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Latitudes & Attitudes: An Atlas of American Tastes, Trends, Politics, and Passions : From Abilene, Texas to Zanesville, Ohio Paperback – October 1, 1994
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Where bagels are king, Twinkies don't flourish. And Alaskans buy fewer home pregnancy tests, but they're better-than-average book purchasers. What's it mean? With this remarkable atlas of marketing surveys, you can make a case for almost anything. If you can eat it, read it, visit it, watch it, play with it or listen to it, chances are it has been a survey subject, and this reference work has some fun with it. The first section is an array of clever and sometimes outlandish comparisons. The second half offers what's-hot, what's-not profiles of the nation's 209 consumer markets.
From Library Journal
The author of The Clustering of America (LJ 3/15/89) has based his new book upon consumer maps, market profiles, and demographic statistics produced in 1993 by Claritas, Inc. from survey data collected by four nationally known market research organizations and the Bureau of the Census. In the first of three parts, each page offers a nationwide consumer map with accompanying remarks on how Americans in various geographical areas feel about a particular food, drink, sport/leisure activity, household product, car, television show, music type, periodical, or political issue. The second part presents capsule profiles, with maps, of 209 local markets based upon Arbitron's Areas of Dominant Influence (from Abilene-Sweetwater, Texas, to Zanesville, Ohio), plus Alaska and Hawaii, showing "what's hot" and "what's not" in those areas. In the last section, a chart rates the popularity of each covered topic within all 211 markets. Reliable, current, and well written, this vivid portrait of America painted in terms of consumer preferences and buying behavior should appeal to a wide audience. It is more suitable for circulating collections than for reference because it lacks an index. Highly recommended.
Leonard Grundt, Nassau Community Coll. Lib., Garden City, N.Y.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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The book is filled with amazing bits of information, some predictable, and others quite surprising. For example, we learn that pro-lifers also tend to be staunch supports of the death penalty. Filmgoers tend to be more highbrow than video renters, since filmgoers also attend plays, concerts, and art openings at above average rates, while video renters have less money, more kids, and typically watch more than seven hours of TV every weekday. We can see a huge cluster of National Enquirer readers in the Southeast, while the Simpsons are popular on the West Coast. Weiss doesn't provide us with maps of educational attainment or income levels. But in the text, he manages to slip in some eyebrow-raising details, such as "Southerners...have low rates of mobility and college attendance," the appeal of both Donahue and Oprah in the South is "understandable, given the region's dubious distinction as having the lowest high school completion rate in the nation." We can see how the relative burden of housing costs varies across the nation, with houses in Davenport, Iowa going for only 1.6 times local salaries, while houses in Santa Barbara cost 6.4 times local salaries.
Presenting this information in book form brings with it certain technical limitations. In the interests of clarity, Weiss never juxtaposes more than 2 sets of survey results at once. However, in flipping from page to page, repeated patterns begin to emerge, and the reader will probably wish the book could have been printed with loose transparent maps that could be over-layed according to interest. Even better would be a CD-ROM that would allow readers to play with the data themselves, but that might be asking too much since the information came from proprietary sources. There are some topics that beg for broader comparisons, such as considering both European and American markets. For example, in considering cigarette smokers, Weiss notes that "today's smokers tend to be downscale and poorly educated blue-collar residents of farms and inner cities." Such correlations are not however, universal, as an examination of European smokers would show that smoking is quite popular there amongst highly educated academics. What marketing forces could explain such a difference in smoking practices?
The regional descriptions of the ADIs at the end of the book could potentially be used by people interested in re-locating to identify regions where their own values and preferences are popular. However, I'm not convinced that this information is accurate for every ADI. For example, most of Vermont is grouped into one ADI together with a large chunk of upstate New York. Those of us who live in the region have a gut feeling that Vermonters and New Yorkers are two distinct populations. Our houses look different, we work for different kinds of employers, and we eat different foods. Much of the text summarizing marketing data for this ADI sounded quite surprising to me- -it made the region sound more like New York than Vermont. Perhaps it was easier to accurately characterize some of the smaller, more cohesive, or more homogenous regions, but in general, I would take the information in this section with a grain of salt.
This book was written by a marketing specialist and it summarizes information that is well-known (or should be well-known) to marketers, but it's written for general audiences. Through reading this book, you will not only get to know your fellow Americans better, but you will also get an inkling of the kinds of information that marketers use when planning campaigns to sell stuff to you.
In addition, the book doesn't give any actual numbers; it usually indicates whether a given region has above or below average consumption of a particular product, but doesn't say what the average consumption of that product is.
I understand why the given regions were used (they're the ones marketing analysts use), but for information about the large metropolitan centers of the west this book is pretty useless. Every little town in the southeast has it's own profile, while the LA region includes most of southern California.
Finally, some of the profiles in the back, especially the lists of "what's hot" and "what's not" don't appear to reflect the information given in the maps.
In short, this book is ultimately frustrating if you want to analyze the given information, even casually