I’m one of the online experts at the Association of Web Entrepreneurs. As such, founder Sheri McConnell has asked each of the experts to write an article for inclusion in an upcoming AWE book – the theme of the book being trends for the future.
As AWE’s ‘SHIFT-IT’ expert, I have written my article on the increasing growth of the “Cultural Creative” slice of the general population and servicing that population through online businesses.
Just FYI, this article is written through an ‘internet marketing’ lens for folks who are familiar with this arena. So, its a more ‘business-oriented’ flavour than most of my writings.
WHY SAVVY WEB ENTREPRENEURS WILL FIND EVEN MORE OPPORTUNITY IN THE GROWING ‘CULTURAL CREATIVE’ MARKET
Social demographers and researchers have been tracking the emergence of a new category of people in the last 50 years. Known by several labels (‘cultural creatives’ ‘integrals’ and ‘greens‘) this group of 50 million (25% of the adult population in North America and an additional 80-90 million estimated in Europe) is unique for their shared interests in ecology/global awareness, social justice, self-actualization, spirituality and self-expression.
If you aren’t personally one of these people, then chances are they surround you or they are entering your periphery in growing numbers. Sociologist Dr. Paul Ray and co-author Sherry Ruth Anderson (Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World) have been tracking this group for the last 15 years and believe it is still in a phase of accelerated growth. That a deep shift in culture is occurring as an immense group of people change their minds and unite around a broad set of values.
Today’s dominant culture (coined ‘Moderns’) that primarily prizes money, materialism and status, is in decline, and Cultural Creatives are on the upswing. However, very interestingly, this shift from a modern mindset to a culturally creative one can take individuals at least a decade to personally navigate and to bring their lives in alignment with their beliefs and values. So, take note — many, many people are still progressing through this state of transition and will continue to for years to come.
What This Demographic Shift Means for You:
Wherever there is a emerging trend or acceleration there is an opportunity to meet new needs and capitalize on the shift that is occurring, whether you are personally going through the shift yourself or not. This current shift of consciousness presents a HUGE opportunity for web entrepreneurs who are willing and able to ride the wave.
Due to the cultural creatives’ interests in ecology and environmentalism, informed travel, ethics, social responsibility for business, conscious commerce, alternative health care, spirituality, personal development, balanced lifestyles, etc … there are many interesting integral niches just waiting to be created, serviced and fulfilled.
And, the very good news, if you happen to be a Cultural Creative yourself (like I am), is that fulfilling an integral business niche servicing Cultural Creatives (or those in the transitional process) can be a very rewarding and satisfying journey.
My Own SHIFT:
My own business, SHIFT-IT Coach, Inc can operate as a case study of a culturally creative based business. I began my career in a ‘Modern’ type backdrop as a graphic recorder / graphic facilitator primarily working in corporate settings doing strategic planning meetings and retreats. Typically these events were for large, well-known, brand name companies – with the bottom line, productivity and beating the competition being the main focus.
For years these settings were interesting and fulfilling for me but on my off time I became increasingly interested in spiritual and personal growth pursuits. Over time my internal direction and compass shifted from wanting to assist big organizations to wanting to assist individuals, couples and business partners in creating independent lives that personally worked best for them (all in my trademark visual style of course).
I created a small coaching practice on the side and slowly developed my SHIFT-IT Graphic Coaching Process and visual tools. Like all of us, I went through a big learning curve around web and internet marketing techniques to build a proper corporation — learning to clarify my brand and offerings, create an awesome team and attract people who were my ideal market (cultural creatives or those on their way to becoming full CC’s). Presently I use most of the current web technologies (site, blog, free reports, e-zine, tele-conferences, webinars, streaming video, social media, Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Youtube etc), e-products, online registrations and payments for my programs, etc.
As I look at emerging trends, I’m most interested in technologies that will enable me to even more personally interface with my culturally creative clients (and allow them to interface with one another). I’m on the lookout for affordable two-way or multi-way conferencing technologies (especially video), anything that will allow me to share my proprietary materials safely and securely, and cheaper e-learning infra-structure that a company of my size can afford and maintain.
Interesting Factoid: We Think We Are Alone
(I wrote that as a ‘we’ statement because it seemed weird to describe my peeps in a ‘they’ statement, since I am one too).
An interesting thing about the Cultural Creative market is that while we are massive (and growing) we haven’t quite become politically aware or active yet – at least in formal, tangible ways. In North America, there are over 50 million of us out there but many of us still think we are unusual or alone. As entrepreneurs there is a great opportunity to help us see that we aren’t alone, build community and to provide services and products that are of genuine interest and assistance (I write genuine because that is just my value system … but if you have a different value system and ethics, then obviously there is also opportunity for disingenuous products and services too (unfortunately).
Given that CC’s think we are alone, it behooves entrepreneurs serving this market to be strong, visible and vocal — to act as an important mirror, validation and encouragement source. We reflect back that being a Cultural Creative is indeed normal, that new entrants are in good company and are part of a much larger constituency and that there is great hope and optimism in being who we naturally are (and yes, you can make money and be who you truly are too!).
