Startup shop Amalgamated targets big-spending Bobos

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Sipping a frappuccino at a Starbucks in the Cobble Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn, David Myers, a 23-year-old Columbia University graduate and self-taught graphic and Web designer, stares at the screen of his top-of-the-line Mac G4 Powerbook as he tackles a project. "I'll sit here for hours and go as long as I'm motivated," he said. "Sometimes I work all day on a Sunday and take off Monday and Tuesday."

Mr. Myers fits the profile of a Bobo, short for "Bourgeois Bohemian," and Doug Cameron, strategist and co-founder of startup ad agency, Amalgamated, wants to reach him.

The term was originally coined by writer David Brooks in his 2000 book, "Bobos in Paradise." Amalgamated borrows from both Mr. Brooks as well as Carnegie Mellon University professor Richard Florida, author of "The Rise of the Creative Class," in defining Bobos. These people, writes Mr. Brooks, "seemed to have combined the counter-cultural `60s and the achieving `80s into one social ethos."

The group, according to Mr. Florida, is 38 million strong and is comprised of people working in a range of fields from science to entertainment, but all are employed to create new ideas, new technology and new content. Age is not a determining factor, but Bobos are generally highly educated, and they don't typically work 9-to-5 days. More often, these folks deal with projects and deadlines.

Defining Bobos is one thing. Marketing to them is another. So Mr. Cameron and his two partners, all ex- Cliff Freeman & Partners executives who opened the agency in June, developed the Bobo Index, a research tool used to help select Amalgamated clients reach the group. "Bobos go for the functional extreme," Mr. Cameron said, "rather than buy any refrigerator, they'll buy an $8,000 Sub Zero."

While Bobo's income levels are attractive-generally exceeding $75,000 annually (although a prototypical Bobo earns above $150,000)-more meaningful for marketers is their tendency to cluster in communities with certain characteristics, and that they share certain consumption habits. Mr. Cameron, himself a Bobo, said the group favors brands such as Odwalla, JetBlue Airways, Volkswagen and Apple computers.

Amalgamated's Index uses data like educational levels and Starbucks per capita, culled from the U.S. Census Bureau and other sources, to rank specific geographic areas by their density of Bobo population. Such an approach can be useful, said Erwin Ephron, partner, Ephron Papazian & Ephron. "Segmentation can be effective to the degree that you can execute it in media. Are there media that are selective against these lifestyle segments?"

bobos for bucks

Amalgamated thinks so. With the index, clients like Unilever's Ben & Jerry's and the Freelancers' Union can "get much more Bobos for the buck," Mr. Cameron said. For example, buying radio time in Boise City, Idaho or Madison, Wisconsin, might make more sense than in, say, Chicago. "Many of these places are overlooked, and so are cheap. But this is an effective way to stretch marketing dollars," Mr. Cameron said.

Fast Facts

Top 10 Bobo Markets

San Francisco



Austin, Texas

San Diego

Washington, DC

Chapel Hill-Raleigh Durham, N.C.

New York



Source: Amalgamated

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