What's the hottest trend to hit this year and beyond? To figure it out, put yourself, for a moment, in the mind of the typical consumer:
The millennium is almost over, and you haven't accomplished a thing. You slave away 60 hours a week only to face downsizing. Your health is flagging, but your doctor seems oblivious. You suspect there is more to life than your mortgage and your car payment, but you can hardly find the brain power to contemplate dinner, let alone the major mysteries of the cosmos. You don't want a new attitude or a new perspective. You need the deluxe package.
You need a whole new age.
You and an estimated 44 million Americans like you. Sociologist Paul H. Ray, in a study co-sponsored by research firms the Fetzer Institute in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and the Sausalito, California-based Institute of Noetic Sciences, identified roughly 24 percent of the population as "cultural creatives"--folks who embrace globalism, alternative health care, spirituality, social consciousness and ecological sustainability.
While cultural creatives don't represent a majority of the population, they are a sizable market. Moreover, their values are rippling through society at large. Where New Age was once ridiculed as the refuge of pyramid-loving, crystal-worshipping kooks, it's now as mainstream as seeing an acupuncturist or buying a yoga video.
Have you read your horoscope lately? Tuned in to "The X-Files"? Gotten a whiff of aromatherapy? If so, you're not alone. As a culture, we may be a long way from enlightenment. But even if we don't achieve nirvana in 1997, it looks like our minds will continue the long, slow opening process--and unimagined markets will open along with them.