Does Apple have a young-people problem?

“Earlier this week, Apple’s ad agency confirmed that the company had yanked its widely panned ‘Genius Bar’ ads, which debuted during the Olympics,” Jordan Weissmann writes for The Atlantic. “According to TBWA/Media/Arts Lab’s official line, the decision to kill the campaign, which featured an Apple Store genius helping out a series of hapless middle-aged men, had nothing to do with the wretched reaction of bloggers and fans. Rather, the commercials were scheduled for a limited run all along.”

“Since the campaign began airing, many have wondered why Apple seemed to be producing commercials targeted exclusively at older males, who traditionally fell outside the company’s core customer base. The market researchers at YouGov are now offering up an answer: the company may be trying to connect with aging fans,” Weissmann writes. “According to YouGov, their data is evidence that ‘adults 35+ have been bigger supporters of the Apple brand than the 18 – 34 demographic.’ So those Olympic ads, no matter how awful their execution, at least may have been targeted at their new best customers.”

Weissmann writes, “I’m not sure that’s absolutely right. What YouGov seems to be measuring, more than consumer sentiment, is the state of Apple’s PR efforts. But whichever way you choose to interpret their numbers, they should should still be troubling for Tim Cook & Co.”


Read more in the full article here.

Related articles:
Apple ‘Mac Genius’ ads, panned by some techies, may have special target – August 10, 2012
Apple’s ‘Mac Genius’ ads disappear from Olympic TV broadcasts – as planned – August 7, 2012
Apple’s new Mac Genius ads preach to new customers, not the choir – August 1, 2012
Ken Segall: Apple’s new Mac ads are causing a widespread gagging response – July 31, 2012
Apple debuts three new Mac ads: ‘Basically,’ ‘Labor Day,’ and ‘Mayday’ (with video) – July 29, 2012


    1. Just a rhetorical question, Carl. But those ads are really swell! Nifty! Keen! Rad! Tubular! Awesome! Those clever lads know what they’re doing, by cracky! Can we get a senior discount?

  1. This to me seems to be a perception and reality problem. People perceive Apple to be a young company. Indeed, you people like to use Apple products – especially iPod’s, iPhone, and lower end notebooks and iMacs.

    However, I see older and older people using Air’s, and MBP’s. Further, older people have more money to support higher end Apple products.

    I thought these ads were perfect for people who wanted to know how to get a lot out of their Apple product.

    1. I disagree about the “young company” part. Hang out on some other websites. Read comments in youtube, Google+, even Apple’s own discussion boards. There is a perception of stodginess.

      As they say in Japan, the company is starting to get that “old man smell.”

      Older people love Apple.

      The bleeding edge of the youth demographic is moving on though. I believe though, they’d stick with Macs, just move on for other mobile devices.

      1. “Old man smell” Bullcrap. Its the younger generation that is giving the “older generation” the courage to make the move.

        Beyond that, there is nothing on the planet considered more “cool” than the Apple brand by any demographic. All you have to do, to confirm that, is check airports for Mac laptops (once rare, now dominant), iPhones and iPads (can’t even find a competing “tablet”), and campuses around the world. Young and old are buying Apple products like never before, and the change is expanding very fast now.

        1. “All you have to do, to confirm that, is check airports for Mac laptops (once rare, now dominant), iPhones and iPads (can’t even find a competing “tablet”)”

          You probably seen a few Galaxy Tabs but couldn’t tell the difference.

        2. I hope you’re right. An associate of mine completely agrees with you. He was just telling me that his daughter’s college graduation was a sea of iPads.

          I’m sensing something different though. You can’t always wrap yourself in the company’s rhetoric and pretend everything is ok.

      2. Been to an Apple Store lately? Yes – there may be a few older folks there, but the majority is young kids. Can’t see why you’re suggesting that they’re moving on. I just don’t see it.

      3. My observations match T Mac. The college kids are more interested in hacking their android devices than being locked in to Apple’s ecosystem. Of course, they still complain when they don’t work afterwards 🙂

      4. Move on… to what, exactly? I agree with you wholeheartedly that young people are ready to move on from Apple. Apple is the establishment now, and kids always want to use whatever is cool, new, and hip, not the same old thing their parents use.

        But what would that be? Apple’s competitors are even worse in the “cool and hip” category.

        When the first true “post-Apple” device hits the market, the younger generation will be all over it like flies on crap. But no such device yet exists, and there doesn’t even seem to be one on the horizon.

        (My prediction is that a group of young Apple employees will break away and be the first to provide this competition.)


        1. Nobody, young or old, will be ready to move away from Apple until something better comes along and they won’t do it because it’s “cool, new, and hip”. They’ll do it because it’s better.

          Other companies that have thought they can capture the younger market by being “cool, new, and hip” always fail miserably and spectacularly at it.

