The Psychographic Tale of Downtown Long Beach

Since 1937, the Downtown Long Beach Associates (DLBA) has been a champion for the cause of making Downtown a great place to live, work and play.  Operating as a non-profit organization, it provides services to manage, market, and maintain the ecosystem that is Downtown Long Beach.

Recently, DLBA released its annual report, the Downtown Long Beach Economic Profile 2014.  It paints a glossy picture as to why “doing business in Downtown Long Beach” is a great choice.  From a business and economic development perspective, its purpose is to market its benefits to attract new companies, customers, visitors, and residents.  I say, “Well done!”

The story told in the report uses data to describe these benefits and opportunities including development, demographics, office space, housing, and spending patterns.  The data is fascinating for an urban economics nerd like me.  The most interesting story to me is the one contained within the story: psychographics.

More qualitative in nature, psychographics strive to describe people within these differing demographic categories: how they feel, what they want, what they aspire to, or what they value.

Yes, read it again: psychographics. It’s kind of a catchy word in a jazz hands sort of way, right?

Now, psychographics should not be confused with demographics, although both are elements of market research.  The underlying purpose of market research is to learn how people behave in the hopes of attracting them to do business with you.  In this case, studying what would it take to get people to live, work, and play in Downtown Long Beach.

Demographics are defined as factual data which can be quantified by statistics to place people into such categories as age, race, income, religion, sexual orientation, or even education.  Psychographics are not defined by statistical or quantifiable data. More qualitative—or interpretive—in nature, psychographics strive to describe people within these differing demographic categories: how they feel, what they want, what they aspire to, or what they value.

Based on the demographic and psychographic studies performed for Downtown, the trends say that Downtown residents are becoming “more affluent, educated, and cosmopolitan.”  This conclusion is based on information derived from ESRI’s Tapestry Segmentation which profiles the American population into 65 distinct market segments.  These segments further “summarize and simplify these differences—LifeMode summary groups and Urbanization summary groups. Segments within a LifeMode summary group share an experience such as being born in the same time period or a trait such as affluence. Urbanization summary groups share a locale, from the urban canyons of the largest cities to the rural lanes of villages or farms.”

In 2013, the fastest growing population segments of the Downtown Long Beach population are described as Old and Newcomers, Metro Renters, Young and Restless, and Inner City Tenants.

OLD AND NEWCOMERS: With an increase of 44 percent in 2013, “these households are typically beginning their careers or are retiring.  There are more singles and shared households in these neighborhoods than others. They have above average educational attainment. Their purchases reflect the free lifestyles of singles and renters. They read books, newspapers, watch TV, listen to contemporary music, and go to the movies.”

METRO RENTERS: Up 26 percent, “these households are young and educated singles who are beginning their professional careers in large metropolitan cities. This group is younger and more diverse than the U.S population. They are one of the most educated groups.  They tend to buy from Banana Republic, Gap, Nordstrom, and online retailers. These residents exercise regularly and like to travel. They fully utilize amenities offered in cities by visiting museums, going dancing, and attending concerts.”

YOUNG AND RESTLESS: Increasing in number by 23 percent, “these households are young and over half are single or shared. They are ethnically diverse and live in metropolitan areas. These young professionals live a busy lifestyle and are technologically inclined. They enjoy conveniences and frequently go online to communicate, shop, and keep up with the latest trends.”

INNER CITY TENANTS: Rising by 15 percent, “these households represent urban diversity and are multicultural. They are younger than average, with a median age of 27.8 years old. They have a busy lifestyle, like to go to movies, and enjoy professional football and basketball games.”

It’s easy to feel uneasy about such categorical descriptions, but at the very least, they are good places from which to begin conversations.  The fact is that the population of Downtown is changing; some might even describe it as a transitioning neighborhood.  You don’t need to be a business person to appreciate this data.  It describes a story that is relevant to anyone who has a stake in its future; elected officials, business executives, faith leaders, community advocates, and residents.

So, what do you think?  Do you think that this information has any value for you?  If so, how so?

Join the psychographic conversation.

By the way, if you are interested in a free downloadable poster that describes all 65 market segments, click here.

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