What’s most thrilling to me about Ipsos Essentials is how we can now tap into the global zeitgeist on an instant and regular basis. A couple of decades ago, this was inconceivable. What does the world think on almost any issue? Stay tuned – we will have it in the next edition of Essentials!
The danger of averages
While it is awesome to now have such a capability at our disposal, we should still take a beat and appreciate what we could be missing. Despite what conspiracy theorists may think, there is no global opinion on anything. Sure, we can tally all the responses in a survey and treat it as global opinion. But countries still matter. As do cultures. As do living conditions. As does demography, including age, income, religious observance, and gender, to name just a few key dividing points.
You can see this phenomenon at work in this most recent edition of Essentials. Yes, there’s lots about global opinions. But these aren’t always the most interesting findings. For example, why are South Koreans eating at home but Mexicans eating out more? It’s not an accessibility issue – both countries have almost identical access to restaurants because they have nearly identical levels of urbanization. Why are young people eating out more all over the world while their parents and grandparents are eating at home? Is it because restauranteurs are creating more dining experiences that appeal to younger generations and ignoring older populations, or because younger people are more social? Why are the Chinese so excited by the potential of AI and the French so terrified by it? The more we dig into the details in the data the richer the insights become.
There is no equivalent to the Baby Boomer generation, at least as it is defined in the West, in Nigeria. Gen Z is a blip on the generational map in Japan where they live longer than almost anybody in the world and the median age of their population is 48.
A Western-centric view of global generations
One demographic thread we have been pulling of late at Ipsos relates to generations. Everybody interested in public and consumer data knows about Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z. Even in Essentials we note interesting differences in the findings by generations. But what do we really know about generations? Do universal concepts of generations even exist in the world?
The more we look at generations the less we know about them. Yes, there is a clear correlation between age and many aspects of consumer and citizen behavior. Younger people tend to be more left in their political orientation, older people tend to be more right. Younger people tend to be more excited by technological innovations, older people less so. Older people tend to be less positive about change than younger people, but not always.
But even these general findings can vary by country and certainly the four big generational categories vary by country. For example, there is no equivalent to the Baby Boomer generation, at least as it is defined in the West, in Nigeria. Gen Z is a blip on the generational map in Japan where they live longer than almost anybody in the world and the median age of their population is 48. Gen X as a unique population segment that doesn’t likely exist in the developing world. Apparently, Evian spelled backwards isn’t Naive everywhere, to borrow from the quintessential Gen X movie, Reality Bites.
Seeing the trees in the data forest
As you read through this most recent edition of Essentials take a moment to consider the nuances in the data. Take some time to skim through the breakdowns by country, generations, gender, income categories, etc. You will likely see that sometimes the trees can be even more interesting than the forest.