'Microtrends' Redux

Expanded Edition Features Seven More Niche Consumers to Watch

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Eleven years after Mark J. Penn coined the term "Soccer Moms," identifying a key constituency in President Clinton's 1996 reelection campaign, the political strategist and CEO of PR shop Burson-Marsteller gave us "Microtrends," a deftly researched and brightly narrated list of 75 niche consumer types influencing commerce and politics around the world.

The book was a runaway hit, turning marketers on to the needs of "Pet Parents" and "Caffeine Crazies" alike. (Read Ad Age's review of the original edition here.) A year later in 2008, after Penn had exited his post as senior strategist for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, he scored a bi-weekly Microtrends column in the Wall Street Journal.

In an expanded edition of the book out this summer, Penn offers up seven new microtrends for commercial targeting, albeit these are rehashed versions of his earlier columns. Predictably, most of them relate to the recession. We're introduced to "Quasi-Government Workers," whose private-sector jobs now fall under the jurisdiction of federal officials; and "New Mattress Stuffers," those who've lost faith in the system and are stashing cash away in preparation for the next crisis. "Committed Cohabiters," "New Info Shoppers" and "Flip-Floppers" also describe an informed, cost-conscious consumer.

Beyond the financially motivated, Penn makes a few sociological observations: "Interspatial Couples" (tall girls hooking up with short guys) and "Glampers" (that's glamorous campers to you baby boomers) are the most random. Then again, Penn's definition of a microtrend calls for at least 1% of the nation's participation (3 million people), so random may be too modest a description.

For fans of Penn's column, the lack of new material leaves little reason to check out this revised edition. But newcomers will appreciate the extra dose of concise analysis Penn offers in chapters that never top five pages.

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