Purpose ‐ Today we have to face the challenge of competing in a globalized world for scarce goods, such as residents in general, and in particular for those with talents, the so-called "creative class". This class is the driving force for economic growth, so winning the competition for these individuals is one of the main tasks for cities and regions today. However, to face this challenge using place marketing and city branding, we have to understand the needs and preferences of this target group. The purpose of this paper is to address these issues. Design/methodology/approach ‐ In a field study (n=1,258) the basic needs and preferences of the creative class were analyzed. The creative class with the non-creative class were compared using a univariate analysis of variance (ANOVA). Findings ‐ Structural differences were found for the ratings of the importance of different needs for the creative class and the non-creative class. Consequences for creative class theory are discussed. Research limitations/implications ‐ It may not be possible to generalize the results found in this German sample to a sample with a different cultural background without further intercultural comparisons. Furthermore, the focus was on four basic factors of city evaluation, not on specific needs for single subgroups. Further research questions are identified and discussed. Originality/value ‐ The creative class as a target group is very popular in place marketing. This paper discusses the needs and preference structure of this target group and the need for a more precise definition of the creative class.