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Be aware of guest homophily

Homophily is a wonderful sounding word. And it holds a lot of wisdom for anyone developing or operating a location-based entertainment project (LBE), especially an indoor facility that offers more guest intimacy, such as a family entertainment center or bowling center.

Homophily means, “love of the same.” It is sometimes also known as, “birds of a feather flock together.” What it means is people have a natural tendency to associate and bond with people similar to themselves based on their status and/or values.

When it comes to an LBE, homophily also means that people don’t want to associate, to hang out with people too dissimilar from themselves. A simple example is that white-collar, college educated guests won’t want to visit the same LBE that attracts blue-collar rednecks. The lower socioeconomic/lifestyle (SEL) group will effectively drive away the higher one. Just the opposite will occur at a country club. The blue-collar rednecks won’t feel comfortable in the country club.

It isn’t only the people in an LBE that affects what makes SEL groups comfortable or uncomfortable in a particular facility. It is also the facility’s design and level of finish. A redneck bar is going to have a completely different design and finish than a country club.

So when it comes to the applying the concept of homophily to LBE design and management, it is critical to know whom you want to attract in terms of their SELs. You can’t be all things to all SELs. So you have to pick an SEL niche and design for them. In fact, when you design for upper socioeconomic/lifestyle groups, you have to make sure the low SELs wont’ feel comfortable coming. The design and finishes have to be sophisticated enough to make them feel out of place. Otherwise, they will come and drive away the birds of the other feather that you really want as your customers.

About Randy White

Randy White is CEO and co-founder of the White Hutchinson Leisure & Learning Group. The 31-year-old company, with offices in Kansas City, Missouri, has worked for over 600 clients in 37 countries throughout the world. Projects the company has designed and produced have won seventeen 1st place awards. Randy is considered to be one of the world's foremost authorities on feasibility, brand development, design and production of leisure experience destinations including entertainment, eatertainment, edutainment, agritainment/agritourism, play and leisure facilities.

Randy was featured on the Food Network's Unwrapped television show as an eatertainment expert, quoted as an entertainment/edutainment center expert in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Times and Time magazine and received recognition for family-friendly designs by Pizza Today magazine. One of the company's projects was featured as an example of an edutainment project in the book The Experience Economy. Numerous national newspapers have interviewed him as an expert on shopping center and mall entertainment and retail-tainment.

Randy is a graduate of New York University. Prior to repositioning the company in 1989 to work exclusively in the leisure and learning industry, White Hutchinson was active in the retail/commercial real estate industry as a real estate consultancy specializing in workouts/turnarounds of commercial projects. In the late 1960s to early 1980s, Randy managed a diversified real estate development company that developed, owned and managed over 2.0 million square feet of shopping centers and mixed-use projects and 2,000 acres of residential subdivisions. Randy has held the designations of CSM (Certified Shopping Center Manager) and Certified Retail Property Executive (CRX) from the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC).

He has authored over 150 articles that have been published in over 40 leading entertainment/leisure and early childhood education industry magazines and journals and has been a featured speaker and keynoter at over 40 different conventions and trade groups.

Randy is the editor of his company's Leisure eNewsletter, has a blog and posts on Twitter and Linkedin.

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