, whose 2006 book, "The Long Emergency" was so prescient in identifying elements of the current meltdown, including even the resurgence of pirates, that "it reads like history." Of the book, he said, "We took it to be about peak oil. But it was also about social insecurity."

Duany mentioned a British government white paper that was issued but since has largely disappeared: "The Coming Social Insecurity." The gist of the paper, he said, was that global warming will make the poor people of the south "head north and bother the rich people."

Basic civic order may be once again at risk, in other words. And Duany reminded his listeners that for much of human history, civic order has not been something that people could simply take for granted.

The Survivalists, one of Duany’s presentation slides notes, "at best help us prepare for the worst."

The tragedy coming at us is decades away, Duany said at another point. "But that’s not what you need to know to sell real estate.


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