Demographic analysis matters more than ever!

Applew ownership PC

An article from Ad Age, published yesterday, said that we should “forget generational differences” and “…the notions that support the traditional concept of a generational cohort are becoming less meaningful.” Really? REALLY?

Don’t get me wrong, some generational analysis is silly: I doubt millennials are that much more or less idealistic than previous cohorts, regardless of what you read online. But I happen to be working through the data from a recent survey done in Canada. It’s not published yet, but I pulled one question more or less at random to see if there is any validity to the idea that generations aren’t that different from each other. Over 1,500 respondents, with over 230 in each age break.

As you can see in the chart above, 18-24 year old Canadians (aka trailing millennials) who own a laptop are much more likely to own a Mac than other age groups. There is a large gap (27% compared to 16%) compared to leading millennials 25-34; and they are more than THREE TIMES more likely to own a Mac than all Canadians 45+. (There is no statistically significant difference between 45-54 year olds, 55-64 year olds, or 65+!)

Demographic analysis and cohort analysis still matters. In fact, it may matter more than ever.

Just a couple of extra comments:

1) I know some people might get turned off by all the numbers in this post. But I think it is really important for readers in 2015 to be not just literate, and not just numerate, but also able to read survey and polling data accurately. That I give you the survey size, the number of people in the age groups, and all of the data points is important for YOU to be able to judge what I am saying.
2) A big problem with demographic analysis is sorting out age effects from cohort effects. A lot of today’s 18-24 year olds like to spend all their money on beer and dancing with friends. That probably will be less true 40 years from now when the 58-64. That’s an age effect. But preference for Mac over Windows is a behavior that is likely to be conserved over time. Operating systems tend to be “sticky”, so this is likely to be a cohort effect that will be true for some time.


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