Skip to content

Good to the Last Drop: How Your Favorite Brand Reveals Your Age

Our friend Tom Anderson, at OdinText, recently came up with an interesting and rather unique way to look at brands and gain a better understanding for whom the brand is most likely to be top-of-mind.

As those of you involved in marketing research know, open-ended text survey questions are tough to work with because the unstructured nature of the data is so unwieldy and difficult to analyze. Even when they are included in a survey and analyzed, results are rarely expressed in anything more useful than a simple frequency ranked table (or worse, a word cloud).  So, we tend to default to structured choice or Likert scale rating questions that have proven to be less effective at predicting actual consumer behaviors.

Thanks to a unique patented approach to dealing with unstructured and structured data in OdinText, analyzing this type of data is both fast and easy, and insights are only limited to the savviness of the analyst.

So here is a quick example that Tom shared with us.  The open-ended survey question he posed to consumers is rather simple i.e. “When you think of brand names, what company’s product or service brand names first come to mind?”.  However, asking this one simple question to over a thousand people, because of the sheer volume of brands that may be mentioned, can quickly make even this ‘small data’ set seem overwhelming in volume.

There are numerous ways to look at this free form comment data, not only the somewhat more obvious frequency counts, but also more sophisticated analytics tied to more structured data. For example, you might want to analyze how brand mentions in unstructured responses are related to the age of the respondents.

What Your Favorite Brand Reveals About Your Age

Here is a link to a list of the most frequently mentioned brands ranked by the average age of those mentioning each brand.  The best way to think about lists like these is comparatively (i.e. how old is my brand vs. other brands?):



You’ll find a few interesting insights as you browse the longer list of brands:

  • The oldest brand, Maxwell House Coffee, has an average age of 66. (If anything, this mean age is actually conservative, as the age question gets coded as 66 for anyone answering that they are “65 or older”).
  • The youngest brand on the list, Urban Outfitters, with an average age of 24 also probably skews even younger in actuality for the same reason (as is standard in studies representative of the US General Population, typically only adults aged 18+ are included in the research).
  • Dr Pepper is in the exact middle of the list  (46 years old). Brands like Dr. Pepper, with an average age close to the upper range of Generation X, are popular not just among those 46 years old, but are likely to be popular across a wider range of ages. A good example, Coca-Cola also near the middle, mentioned by people with an average age of 45, is pulling from both young and old. The most interesting thing then, as is usual in almost any research, is comparative analysis. Where is Pepsi relative to Coke for instance? As you might suspect, Pepsi does skew younger, but only somewhat younger on average, mentioned by consumers yielding an average age of 43. As is the case with most data, relative differences are often more valuable than specific values.
  • If there are any high level category trends here related to age, they seem to be that Clothing brands like Urban Outfitters and Versace (both with the youngest average age of 24), Aeropostale (26), and Forever 21 (ironically with an average age of 26), and several others in the clothing retail category tend to skew very young. Snack Food especially drinks like Arizona Ice Tea (age 25), and Naked Juice (29), as well as web properties (Bing and YouTube both 29), and electronics (obviously PlayStation 29 and slightly older Nintendo 31 being examples), are associated with a younger demographic on average.
  • In the middle age group, other than products with a wide user base like major soda brands, anything related to the home, either entertainment like Time Warner Cable or even Hulu (both 45), or major retailers like Wegman’s and Wal-Mart (also both 45), are likely to skew more middle age.
  • The scariest position for a brand manager is probably at the top of the list, with average age for Maxwell House, and Hunts (both 66), Stouffers and Marie Callender’s (both 64).  For these brands, the question has got to be: “who will replace my customer base when they die?”.
  • Again, it’s often the comparative differences that are interesting to look at, and of course the variance. For instance, let’s look at Coca-Cola versus Pepsi.  While their mean ages are surprisingly close to each other at 45 and 43 respectively, looking at the variance associated with each gives us the spread (i.e. which brand is pulling from a broader demographic). Coca-Cola with a standard deviation of 14.5 years for instance is pulling from a wider demographic than Pepsi which as a standard deviation of 12.9 years.

The bottom line is that the wealth of actionable insight that can be gleaned from unstructured data like this is endless,  And today, marketers have sophisticated (yet easy to use) tools at their fingertips to analyze, visualize, and glean insight from these data. At TopRight, our clients continue to embrace analytics tools like OdinText and visualization capabilities like Tableau to generate insights from big data (and sometimes just “small data”) and accelerate their efforts to #MoveTopRight in the markets where they compete.

If you enjoyed this post, please share it and signup here to receive blog updates. Follow us @TopRightPartner for ideas on how to #MoveTopRight.

Image credit: OdinText

Leave a Comment