- Hardcover: 425 pages
- Publisher: Twelve; First Edition edition (September 5, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0446580961
- ISBN-13: 978-0446580960
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (100 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,303,016 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow's Big Changes First Edition Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
From "Soccer Moms," the legendary swing voters of the mid-1990s, to "Late-Breaking Gays" such as former Gov. Games McGreevey (out at age 47), Burson-Marsteller CEO (and campaign adviser to Sen. Hillary Clinton) Penn delves into the ever-splintering societal subsets with which Americans are increasingly identifying, and what they mean. For instance, because of "Extreme Commuters," people who travel more than 90 minutes each way to work, carmakers must come up with ever more luxury seat features, and "fast food restaurants are coming out with whole meals that fit in cup holders." In a chapter titled "Archery Moms?", Penn reports on the "Niching of Sports": much to the consternation of Major League Baseball, "we don't like sports less, we just like little sports more." The net result of all this "niching" is "greater individual satisfaction"; as Penn notes, "not one of the fastest-growing sports in America... depends substantially on teamwork." Penn draws similar lessons in areas of business, culture, technology, diet, politics and education (among other areas), reporting on 70 groups ("Impressionable Elites," "Caffeine Crazies," "Neglected Dads," "Unisexuals," "America's Home-Schooled") while remaining energetic and entertaining throughout. Culture buffs, retailers and especially businesspeople for whom "small is the new big" will value this exercise in nano-sociology.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"A striking window into 'Hillary's Brain'." -- Politico
"Culture buffs, retailers and especially businesspeople for whom "small is the new big" will value this exercise in nano-sociology." -- Publishers Weekly
"Delightful and fast-paced....A breezy, entertaining consideration of niche groups within America." -- Business Week
"If small is still the new big, then the biggest book of the moment is Microtrends...Penn sifts the sociological sands to come up with a fine-grained view of where we're headed." -- Information Week
"Read it for its dozens of social insights that could well be turned to profit." -- The Economist
"Riveting....imaginative....Penn's thesis is that change in today's world is driven by small trends that are started below the radar ... . " -- Financial Times
"Sound and cleverly written....will undoubtedly appeal to marketing analysts and armchair sociologists, as well as fans of Megatrends and Malcolm Gladwell." -- Kirkus Reviews
"Stuffed with smart, offbeat tidbits....Penn and his co-author, E. Kinney Zalesne, deserve credit for leavening their facts and figures with humor and pop-culture asides." -- Bloomberg
"The strength of the book lies in Penn's analysis of the implications and opportunities of each microtrend." -- USA Today
"Unrelentingly fascinating....Microtrends is a diligently researched tome chock-full of counterintuitive facts and findings." -- The New York Times
Top Customer Reviews
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).
-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.
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.
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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