Oprah Time: Microtrends:The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow’s Big Changes by Mark Penn and E. Kinney Zalesne

Microtrends is one of them must-read books if you want to recognise where your peers get some of their slideware and buzzwords from. Author Mark Penn has a rich pedigree with this, having been the political wonk who was partly responsible for popularising the ‘soccer mom‘ phrase during the late 1990s; this was to US politics what ‘white van man‘ was in the UK in terms of zeitgeist.

So with a bit of reluctance I gave it a read. I was not looking forward to reading what I assumed would be a book that tries to do for market research what Stephen Levitt’s Freakonomics did for the dismal science and obsesses about US demographics, I mean part of my job is explaining to my colleagues eight time zones away in Portland and Seattle how different and diverse Europe is, rather than a homogenous mass like the congealed contents of a used fondue set.

Penn to his credit make at least some of his observed groups relevant to an international audience by discussing implications for international audiences.

The value of Penn’s book however is not in the segments it digs up, but in the way that it allows the reader (even for a short while) to see the world through different peoples eyes.  Having learned the lesson the hard way at Yahoo!, I try to see beyond my own early adopter web 2.0 otaku nerd world view and think about the man in the street. Penn’s book is a useful device to do this.

Would I use it as a way to find niches to target in client campaigns? Probably not, as soon as the niches were committed to paper they were probably running out of date as the zeitgeist is a fickle and illusive beast.  If you want to read a copy, grab it whilst its hot or not at all.