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book review

book review

Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow's Big Changes
By Mark J. Penn with E. Kinney Zalesne
Twelve Publishing 2007, 448 pp., $25.99

Mark Penn is most famous for his identification of “soccer moms” as a key electoral demographic when he worked for Bill Clinton's re-election campaign in 1996. Now chief pollster for Sen. Hillary Clinton, he definitely is a political animal, but don't let that turn you off from this fascinating piece of “nanosociology.”

In Microtrends, Penn identifies 70 different subgroups (“Unisexuals,” “Sun Haters,” etc.). While they together may not constitute a huge percentage of the overall population, Penn argues they are the canaries in America's evolving coal mine, presaging trends that will eventually filter into the larger body politic.

What's this got to do with food? Directly, very little. However, the bigger picture of subdemographic niches might give savvy directors some ideas about where to find incremental new sales through products and services targeted at some of these underserved groups.

For example, what implications do Working Retireds and Extreme Commuters have for B&I foodservice? How do 30 Winkers (who sleep only minimal hours) alter meal service hours?

Some of Penn's discussions can get pretty arcane but as a fascinating drill-down into some of the more exotic corners of modern America, this is a book well-worth your time.

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