Knowing this, I’m pushing myself (with soothing self talk of course) to be even more personally revealing and public about my interest areas, philosophy and beliefs. The niche that I serve is in the self-actualization realm for CC’s. Last year I became much more vocal about my Law of Attraction, channeling, and energy work interests (and this disclosure was very well received). This year I’m being forthcoming about my empath / clairsentient gifts that have informed my work for years. I’m doing this because my private work with clients tells me that people are not only open for this but also ready. And as a leader, its up to me to put it out there so CC’s who resonate with this can find me.
As the Cultural Creative market comes more fully online and more mainstream (and this is happening) then the new frontiers are on the more cutting edge of the market… the areas that still carry some social taboos and stigmatism to them. You need to be brave and courageous to stand up and be a leader in them. As Ken Wilber the integral theorist likes to joke; “you can tell the pioneer in the room by the number of arrows in their back’. Thankfully CC pioneers can take heart as our pragmatism and practicality will be understood in hindsight and after enough time has passed.
Questions to Ask Yourself:
If you are resonating with the Culturally Creative market and either serve it now, or want to in the future, here are a few questions to consider:
- Am I A Cultural Creative Myself?
- If I’m Not a CC Myself, Am I Comfortable Working With Them in Some Capacity?
- If So, Which Areas Of The Wide Spectrum Of CC Interest Areas And Values Am I Most Drawn To (Ecology And Environmentalism, Informed Travel, Ethics, Social Responsibility For Business, Conscious Commerce, Alternative Health Care, Spirituality, Personal Development, Balanced Lifestyles, etc)?
- Do I Want to Appeal to Newer Cultural Creatives or Those Who Are More Seasoned and Established With Their Identity (in their transition or already through it)?
- Do I Want To Be The Masthead Of My Business (Write From The First Person And Highly Identify The Company With My Own CC’ness) Or Create A More Impersonal Business/Corporate Kind Of Entity?
- Am I More Pulled To Providing A Cultural Creative Product Or A Service?
- If Already In Business, Can I Adapt An Existing Product Line Or Service Offering To Appeal To Cultural Creatives?
- If Already In Business, Do I Want To Spin Off A Separate Cultural Creative Type Company?
- Am I Confident I Can Create Contingency Plans and Be Innovative as More CC Entrepreneurs Come Online… Keep Ahead of the Curve as CC Businesses Become More Mainstream and Fashionable (And Potentially Saturated)?
Most of the upsides have already been documented in this article. The Cultural Creative market is real and is growing. It can be a very personally satisfying realm to play in (particularly if you are a CC yourself). It has a wide range of specialties and niches from which to choose. Organizations and associations catering to CC’s are blossoming. And, the population is not just North American centric but international in scope (great for internet based businesses).
The downsides are that theorists are unsure what the future holds for the CC population – will it continue to grow and eventually eclipse the dominant Modern culture or will it peter out due to some unforeseen circumstances… we just don’t know because this demographic and evolutionary twist has never existed before.
Another downside is that your business (and potentially yourself) run the risk of being deemed ‘woo woo’ ‘flaky’ or a ‘new age’… although this kind of labeling is decreasing (healthcare is a good example as methods not that long ago lambasted are now being covered under some plans, etc). Depending in what areas you pursue, you may still need to exercise some personal courage and bravery in expressing your point of view and taking guff from Modern critics, colleagues, friends and family (if that sort of thing bothers you).
A Word of Encouragement:
I really resonate with the researchers who say that the transition to becoming a through and through Cultural Creative can take a decade – because that has been my own personal experience. While it can take some time to fully mature into a CC identity and business, the journey is certainly worth it (at least from my shoes… which continue to take steps).
If you are contemplating launching a Cultural Creative business or are already one of my CC colleagues during this amazing time in our society’s development … I whole hearted encourage you to continue your process. Not only is it personally rewarding and fulfilling work, I truly believe that we are each doing our own little part for cultural and planetary change. Its going to be fascinating to see how this all pans out!
Resources for More Information:
I’ve mentioned Dr. Ray and Ms. Andersen’s book: The Cultural Creatives. For more information see: http://www.culturalcreatives.org
Ken Wilber, a leading Integral Theorist and author, who’s work and AQAL model (all quadrants and all levels) is the underlying framework for the programs and faculty of The Integral Institute can be connected with via the following websites:
The “Spiral Dynamics” work of Clare Graves, carried to further fruition by Don Beck – is a source of information and study that intrigues integral thinkers. For more information see: https://spiraldynamics.net/
Christina Merkley is The SHIFT-IT Coach. Creator of the SHIFT-IT Graphic Coaching Process®, she guides individuals, partners and teams in defining and getting what they really, really want. A practitioner of Law of Attraction, she is also an expert in visual thinking techniques, strategic planning and visioning: having worked for such notable organizations as BBC, Readers Digest Funds, HP and Digital 4Sight.
After a move from San Francisco, she now lives in charming Victoria, British Columbia, Canada – where she maintains a vibrant coaching practice with protected time to read, write, develop new products and curriculum and stroll the misty beaches. Christina invites your communications at www.shift-it-coach.com