At our agency we talk about the value of authenticity in marketing and that people can sense when they are being put on. Last week’s news featured reports http://bit.ly/gKfszd from Celebration, Florida on a murder that took place on over the Thanksgiving holiday. Ordinarily that would not be all that remarkable except that it was the first murder ever recorded in this community created by Walt Disney in the 1990’s. Disney did relinquish control several years ago and the now independent community is simply part of Osceola County. At the outset the idyllic community received criticism that it was a bit ‘too perfect’ – almost ‘Stepford Wives’ – like.
Celebration is a town where people give Christmas gifts to their favorite Starbucks barista, where welcoming wooden rocking chairs sit lakeside on a sidewalk without being stolen, and where reportedly neighbors tend to get suspicious if they notice you’re not around.
What has always troubled me about the whole idea of Celebration is that it represents intentional in-authenticity. It was as if people there wanted to live a life that they could only dream might be possible. But what if the dream turned out to be a nightmare?
Another place (oddly in Florida as well) that has an ersatz feel to it is ‘The Villages’ in Lady Lake. I hesitate to write about it since I have family that live there and know several people’s whose parents have retired there and absolutely love it. The Villages has more than 70,000 residents, more than 40,000 homes, 34 golf courses, nine country clubs, and is the largest gated retirement community in America – and one of the most popular destinations for New Yorkers in their golden years – where the female-to-male ratio runs 10 to 1.
I visited The Villages a number of times in the 1990’s and 2000’s. It reminded me of a real life ‘Sim City’ game. It began with a few town houses and condominiums and has grown amazingly such that it has its own school system and full infrastructure. The residents ride around in their own golf carts (not all that unusual in retirement communities) and there is dancing and music in the two town squares every night.
The Villages also has had the distinction of having one highest rates of sexually transmitted disease rate among those over 65 the country, one report claims. http://bit.ly/gfck70
What I remember the most about The Villages is that the whole place felt artificial. People were happy (and that’s great) but at the same time it seemed to be outside the bounds of the real world. That might be ok for the people there but it made me really uncomfortable.
The problem is that it’s just not real and I could never and would never want to be become accustomed to living in a place like that.
How about you? Are you believer in keeping it real?