Believe it or not, Internet marrieds, teenage knitters and tattooed professionals have at least one thing in common. They exist in large enough numbers to be considered "microtrends," or what analyst Mark J. Penn calls "small, under-the-radar forces" that have the power to profoundly shape our society. Penn maintains that it only takes one percent of the U.S. population—or about three million people—to create a movement that can change the world.
In Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow's Big Changes, Penn identifies seventy-five burgeoning subgroups that fit into general categories such as politics, race and religion, family life, and technology. This book's author is considered one of the most perceptive pollsters in American politics, and he is known for identifying "Soccer Moms" as a significant constituency in President Bill Clinton's 1996 reelection campaign.
Microtrends, as Penn says, is "all about the niching of America." Hundreds of Americans are drawn together by common interests, and these groups—even at relatively small numbers—can generate enough interest in a book to put it on the bestseller list or in a movie to turn it into a box office hit.
Besides simply identifying numerous microtrends, Penn also looks at how the skill of microtargeting can be a highly important marketing tool. If companies, marketers, and policymakers understood the power of only a small group, they might be able to meet the needs of a niche population more effectively.
Penn offers the example of Single Mothers by Choice to show how single women who choose to adopt or bear children without a partner can have an impact on business and finance. Home maintenance, home repair, and home security—traditionally male-oriented affairs—are now within a woman's realm, and related companies therefore have a large market of single women. Ditto for investment companies that have customarily courted males or couples as their primary clients.
Because of its focus on the political and commercial impacts that these microtrends will likely spawn, this book will be of interest to readers concerned with business and politics, but it will also educate the general reader about a host of small but growing cultural trends. As Penn explains, some of these trends are hard to spot although they may be rapidly growing. The forces that are changing our world may be "hidden, operating just under the surface," and Penn does a good job pointing them out.
But Penn's book does not predict that all seventy-five microtrends hold equal weight or that each of them will have the same type of impact on our future. Instead, Microtrends reads more like a radar, and Penn has done his part—and more—in plotting these small but potentially powerful movements on the map.