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94 of 101 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good effort by Clinton's Karl Rove
A book categorizing approximately 75 trends the author sees in the modern world (American-focused).
Written so that the ideas presented can be processed in everything from bite-sized individual morsels to sectional chunks (e.g. Love, Sex, and Relationships).

Cons:
-Sometimes staid writing
-Use of book to plug commercial contacts
(Microsoft's...
Published on September 2, 2007 by Test

versus
34 of 42 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but of little practical use
Microtrends is a collection of 75 microtrends Penn claims to have discerned from poll research. Penn defines a microtrend as an intense identity group that makes up one percent or more of the population and is growing. Without offering any evidence, Penn claims that such a group can have significant impact on society.

Although I have two problems with the...
Published on September 18, 2007 by Kent M. Blumberg


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94 of 101 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good effort by Clinton's Karl Rove, September 2, 2007
By 
Test (Virginia, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow's Big Changes (Hardcover)
A book categorizing approximately 75 trends the author sees in the modern world (American-focused).
Written so that the ideas presented can be processed in everything from bite-sized individual morsels to sectional chunks (e.g. Love, Sex, and Relationships).

Cons:
-Sometimes staid writing
-Use of book to plug commercial contacts
(Microsoft's Zune, Mark, as leading some kind of social music revolution? the Zune? C'mon!)
-tendency to generalize anecdotes or a handful of data points he has seen into opinions he thinks are held by significant amounts of people
-highly timely, and will not age well

Microtrends is intriguing; for any watcher of society, Penn's book will likely tell you about social changes you already knew, will likely crystallize broader happenings you have-been-seeing-but-have-not-yet-realized or put a name to, and will likely introduce you to entirely new trends (and it is in these startling moments that the book becomes particularly worth the read).

Mark should be applauded for showing the value of numbers, and of data, in modern society. My only qualm with his idea-sourcing is how he never looks to the numbers to disprove a trend. Instead, he looks at them to justify what he already suspects. This is one of humanity's cognitive biases: the need to confirm what we think is true (rather than taking the alternate, harder, and ultimately more rewarding route of trying to disprove whether something is true, as real science does). While Penn is often right in his trends, that does not mean he will always be right, or that his methodology, as it stands, is not flawed.

Still, Penn effectively yanks the reader's attention in such a way that we can't help but notice new things about our daily world. Armed, often, with convincing data and the power of demographics, he makes predictions that seem sensible (and though perhaps originally startling, also seem quickly convincing in their effect).

Microtrends grabbed me, personally, in the way that I like: rather than telling me stuff, it made me think about things on my own, it made me puzzle and question and conjecture and ultimately conclude things about this crazy world of ours.

I liked Microtrends; I think you will too.
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51 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Micro Atomic Theory of Consumer and Potential Voting Behavior, September 23, 2007
This review is from: Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow's Big Changes (Hardcover)
I enjoy demographic and trend books, like "Lattitudes and Attitudes," and was slightly enchanted by Claritas urban/rural clusters, like "Shotguns and Pickups." But this book is far better at discovering behavioral groups and driving home, with humor and data, the trends as well as the policy or business options to complement the highlighted behaviors.

Three decades ago, Penn sat in a Harvard library and read a book by Valdimer Orlando Key, Jr., in which he wrote that `voters are not fools.' Key was known for promoting realism and rationality in the analysis of politics and election returns. Voters and consumers should be seen as being rational. As Penn writes, it is not about a male candidate's necktie color, but real issues. If one takes the time to understand the trends, one can find the roots of behaviors and desires, and potentially the future consuming and voting patterns. To that end, Penn, a pollster for over 30 years (actually he first administered a poll on his teachers at the age of 13), Clinton's lead pollster/strategist, and the person credited with defining "soccer moms" (busy suburban mothers with families and careers and political policy goals who were swing voters in the last decade) has explored and highlighted 75 out of hundreds of microtrends - these small, under the radar forces that involve as little as 1% of America's population and registered prime voters - which may affect America's future.

In the book, Penn is quick to point out that a microtrend is not merely a development, like the increased use of debit cards or wives changing their surnames upon marriage, but a growing interest group with needs and desires which are unmet by the corporate or political environment. The authors have made it easy to digest, have used a lot of humor to reinforce the points, and have closed each microtrend discussion with specific business or policy products or ideas that can meet the needs of the group. For some microtrends, they include a section on international comparisons to the American trend.

