Marketing the Garden of Eden
What follows is the dream challenge for a marketer.
Did I say challenge? This is shooting fish in a barrel.
The Product: Florida retirement community.
The Market: Retirees, or soon-to-be retirees, age 55+ with no live-in children.
Seven USP's (Unique Selling Propositions):
- Glorious year-round weather.
- Very affordable.
- Undreamed-of lifestyle back when you were busting your chops in a miserable career job.
- Free golf for the rest of your life.
- A dizzying number of indoors and outside activities, sports, hobbies and clubs at all levels from beginners to experts—all free.
- World-class health facilities.
- Investment opportunities that can generate up to 15 percent per annum.
Welcome to Disney World for Seniors
The Villages, Florida
Old friends rented a villa in Florida and invited us down for a long weekend. Peggy and I departed the day after Philly's worst snowfall, in freezing weather. We picked up a rental car at the Orlando airport for a one-hour drive north on Florida's Turnpike.
We had never heard of The Villages. When we arrived, we found:
- One of the largest retirement colonies in the world with 88 separate communities and a population of 110,000 in 33 square miles—roughly the size of Manhattan.
- Empty acreage everywhere with a gazillion little lakes and ponds—all exquisitely landscaped and with avian visitors that include majestic white egrets, herons, cormorants and ducks.
- Print is not dead! The Villages boasts a daily newspaper thicker than The New York Times, a fat (136-page) glossy monthly magazine (free with the newspaper), plus its own radio station, 8 major supermarkets and 100 eateries.
- Plenty to do: 2,200 organized clubs, 79 recreation centers, over 100 tennis courts and 100 pickleball courts, 216 softball teams, 10,000 tee times daily and 70 swimming pools.
- The biggest surprise (to me): The Villages Polo Club—a world-class facility with 128 players. Included are state-of-the-art barns, 15 paddocks, 3 fields, exercise track, spring and fall seasons with international competitions and a grandstand that draws 30,000 spectators—the largest polo crowds in the U.S.
- Golf carts are the vehicles of choice with over 50,000 of them traversing 100 miles of golf cart paths.
- The largest golf cart parade involved 3,321 participants from The Villages, Florida, United States on 4 September 2005. The event raised $29,500 for different charities. —Guinness World Records
- The Thursday Recreation News section of the paper is a 64-page tabloid listing more than 1,000 weekly events ranging from A Cappella Sing-Along, Antique Automobile Club and 17 Art groups and classes to Waterski Lake Miona, Whist (a recherché card game that morphed into bridge), Widows and Widowers, Woodworkers Club, 3 Writers gatherings, 7 Yoga opportunities and 9 Zumba toning classes.
Life in The Villages
On Saturday we went to the giant outdoors farmers and crafts market, saw The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (a hoot—surrounded by a huge audience of seniors who directly related to story). This was followed by a splendid dinner at the VKI Japanese hibachi steak house where the chef juggled cookware and food with clatter and gusto.