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June 13, 2007

Staff Picks: Andrea Learned Recommends

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 2:00 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

Stand Back, the Karma Queens, Geek Gods and Innerpreneurs are A'Comin' By Andrea Learned If you enjoy tapping your inner sociologist and anthropologist, the new book by Ron Rentel, Karma Queens, Geek Gods and Innerpreneurs, will be right up your alley. Within its pages, you will likely find bits and pieces of yourself, making it all the more fun (or scary) to read. Perhaps even more intriguing still, you'll also see many of your friends and colleagues in the nine "C-Types" Rentel explores. Take a look at the chapters on Middlemen and Denim Dads, for example, and I can just hear you now: "oh yes, that SO describes my friend Ben." But first, what are these C-Types of which Rentel writes? They are nine cohorts that he has found go beyond trends. The "idiosyncratic characteristics that make consumers distinct" in these ways, from Karma Queens to Innerpreneurs etc., emerged from the intersection of the more traditional demographic and psychographic definitions. Thankfully, Rentel's writing style is more accessible than some of the other more data-driven consumer research books on the business shelf. He uses recognizable, everyday references (like what stores people shop in or what brands they associate themselves with) to exemplify each group's habits and influences. You need not be an experienced data analyst in order to create an image of a particular C-Type in your head, and then use it to better understand your own market. Compiling and Organizing Consumer Insights For the marketer, of course, the more you learn about consumers the better, and through Karma Queens, Rentel shares a few clues into who will likely be setting the trends in the next decade or so. He shapes a good primary layer of insights on each cohort from which you can then further define your own particular market segment of interest. If you haven't noticed it already in your work (and in life in general), there is a lot more to consumers than generation, gender and geographic location. A few examples:
  • How would today's single female homebuyer be described? Read about the Karma Queens, Ms. Independents and E-litists (the environmentally oriented cohort), and you'll get a good start toward understanding their buying minds and influences.
  • Or, what of the technology market? If you are trying to sell gizmos and gadgets, you'd likely want to consider the Geek Gods C-type as well as some combination of the Middlemen, Parentocrats and Ms. Independents.
Like any such consumer perspective, Rentel by no means intends for Karma Queens, Geek Gods and Innerpreneurs to be the absolute and final word. Rather, the book helps sort and shape your own consumer research, grouping a few more aspects or interconnections of each cohort than you may have noticed on your own. For instance: If your market is parents, and they tend to be a little more environmentally oriented as well as more involved than traditional parents might be in their children's daily lives, you will find clues within this book as to what those people may think and do, read and listen to, or click on and buy. Given that information, you will then be able to more finely tune the consumer research you do from there. As I read Karma Queens, I was reminded how helpful a word or label could be for sorting out the details of broader research. As in: "I know our customer is a Karma Queen for the most part, but as we learn more, she is really a Karma/Geek/'E' Queen." Clumping characteristics together under a single term can certainly make it easier for the marketer to absorb or work with the larger "feel" of the consumer. What we do with that information can be limitless -- and very unique to our specific markets. Guiding and Surprising Exploration Karma Queens keeps to the fairly standard business book style: for each chapter, the content is broken into readable chunks, and include media or consumer quotes, sidebars and specific marketer's checklists at the end. Finally, you get the "Dig A Little Deeper" resource section to keep you thinking and exploring. Near the end of the book, Rentel uncovers yet one more deep layer of consumer understanding in what he calls "psyches." Sex and food are both "universal aspects," things that all humans deal with -- and those two psyches have numerous variations. From "sexy seniors" to "benefriends," and "locavores" to "gastro voyeurs," you can peg your Karma Queens and Innerpreneurs to a whole new fascinating level. Even if you aren't socio/anthro-oriented, there are a lot of informative nuggets that filter up as you read each chapter. For instance, even though the Middlemen chapter's marketing checklist includes the "Sex sells; 'relationships' don't." line, Rentel cites an obsession that seems to surpass sex for this cohort: their love of fantasy sports leagues. (Will wonders ever cease? ) Or, how many of you know an "easter egg" when you see one? If you recognize the term (beyond the obvious), you are a Geek God, loving the challenge of finding undocumented, hidden and non-obvious, entertaining features in your software, DVDs and interactive games. And, on the less-surprising, but still enlightening note: the women of the Ms Independents C-type are among the reasons that the home cleaning industry is currently growing 15 to 20% a year. To this I can relate. Stimulating and Informing Cultural Reflection Karma Queens, Geek Gods and Innerpreneurs holds up a mirror to the lives of its readers and all the other people those readers, be they marketers or not, are trying to understand. And, I suspect that mirror is more fascinating than not for most of us. In an easy-to-read manner, and citing extra resources for further exploration of each C-Type, Rentel opens our eyes a little wider and helps us walk in our consumers shoes a bit more. The one opportunity this book may have missed was the "now what." I found myself expecting a bit more "closure" in the final chapter than was delivered. Two ideas for what readers might have appreciated: A hint at how these cohorts may evolve in the future (even just a few insider "leanings" Rentel and his team might predict) or a bigger picture of the many ways C-Type profiles will be guiding us in this new, more niche-focused marketing landscape. But, hey, perhaps that's an idea for the continuing story - a future Karma Queens companion web site (as of now, www.kqueensggodsinnerpreneurs.com is available...) Still, the buying minds we all seek to reach are complicated and ever-evolving, for certain. Karma Queens, Geek Gods and Innerpreneurs will definitely help you see more clearly from whence those consumers came and set you off on your own path. Your job is to identify and then translate that into the common ground your brand shares with its Denim Dad, Culture Crosser or Parentocrat-ic buyers. Make the exploration fun by first finding yourself. Signed, your local Karma Queen.

About Dylan Schleicher


Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.