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On misinterpretation

October 23, 2012

I was reading a market report today and it made me realise just how careful you have to be with the interpretation of data.

Take this paragraph for instance (category removed to disguise client / report writer).

“An ageing population may be problematic for certain segments: The predicted 9% increase in over-55s is good news for Segment x, with this group the most likely to eat Segment x. Segment y may also benefit, but this demographic shift is likely to be less positive for Segment z for which the over-55s show decidedly low usage.  Segment z enjoy high usage among a broad age group, from the age of 15 up to 44. On the one hand, the 11% projected growth in the 25-34 age group will help to drive market growth. However, declining numbers in the 15-19 and 35-44 age groups, who are also key users, will offset this to some extent”

Although this may seem to make sense – to me it seems to be making a pretty big assumption; people suddenly change their product preferences just because they’ve moved from one age bracket into another.

If you were segment x you might think that this means you are going to be alright – that your fortunes will be saved because your consumer base is getting bigger.

The problem is tastes shift, and you tend to move your tastes along with you.  Teenagers today (I may be generalising horribly) don’t listen to the music I did when I was a teenager – instead that taste and preference is moving through my life stages with me.

To me, it looks like Segment Z might have captured the zeitgeist a bit better, and will be maintaining its popularity, even as its audience ages.

If I hadn’t had the time to look in more detail at the numbers, and just taken the report at face value, it would have resulted in a very different strategy.  Another reminder that no matter how reputable the source, always double-check the story that the numbers are telling you.

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 23, 2012 5:07 pm

    You also have to check *when* the report was written and the insight/data collected – Mintel’s data is often 6 months old before it reaches publication and then can be the ‘latest’ report for another two years in some sectors.

    The world moves a bit too fast these days for me to be happy to advise my clients based on 2 year old data.

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