Some of the most interesting microtrends are: The growth of households comprised of single women (In 1980, 17% of Americans lived in solo households, now this figure is closer to one in four Americans). These women will need to plan for their retirements alone, so all those television commercials with couples on beaches are not speaking to them. Another growing trend is "cougars," or women, like "Mrs. Robinson," who date or marry men a decade younger than they are. They may require a new type of pre-nup or detective service. The trend for retired workers to continue working may necessitate tax law changes or a redirection of benefits from maternity leaves to `winter-off" options. Extreme Commuters have more time on their hands to read or listen (if they use mass transit); and the growth of Stay at Home workers may generate a need for changed zoning laws or more secure home offices in residential design. Protestant Hispanics (Hispanics are 14% of the U.S. population and 8% of registered voters) comprise 25% of Americans who identify as Hispanic. While 33% of Catholic Hispanics voted for Bush in the last election (unchanged from the 2000 race), Protestant Hispanics actually increased their votes for Bush from 44 percent to 56, and Pentecostal Hispanics were actually a key force that tipped the 2004 race to Bush. Penn points out that Bush's immigration policies have since changed attitudes, but this microtrend will be a growing factor in American elections. 30-Winkers are Americans who sleep less, take more naps, need caffeine, and need ways to be either more productive when they are awake or find solutions to their lack of sleep. While the microtrend of "XXX Men" is cute, that being the consumption of internet pornography at the office on corporate networks, the trend most interesting to me was Pro-semites or Philo-semites: the growing number of people who want to date Jewish men and women (11% of J-Date members are non Jews). They no longer view Jews as bearded outsiders as Woody Allen envisioned he was perception in "Annie Hall." Jewish women are no longer stereotyped as just making reservations for dinner (68% of Jewish women aged 25-44 have college degrees, the highest percentage of any religious group in America). Penn points out that in 1939, a Roper poll found that 53% of respondents thought Jews should be restricted; In 2006, a Gallup poll found the 54% had positive views of Jews, higher than any other religious group mentioned; also in a 2006 poll, 40% of non-Jews queried said that they would be interested in dating a Jew.

Overall, an easily digestible book with lots of ideas for entrepreneurs, policy designers, HR managers, and tattoo artists.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't just cherry pick this one, September 19, 2007
This review is from: Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow's Big Changes (Hardcover)
I started reading Microtrends on a Sunday afternoon, having finished the Times and assuming I would read the book in a similar fashion as the newspaper - cherry-picking the headlines, subjects and data that were most relevant to my personal, family, and professional interests.

Instead, I read it almost straight through, as each of the seventy-five microtrends provided a perspective that was not only informational, but rather analytical and provocative: A new workforce that is increasingly choosing the non-profit sector, empty-nesters who dote on pets in their grown children's stead, a France that is turning its back on alcohol and smoking (if not necessarily joining the Pro-Semites on the other side of the Atlantic). Gender roles quietly turned on their head by men who are Dads later in life and women who assume greater leadership in print, in the prosecutor's office, and at the pulpit. The younger generation is undergoing a transformation as teenagers increasingly take to knitting in their leisure time and entrepreneurship becomes the latest lunchroom fad. While some had suggested that the new millennium would herald a sort of mundane, global uniformity, Penn and Zalesne discern a different trend entirely, one "in which choice, driven by individual tastes, becomes the dominant factor, and in which these choices are reinforced by the ability to connect and communicate with communities of even the smallest niches."

I shared the book with my wife, who told me her book club chose it (over fiction) for their next read.
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34 of 42 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but of little practical use, September 18, 2007
This review is from: Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow's Big Changes (Hardcover)
Microtrends is a collection of 75 microtrends Penn claims to have discerned from poll research. Penn defines a microtrend as an intense identity group that makes up one percent or more of the population and is growing. Without offering any evidence, Penn claims that such a group can have significant impact on society.

Although I have two problems with the premise of this book, I do think it can be useful to business leaders and to marketers. First, my problems, and then a few ways you might use this book.

I seek evidence for any assertion made by an author, unless (as in The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable) the author is clear that the book is essay, philosophy or opinion. Penn offers little evidence for any of his assertions. That's my first problem with his book.

The second problem is my belief that any meaningful societal changes are going to be likely to surprise us. Beyond the next few months, Penn's predictions are as likely to be false as true.

