Join getAbstract to access the summary!


Join getAbstract to access the summary!


The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow's Big Changes


15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Society is shaped not by a single large trend, but by many “microtrends.” To be ready for change, watch out for them.

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Applicable


This book is useful, entertaining and, at times, a little strange. These qualities all arise from its core premise. Mark. J. Penn and E. Kinney Zalesne set out to reveal dozens of “microtrends” they say are reshaping U.S. and global society. They group these contained trends by topical clusters (work, health, etc.), and argue that Americans’ freedom of choice is allowing social fragmentation into more distinct niches. The result is snapshot after snapshot of 70 or more niche groups. The book provides just a few pages on each one. If you’re familiar with a trend or, conversely, find it too quirky (“Young Knitters”), these few pages may seem long. If you haven’t encountered some of these trends, the entries will seem tantalizingly short. No matter what your niche, Penn and Zalesne will surprise you at some point, and their explanations of the forces shaping society are detailed and often quite original. As a result, getAbstract recommends their book to all marketers, especially those seeking niche audiences, and to everyone whose business requires planning for social change.


An Explosion of Choices – and Microtrends

The combination of freedom, material comfort, and access to technology and information gives people a broad range of choices, allowing them to govern their lives and lifestyles to an unprecedented degree. As a result, identifying a few sweeping trends and expecting them to explain society is no longer possible, though that is how some futurist writers once operated. Pinning down today’s myriad emerging “microtrends” requires engaging in “microtargeting,” the only way to unravel how one microtrend might spawn another opposing trend. Given the new ways members of small groups can connect via the Internet and multiply their impact by using other technologies, such as television, any group that reaches even 1% of the population can now become markedly influential.

This proliferation of trends has other major implications. For one, creating community or unity is becoming much harder. However, growing microtrends also threaten authoritarian regimes and generate personal freedom. Society is switching from a mass-produced “Ford economy” to a “Starbucks economy,” where you make continual personal choices to shape the life you want. ...

About the Authors

Mark J. Penn, CEO of Burson-Marsteller, was the primary adviser on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. E. Kinney Zalesne was a White House Fellow and counsel to Janet Reno, the U.S. attorney general in the Clinton administration.

Comment on this summary

More on this topic

Learners who read this summary also read

Related Channels