The Influentials: One American in Ten Tells the Other Nine How to Vote, Where to Eat, and What to Buy Review

The Influentials: One American in Ten Tells the Other Nine How to Vote, Where to Eat, and What to Buy
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For one simple, powerful reason THE INFLUENTIALS stands head and shoulders above the field in the marketing trends book sweepstakes. Its insights are based on data, long-term empirical data, judiciously considered. Facts. Numbers. A real departure from most books about the American consumer which base their hypotheses, and thus their recommendations, on anecdotes, renovated B-school doctrine, all plumped up with a few chunks of data culled willy nilly from any variety of sources. (Has anybody else noticed that the same warmed-over statistics show up again and again in the most marketing books? Shall we blame the Internet and Lexis/Nexis searches for this sudden homogeneity?). THE INFLUENTIALS, on the other hand, shares primary research data on the American consumer going back 30 years or more. Berry's and Keller's insights and recommendations are shaped by the evolving opinions of Americans. The horse is before the cart where the horse belongs.
Interspersed with the data and trend analysis, Berry and Keller introduce in mini-bios to actual Influentials. These particularly well-written sections serve to embody the data, (the data sections can get a little overwhelming at times) and show us how an Influential lives, thinks and leads. Most are local community leaders, or have real involvement in their communities, and and as such are the nodes of wide personal networks. They are the people who get things done, the people to whom others look to for advice or counsel. By the way, over the years, about 10% of Americans have ?qualified? by their behavior to be counted as Influentials. The definition of an Influential is based on a question about people's political and other civic behavior that Roper has been asking since the 1920s, and has been updating ever since to reflect changing times.
Now it could be argued that the Roper definition of what constitutes an influential American is antiquated, no longer applicable in the post-modern era. For instance it could be said that the influence of super-empowered individuals (to use Thomas Friedman's term) has been magnified in our hypermediated age to such an extent that "celebrities" now have exponentially more sway over how we choose to think, to live, to dream than any local influential. A good point, but Keller and Berry do not reject the influence of the celebrity and celebrity brand culture. They answer that that Roper Influentials are not only leaders in the sense that others look to them for political or community leadership, but that non-Influentials also look to them for guidance on most consumer goods and entertainment because Influentials also tend to be early adopters of new goods, services and culture. In other words, Influentials serve as an early warning system for those trends that other Americans will get to a six months to a year or so later.
What's really impressive about THE INFLUENTIALS is that Berry and Keller share so much data. That runs counter to another kind of marketing book that readers in this field will recognize -- the marketing books as "teaser." In this type of marketing trends book, the reader is told that the insights offered in the books are based on years of trend data, presumably similar to that found in THE INFLUENTIALS. This type of marketing trends book then indicates that the real information is only available to the clients of the writers. They go on to cite case studies where organizations have used the data to effect stellar marketing programs and boost profit. In other words, now you?ve got to buy their consulting services to get the real information and the real help you need. In THE INFLUENTIALS, it's all there - sometimes actually too much is there - but that's certainly better than books that are empty shells, "door openers" for standard consulting services.
All in all a solid, well-conceived, time-tested and amply proven marketing paradigm. A rare treat.

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