Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Population Resources

The Population Reference Bureau recently released their World Population Highlights: Key Findings From PRB’s 2007 World Population Data Sheet. (You can download the PDF here.)

Lots of relevant information, even if you aren't a demographer. Two key items jumped out at us, and have implications far beyond marketing:

  • Practically all of the population growth in the last 40 years, and projected for the next 40 years, is in "Less Developed" countries. In fact, "More Developed" countries like most of Europe and Russia are shrinking, and will be smaller by 2050.

  • The United States is the one "More Developed" country with a large enough fertility, or birth, rate to sustain its population. Almost all other "More Developed" countries, like Japan, Italy, Canada, Spain, Russia and dozens of other European countries, have birth rates below the population replacement rate. In other words, all of those countries are running out of their most precious natural resource, their people.

This birth rate dynamic helps explain why the median age is increasing so rapidly in many countries (the other part of the explanation is the "Longevity Revolution" -- people are living longer).

The social, economic and political ramifications of this are enormous. But we'll leave that for others to discuss. Our focus is on the marketing implications.

Just as growth in the United States will occur in the "over 50" segment (instead of the 18-49 age segment) int he next 20 years, global growth in "50+" will happen in "More Developed" countries. But "Less Developed" countries will have real population growth.

Even China, with its long-time "one child" policy in place, is expected to shrink by 2050.

If your company or organization isn't looking at the numbers as part of your long-term planning, you're operating blind. These population trends have huge impact.

Here's a quick example: In the last few years, GAP Stores (GAP, Old Navy and Banana Republic) haven't been able to explain why same store sales have declined. We can. There are 11% fewer Generation X members as Boomers. Boomers have naturally reached an age where owning ten pairs of jeans is no longer standard practice. With fewer Gen Xers to buy GAP or Old Navy jeans, it is no wonder sales have declined.

Look at the numbers and think about the implications for your business.

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