Given that, I offer one caveat. Do not hitch your wagon to any single one of these microtrends. If you want to maximize your chances of success, find many of these microtrends to exploit, each in a relatively small way. As some microtrends die, drop your initiatives in those areas. As others surface, start new initiatives. Don't bet your company or career on a single "maybe."

Here are a few microtrends* I find interesting for leaders:

"Office Romancers" - 60 percent of employees in one survey reported having been involved in an office romance in 2006, and that number is increasing. Many are getting married to office-mates. Have your HR policies and procedures kept pace? Are your policies friendly toward co-working spouses, or are you driving them to work for the competition.

"Working Retired" - Americans love to work, and are likely to retire later and later in life. That means you might not be facing as big a worker shortage as you think. And it means that your younger workers may be frustrated because we older folks just never seem to leave and open up the plumb positions. Have your policies kept up with this change? How will you retain the older workers you need while attracting the young folks you also need?

"Stay-at-home Workers" - More people want to work on their own from home. Stay at home workers enjoy the flexibility and control they have and not having to commute. And studies apparently show they are more productive than in-office workers. And because they don't commute, they are good for the environment. And you don't need as much office space if some or many of your workers tele-commute. How will you support this trend? How will you help telecommuters build community? How will you evaluate and promote stay-at-homers?

"30-Winkers" - Americans are not getting enough sleep. Among many things, this can mean lower productivity. How can you help your employees with this problem? Have you considered nap rooms? Or buying a few of the sleep pods visible in some of our airports?

Perhaps not new is the thought that the latest generation of workers expects unlimited choice. How will you micro-target each new employee in order to keep them with you for as long as you want?

*Most of Penn's microtrends are relevant for the US, although he includes notes for elsewhere.
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Logically Lazy, Statistically Suspect, November 17, 2007
By 
This review is from: Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow's Big Changes (Hardcover)
Mark Penn, the author of Microtrends, claims to be a numbers guy, pulling apart the statistics to find groups approaching 1% of the population that will continue to grow and affect the general path of society. He says these groups, like extreme commuters, adult video game players, and vegan children should be catered to in terms of advertising and politics.

Unfortunately, early on Penn makes it clear that you can't trust him, using faulty logic and contradicting himself just paragraphs apart.

"Now candidates enthusiastically target Soccer Moms -- although someone may want to let them know that trends move fast, and Soccer Moms, too, have moved on." (p. xiii)

"Soccer Moms had been there for a decade of more..." (p. xiv)

So in the span of two pages, he tells us that now Soccer Moms have moved on, but that they had been there for 10 years before anyone noticed them. It doesn't add up - if there were Soccer Moms around in 1980 and 1990, why not 2000 or 2010? He doesn't support this argument, and doesn't even acknowledge the disparity between his statements.

In addition, he, like many pop-social commentary writers, doesn't seem to understand the Internet or its magnitude. In a chapter on Pro-Semitism, Penn notes, "An entire blog is devoted to the propriety and sensitivity of using a chuppah..." An entire blog? No way. That movement must really be making waves to have an entire blog about it. In the same fashion, there is a strong anti-Microtrends faction that the author needs to consider, as there is an entire, lengthy review about not liking the book. Seem ludicrous? So does his statement.

Unfortunately, things like these plague the book and make me leery of Penn. (He also makes a mistake in the origin of the term southpaw, attributing it to the standard orientation of ballparks and thus the fact that a pitcher's left arm and hand are traditionally facing south - a quick look at an online etymology source notes that the term southpaw appears in 1848 "in the slang of pugilism.")

All these things add up to problems when Penn starts using statements like "According to one researcher," or "One study shows." Penn has already called his experience and conclusions into question, and the only question the reader can ask is, "What about the other researchers and studies?" Unless the reader wants to do the investigative research on their own, they're out of luck. Their only recourse, then, is to just put the book down and draw their own conclusions.
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52 of 69 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Predicting the past- poorly, September 21, 2007
By 
This review is from: Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow's Big Changes (Hardcover)
Remember Faith Popcorn? She's a marketer who made a big splash in the 90s selling herself as a "futurist", making the cover of Time and Newsweek, while selling reports to companies claiming to inform them of coming trends. At best, she'd point out the obvious, and at worst, she made claims that simply didn't pan out- her notion of "cocooning", for example. She's still around, but she doesn't get quoted on the front page of magazines any more.

