In fact, by the time a trend hits 1 percent, it is ready to spawn a hit movie, best-selling book, or new political movement. The power of individual choice is increasingly influencing politics, religion, entertainment, and even war. In today's mass societies, it takes only 1 percent of people making a dedicated choice -- contrary to the mainstream's choice -- to create a movement that can change the world.
Just look at what has happened in the U.S. to illegal immigrants. A few years ago, they were the forgotten Americans, hiding from daylight and the authorities. Today they are holding political rallies, and given where they and their legal, voting relatives live, they may turn out to be the new Soccer Moms. Militant immigrants fed up with a broken immigration system just may be the most important voters in the next presidential election, distributed in the key Southwest states that are becoming the new battleground areas.
It's the same in business, too, since the Internet has made it so easy to link people together. In the past, it was almost impossible to market to small groups who were spread around the country. Now it's a virtual piece of cake to find 1 million people who want to try your grapefruit diet, or who can't get their kids to sleep at night.
The math can be not just strategic, but catastrophic. If Islamic terrorists were to convince even just one-tenth of 1 percent of America's population that they were right, they would have 300,000 soldiers of terror, more than enough to destabilize our society. If they could convert just 1 percent of the world's 1 billion Muslims to take up violence, that would be 10 million terrorists, a group that could dwarf even the largest armies and police forces on earth. This is the power of small groups that come together today.
The power of choice is especially evident as more and more Americans make decisions about their own lives. For example, the population growth in America has slowed to .9 percent, but the number of households has exploded. Between people getting divorced, staying single longer, living longer, and never marrying at all, we are experiencing an explosion in the number of people who are heads of households – almost 115 million in 2006 compared to about 80 million in 1980. The percentage of households consisting of one person living alone increased from 17 percent in 1970 to 26 percent in 2005. The proportion of married-with-kids households has fallen to less than 25 percent.
All these people out there living a more single, independent life are slivering America into hundreds of small niches. Single people, and people without kids at home, have more time to follow their interests, pick up hobbies, get on the Internet, have a political debate, or go out to movies. By all rights, no one should even go to the movies anymore – you can get movies practically as fast by downloading them or using pay-per-view – but for people with a free Saturday night, movies are such a solid preference that theaters are raising their prices, not lowering them. More people have more disposable resources (including money, time, and energy) than ever before. They are deploying them in pursuit of personal satisfaction like never before. And as a result, we're getting a clearer picture of who people are and what they want. And in business, politics, and social-problem-solving, having that information can make all the difference.
This book is all about the niching of America. How there is no One America anymore, or Two, or Three, or Eight. In fact, there are hundreds of Americas, hundreds of new niches made up of people drawn together by common interests.
©2007, Mark Penn