Meandering Summer Bike Rides in Houston

July 03, 2011 I have taken to long, meandering bike rides around Houston which I find amazingly good for my marketing brain. As you pass through neighborhoods, you get a true sense of how differently people live. My current favorite route takes me from Midtown through Alabama to Columbia Tap's Rails to Trails route. This community never ceases to amaze me. Pass by at 7:00 a.m. and watch women gathering in "our Park" for a morning exercise class; continue by a side yard with 20 odd and assorted office chairs and wander what the heck that is about; and be greeted by "old-timers" who are working in the community garden.  Do that same ride at 5:30 on a Friday and you learn that the 20 chairs is the local community gathering spot full of men playing cards and "monitoring" the community. Continuing on Columbia Tap north, you pass under I-45 and head into an industrial zone mingled with a quickly changing EaDo. As the new Houston Dynamo stadium is being built, you can feel the neighborhood changing. And wonder what it will be like in 10 years. Will the proliferation of condos and apartment building yield a neighborhood with a sense of community seen in the old "Third Ward" or will it yield disparate groups of transient young people passing each other in parking garages? The last leg of this favorite ride is through Discovery Green and Downtown. In this unbelievably hot summer, the park is covered in families. And it is predominantly Hispanic families of late who seem to have en masse discovered the cool sprinkler fun that Discovery Green offers. And I wonder how does the word spread about those fountains?  From a marketing perspective, if a client could so reliably reach a particular audience, they would be thrilled.  And lastly, I pass by Toyota Center and am amazed at the flood of people that match to whatever event is happening that night. I find myself trying to guess the ye type of act based on the crowd merging towards Toyota Center -- is it country? R&B? or 80's hair band? So, I am reminded on my rambling bike rides that in a city as widely diverse as Houston, people self-select activities to be with people who look, dress, and share their same social heritage. And why is that? What evolutionary or cultural instinct or mechanism is at play?  And as a marketer, do you really target them based on those criteria? Does that segmentation marketing instinct (Hispanic targeted marketing or African-American focused or whatever target) reinforce stereotypes and cultural divides? Will it push us further apart as a people?

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