This silly book is pretty much the same story- claims of a new dynamic- "microtrends" (which are never really distinguished from trends, or fads, or any of a dozen other similar notions)- and the author points lists a number of stunningly obvious popular trends, like the increased popularity of vegetarianism, MP3 players, tattoos, or soccer, as if he's on to something big. What really surprises me is how many readers read these "predicitions" of 20 year old trends and are impressed by Penn's vision! And yet he misses the big picture- the changes in demographics behind some of the changes in consumer tastes, for example. Or the role of trade and open markets in making possible the choices the consumer has today.

This is a useless book that takes uninformed observations of obvious social phenomena, and passes them off as brilliant new insights. And yet, I predict it'll be a huge seller, for Mark Penn has discovered the same secret that sells copnspiracy books: Make your readers think you're giving them special knowledge that no one else has, and there's no end of suckers who will gladly pay you for it, no matter how silly it is.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent analysis of contemporary society, May 28, 2008
This review is from: Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow's Big Changes (Hardcover)
This is a really fun and fascinating book. Penn's theory is "the Devil is in the details." Don't look for overarching trends that end up being vapid and inaccurate. Look instead for the hundreds of small trends under the radar screen that in combination radically changes society.

To enjoy this book read the introduction and the conclusion first. Then, cherry pick the trends you are most interested in. In the introduction, Penn outline his theory of the 1% threshold. By the time 1% of Americans do something this represents a huge cluster of 3 million people that is worth paying attention to. Within the conclusion, Penn makes sense of all those disparate trends. That's where he explains how our society is becoming increasingly fragmented because of the growth of choice in lifestyle, values, and religions. Thus, many trends are contradictory. We live in an increasingly secular world with a rise in religions. Both trends (secularism and religion) thrive simultaneously. Each trend he analyses is a stand alone short paper on a specific subject. At some point, you may run out of trends you are interested in. You don't have to read all 73 trends to enjoy the book.

Within each trend analysis, Penn first observes the data and how that trend emerged and came to be. Next he outlines what are the trend's implications. The people representing that trend often make up a niche associated with the creation of new markets, voting block or cultural influence.

Sometimes, you may think several trends converge. In other words, the emergence of single women must correlate to the surge in Cougars (women with younger boyfriends) and Wordy Women (successful career women in law, journalism, PR, and advertising). These women may be all the same ones: single-successful-liberated. Another potential convergence is the Long Attention Spanners, DIY Doctors, Swing Voter, and Sun Haters. Here you have a mature educated crowd that likes to think for themselves especially when pertaining to their health and politics.

Many of his trends refer to entire books. His `Educated Terrorists' trend relies on Alan Krueger's What Makes a Terrorist: Economics and the Roots of Terrorism (Lionel Robbins Lectures). Similarly, his `Shy Millionaire' liens on The Millionaire Next Door.

On the other hand, other trends are truly original. I had never heard of the Do-It-Yourself Doctors. These people research their symptoms, render their own diagnostics and administer their own cure. They have changed the patient-doctor relationship to one of retailer-customer. The doctor is just there to facilitate procurement of prescription drugs, tests, and surgical intervention when necessary. Just as the overall population, they distrust the medical establishment. Trust in the latter has decreased from 77% in 1966 to only 33% currently.

His depiction of the `Impressionable Elites' is also counterintuitive. It is the higher income and better educated that care more about personality and less about issues in Presidential Elections. This is just the reverse of what we believe. The archetype is star journalists and newscasters who are certainly wealthy and educated. But, they focus on sound bites, looks, hair cuts, and other trivia. Apparently, the rest of us are more concerned about substantive issues such as foreign policy, health care, education, and economic competitiveness. Penn deplores the advent of the 527 advocacy organizations and Elite Donors who give readily $10,000 a pop to affiliated political groups. Given these are funded by the Impressionable Elites; they foster more trivia than substance on our political debates.

His chapter on the power of the swing voter is excellent. Independents have increased from 25% to 33% of the voters over the past 50 years. He indicated how Karl Rove strategy of rallying the conservative base failed in the 2006 mid-term election. However, Karl Rove did not have much of a role in this election. But, he sure did in both 2000 and 2004. Penn makes the argument that one independent voter amounts to two polarized voters because they represent a swing in the numbers. He is right. But, the counter argument is that it is a lot more difficult to convince an independent voter to change his mind than to tell your base to just show up and vote. Nevertheless, this is an excellent section that parallels very much the equally fascinating work in Culture War? The Myth of a Polarized America (Great Questions in Politics Series) (2nd Edition) (Great Questions in Politics)

His chapter on active, employed elders suggests the fiscal stress on Social Security will be less than conveyed by the pundits. His chapter on the aging of Europe is also interesting. The median age of Europeans is expected to increase from 37.7 years to 52.7 years by 2050. While for Americans it will remain stable around 36 years. This has obviously dire fiscal implication for Europe. But, he thinks the next generation of Europeans will solve the related problems as they will be a generation of confident, problem-solving, achieving only children. This sounds a bit facile, but interesting nonetheless.

