Here’s a chink the armor of Burson-Marstellar CEO Mark Penn’s "Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow’s Big Changes."  Penn contends–and I believe him–that you only need 1% of an audience to get behind a product for it to be a winner.  I think that this is a particularly good way to approach things if you’ve identified a niche.  It certainly makes sense when it comes to books, movies, music, etc.

But a presidential race is, by definition, an exercise in mass marketing: He or she who ends up with the most votes wins.  It’s not about aggregating a bunch of niches into one big mass.  And it’s certainly not the thing to do once you realize (if you ever do) that you’re in the midst of a cultural shift.  David Kiley of Business Week sums up Penn’s strategic failure (thusfar) as strategist of the Clinton campaign:

It appears that while Penn was pushing this year’s election as a collection of mind-numbing microtrends—commuter couples, extreme commuters, pro-Semites, sun haters, Old New Dads, Christian Zionists—he missed the idea that national elections tend to turn on macro effects. One thing that will never go out of style—voters want to be inspired. To do that, you have to be tapped into the common denominator of a majority of voters. That’s where Penn’s strategy went off the rails. He never saw it, while his nose was buried in his microtrend focus [g]roups and surveys.

Read the full Business Week post here.

Posted by Rob Fields