All-American and underappreciated

June 30, 1994

Natives and adopted Baltimoreans alike know two things about Charm City: It is as down-to-earth as a metropolis can be, and it's underrated.

And now we have quantifiable proof of both those truths. Baltimore was ranked first in the nation as the metropolitan area whose residents' views come closest to matching the psychological makeup of the United States as a whole, according to a study recently done for American Demographics magazine.

The publication studied 320 metropolitan areas and considered shopping patterns and levels of household incomes, education and product awareness. Based on interviews with consumers, it also broke the populations down into psychological clusters: "actualizers," "achievers," "believers," "experiencers," "fulfilleds," "makers," "strivers" and "strugglers."

This may sound like so much psycho-babble, but manufacturers and marketers use such profiles to craft strategies to sell their products. (If you doubt that these marketing mind games have any effect on you, ask yourself why you keep reaching for a soda when water would quench your thirst just fine.) The question entertainers once asked, "Will it play in Peoria?" now should be asked about places like Baltimore, nearby Wilmington, Del., and Brazoria, Texas, all of which scored high on this study, the magazine reported. If fewer than 2 percent of people in the Baltimore metropolitan area altered their "values," the area would perfectly match the U.S. profile; no other market came as close.

Despite scoring tops for its "American attitudes," Baltimore finished dead last in a study of places whose residents' opinions are most sought out by researchers.

Odessa-Midland, Texas had the most surveyed populace in the nation -- don't ask us why -- and Tucson, Atlanta and Cincinnati were the only large markets whose residents were commensurately surveyed. Tucson and Cincinnati, by the way, were among the few cities that ranked high in being "psycho-graphically" correct, behind Baltimore.

The city's business community should be promoting stuff like this: Baltimore -- a city with middle-American values where your dinner won't get interrupted by too many market researchers asking questions . . . although that last part now may change.

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