As he mentions in his conclusion, trends often have counter trends. There are more Muslim terrorists. But, there are also more Moderate Muslims in America. That's a fascinating trend he uncovers. He also outlines the drastic difference between the American vs European Muslims. The American ones are moderate, well-integrated, educated, successful, and prosperous. The European ones are disenfranchised, radicalized, and unemployed. This is a fascinating subject that has been covered by many equally interesting books including: While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within and American Islam: The Struggle for the Soul of a Religion.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars How to Lie With Statistics: The Sequel, January 4, 2008
This review is from: Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow's Big Changes (Hardcover)
This book is undermined by misleading statistics. For example, Penn claims this trend of OTC drug sales by showing a 10-fold growth over the past 40 years. That works out to be only a 5% compounded annual growth rate - hardly a trend. Between population growth and inflation, I would say that the reverse is actually true. A better title for this book would be "How to Lie with Statistics: the Sequel"

30 year olds playing video games? Older women dating younger men? People consulting the internet before seeing a doctor? Wow!! What revelations!

No wonder this author (Hillary Clinton's chief strategist) missed the greatest microtrend in political history: Barack Obama.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sometimes interesting, mostly ephemeral and poorly written, January 19, 2008
By 
This review is from: Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow's Big Changes (Hardcover)
If you don't know who Mark Penn is, you will probably be hearing more of him as the presidential campaign continues. He is Senator Clinton's chief strategist and pollster. He is also the guy who coined the phrase, "soccer moms" and identified them as a group for president Clinton in his 1996 re-election campaign. For the uninitiated, a microtrend is the opposite of a "megatrend." According to Penn, it is a trend that can be seen in one percent or more of the population. In other words, it is "under the radar." Many of these trends are quite interesting. But after reading about some, one is tempted to say, "so what?" Do we really care that there are more younger knitters now or that that are more lefties? The book is episodic in structure and written in a style that seems more suited to a magazine. It is filled with incorrect usage, poor grammar and sentences without verbs. He often writes "over" when he means more than and "less: when he means fewer. Additionally, he seems to think that Margaret Thatcher was the first woman prime minister of a major country. Need I say more? I realize that most readers won't care or notice, but I do and perhaps you will, too. I can understand that a political figure and pollster may not be a polished author, but where was the editor or copy editor? As one of the largest--if not the largest--publishers in France, you would think that Hachette could afford to have the book professionally edited.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Data Spun for Clinton's Benefit, October 6, 2007
This review is from: Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow's Big Changes (Hardcover)
I was hoping for an unbiased exploration of demographic trends and their impact on our future. Instead, I found the book to be a political tract for Hillary Clinton. Understand, I'm not saying that it's pro-liberal. I'm saying it's pro-Clinton. For example, the author unnecessariy points out that Barack Obama isn't really black because he was raised by a white single mom.

Another amusing element was the author's use of Janet Reno as an example of the classic passive woman in leadership, because the country went to community-based policing on her watch. Of course, Condi Rice is offered as the quintessential "aggressive" woman. There was no mention of Reno's involvement in the assault on Waco.

The author presents progressive views as obvious truths, while at the same time expressing outright befuddlement at traditional or religious views held by the majority.

The author uses a chapter on vegetarianism to make an outright pitch for that lifestyle choice. There is a recognizable change in tone from the remainder of the book at this point, and it feels like the reader is being preached at regarding the "benefits" of vegetarianism and the harms of eating meat.

If you are politically right of center, this book is not your friend. That said, the data (rather than the conclusions drawn from the data) can be quite fascinating. The large number of protestant hispanics is one example that comes to mind.

Lastly, because I bought the book in the hopes that it might help me shape my business's marketing message, I should point out that there is little practical insight in this book, unless of course you are Hillary Clinton and/or running for president.
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Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow's Big Changes
Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow's Big Changes by E. Kinney Zalesne (Hardcover - September 5, 2007)
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