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Census 2011: How Canada’s shifting demographics affect your business

Thursday, February 09, 2012

This week, Statistics Canada released top-line results of the 2011 Census. This is the first new population and demographic data that we have on a national scale in five years, and it highlights some broad demographic trends that marketers should be paying close attention to:

  • Go West, Young Man! Canada’s population is shifting westward. For the first time in history, Canada’s population west of Ontario is larger than that east of the province (30.7% vs. 30.6%). The fastest growing province was Alberta, with 10.8% growth since the last census and strong growth in Calgary and Edmonton. Oft-neglected Saskatchewan, for its part, increased its population over the million mark for the first time in history. This means that companies can expect to see more market growth, more leads and more sales sales from the western provinces, and may need to shift some of their marketing budgets and tailor their service offerings accordingly.
  • Urban on the upswing. Canada’s large metropolitan areas grew by 7.9% since the previous census – versus the 5.9% national average, and only 1.7% growth in rural areas. More of Canada’s rural population is moving to the large cities, underscoring the urban/rural divide that characterizes the marketing efforts of most major national companies. Here, we note that while the metro areas are growing, in many cases this growth is happening in the greater sprawl regions as opposed to in the city core. Montreal, for instance, lost net population to Laval and the South Shore off-island communities once again this year.
  • Condo living: The new Canadian dream? While the household data has not been fully released yet, initial indications show that empty-nest Baby Boomers and Young Urban Professionals are leading the condo craze, and the condo has supplanted the single family home in many of Canada’s urban areas as the living style of choice. This has implications for marketers in real estate, home services, retail, home furnishings, and for local businesses as well.

More demographic data will be released in the coming weeks and months, including age and sex data, language and ethnic origin information, and results of the controversial National Household Survey (which replaced the mandatory long-form census this year).  In all cases, when using demographic trends to create marketing plans, it is important to remember that this data is very broad and should be supplanted with additional sources of research. Marketers need to carefully consider how these broad trends will apply to their specific context.

But for those looking to forecast trends, the Census data can be a valuable tool. Whether you are trying to predict how much of your media budgets to allocate in each market, which services to offer in each location, or even what keyword terms might appear more frequently in search, it is possible to build models that incorporate demographic and census data for more accurate forecasting. This can help inform business decisions and optimize marketing programs in nearly every area of business across the nation.

Interested in finding out more on how you can use this census data to alter your digital strategy? Contact us today!

Canada’s Census Data is available from Statistics Canada.

Sari Stein – Digital Strategic Planner

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