Posted by: nickgerlich | September 17, 2007

By The Numb3rs

Back when Indians roamed North America, our history books tell us (and who knows if they are right?) that warriors would put their ear to the ground to see if they could detect unwanted visitors coming from the distance. Subtle rumblings could supposedly be heard, a kind of “earth radar” advance warning system.

If that’s the case, then author/pollster Mark Penn must have dirt on the side of his head, because he has picked up on 75 emerging trends that he says will influence our future.

MicroTrendsMicroTrends: the small forces behind tomorrow’s big changes is Penn’s recent release. Penn is chief adviser to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and was also influential in Bill Clinton’s 1996 campaign, having successfully identified the Soccer Mom demographic as a powerful, yet small, voting bloc.

Penn swears by the numbers, yet says that they need not necessarily be very large to wield clout. For example, he says that when any slice of the population reaches but 1% of the total population (which would be about 3 million), it can be a swing vote.

And given what happened in the last two presidential elections, a gift of 3 millions vote could have swung the election the other direction.

There’s a lot of power in what Penn preaches. Thanks to the internet and the flattening of the world (a la Friedman), groups of geographically scattered people can now easily be brought together by the click of a mouse. Politicians and marketers alike need to awaken to the trends he has detected, each of which offer a world of possibilities.

To wit:

  • Single women are a huge market for houses and cars. While there are more boys born each year than girls, it is during the teenage “testosterone storm” that some boys deselect themselves from the gene pool, leaving a 51:49 ratio of women to men. Add in the fact that gay American men outnumber gay American women 2:1, we are left with 109 million straight women and only 98 straight men. Thus, there is a sizeable group of women who will not marry, yet they have disposable income. Changing societal values of women in the workplace have made the working men-to-women ratio nearly equal.
  • The number of “working retired” is growing, and will continue to do as the Baby Boomers reach their 60s and 70s. The implications are huge. Boomers are more likely to keep working well past 65, either because they feel they cannot afford to retire, or because they simply do not want to get old. The result will be less time and money spent golfing, as well as a quite natural cure for the social security problem. Of course, the downside is that younger generations will have a harder time moving up into management positions held by these aging “I’m-not-letting-go” workers.
  • There are more “new old” Dads than ever before (I was almost 40 when we adopted our first daughter, and this doesn’t even register on Penn’s radar). Since men do not face the biological clock that women in their 30s and 40s hear with deafening volume, it is possible for them to sire progeny as long as…well, you get the picture. Divorce and remarriage are a leading cause of this phenomenon, as new families are launched without regard to age.
  • There are now 1.5 million vegetarian children in the US now, up from roughly zero only 50 years ago. There are also another 3 million who shun beef (but eat chicken or fish), as well as another 3 million who eat beef but no chicken. Some are vegetarian because of their parents, but a surprising number has chosen this path on their own. For whatever reason, vegetarianism is rising in popularity in the US, and even more surprising, the youthful desire for this lifestyle is most prevalent in the midwest, the meat-and-potatoes sector of the country.
  • There are about 15 million Americans who are internet dropouts, having tried it and then let go of it. While those of us in the online world cannot fathom ever becoming a backslidden web user, apparently there are some folks who just did not enjoy the experience. These people tend to be more pessimistic and cynical in their worldview. It’s not going to be easy to market to these people, because as Penn points out, they won’t be on the internet.
  • It’s cool to get inked. Some 30 million Americans have tattoos, up 50% in just three years! And the best-represented group of income earners with tattoos? That would be those earning over $75,000 a year. Tattoos are no longer the domain of sailors and Hell’s Angels members.
  • The number of home-schooled children in the US is literally exploding (we home-school our two kids). From 1999 to 2003 the number shot up from 850,000 to 1.1 million. While this is only 2.2% of the 50 million US children, it is still a huge market (now estimated at about $850 million each year).

As marketers, the rumblings that Penn is hearing spell opportunity. It is little wonder that the Clintons love this man. And while I am no big fan of the Clintons, I know we must heed these early warnings. There’s money to be made in these numbers.

Dr “I’m Counting On It” Gerlich

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