          Remember the Microsoft Kin? Yeah.

          If anybody manages to dethrone the current Apple and become the next one, they won’t do it by simply being new.

          1. “Better” is kind of implied by “cool, new, and hip”. Nothing that’s worse that the status quo ever qualifies as “cool”.

            Microsoft Kin aimed for “cool” but only hit “lame”.


      5. I agree. It’s the Droid phones for those in the teens and twenty something set. Thirty and up and you see a lot of iPhones. Desktop and laptop however are still Apple territory for all ages. Of course the iPad kicks ass from 1-100! But you’re correct TMac, the “younger” phone users are going Droid. They’ll wise up when they hit 30. Besides, the real buying power is still with people 30 and above. And that’s what counts.

      1. You are wrong in telling the older lady she didn’t need a retina display. I am older and my vision not what it used to be and the extra clarity of retina display is a godsend. Be careful not to recommend your own personal needs to others. I would have told the lady an emphatic YES!! She could use the extra resolution boost.

        1. This woman can count the veins on a fly’s wings at 2 4 inches and 4 feet. She’s not suffered much loss of vision at her age and spending the money on the retina display just didn’t make sense. The retina display is gorgeously attractive, but a quick pinch and zoom on the standard display works just as well.

        1. Such a pity that he explodes in anger as he is facing retirement and the acknowledgement of his own aging. I suppose that I too would feel like taking a few down with me on the final assault.

            1. I really think they pulled those commercials after the negative reaction, and returned to the proven show-and-tell style. They must have realized that they were jeopardizing one demographic group in their zeal to attract another.

    2. “Indeed, you people like to use Apple products – especially iPod’s, iPhone, and lower end notebooks and iMacs.” — jra

      ‘you people…’

      ‘YOU PEOPLE??’

      wtf are you talking about, calling us Mac users ‘you people’??

      People who want to be productive, efficient, and capable of using terminology that isn’t pejorative tend (Note: I say ‘tend’) to use Macs.

      jra, go back to using your Windows machine and leave sites like this alone. When Win 8 comes out and you get tired of ‘gorilla arm’, don’t expect a warm welcome when you finally see the light and switch to a Mac.

      Wallow in your own ignorance.

    3. My four kids are all Apple users. The iPod kicked off a whole new generation of Apple users. There were plenty of younger people in the queues for the new Apple Stores, and I see lots of younger people in the Apple Store at the local mall.

      Sure, some younger folks might not have the resources to buy a new MBP for a few years after they leave home. Some of them may even be trying Android because they can hack it and get free stuff. But a large percentage of them grew up with iPods and iPads (and many with Macs, as well), and I believe that a fair number will remain Apple fans for life.

      Apple went from under 3% in the 1990s to around 13% today. Apple did that by attracting younger users. What suddenly changed? Nothing did…

      1. I looked at what the Windows alternatives were before switching and found that although cheap, they weren’t cheaper by much if you factored in longevity, durability, build quality and customer support. That was what attracted me to Apple.

        It had little to do with how fashionable they were although I won’t deny that having an Apple logo shining from the lid of the MacBook Pro gave it a certain amount of cachet unattainable by say a PC made by Dell or HP.

        Those were my decision points.

        1. Yes, and you are in a sense a poster child for the Apple movement: honest, energetic, self-assured, and unswayed by B.S. from any quarter. When you change your mind, it’s after serious consideration, and without concern for being labeled. For you, the personal and the professional matter equally. Apple products don’t define you, you define Apple: make what I want, and I’ll buy it.

  2. DUH.

    Apple seems to be losing contact with just who the hell their customers are. Young or old, Apple customers are intelligent, typically more than just technology savvy, but technology proficient, and are among the hardest to please members of the tech buying public.

    I do think they have a youth perception problem. I’m seeing more and more of the youth market go to Android, specifically Samsung, as it becomes fashionable. There is a perception that Apple is a bunch of old men (Tim Cook on stage and the rest of the AWB behind him at every product announcement doesn’t help.) There is a perception that Apple is losing its edge so they sue instead of innovate. You and I understand the basis of the law suits but kids don’t. There is a perception that Google is cooler, more open, that Google isn’t just about making money.

    When Apple puts abhorrent ads like those stupid god awful genius ads on TV, not only does it reinforce those perceptions, they make themselves look just plane lame.

    Hardly a day goes by that I don’t worry about post Steve Apple. No one is there telling them this is a dumbshit idea.

    1. “There is a perception that Apple is a bunch of old men”

      Bullshit. If you need more than the fingers of one hand to count the number of “young people” who watched a keynote I’ll eat my fucking hat. The “fashionable” line is more bullshit generated by analysts and bloggers who refuse to accept that Apple has built better products than the competition. The “fashion” among “young people” is more cheap than trendy, and Android phones are nothing if not cheap. Believing that Apple is successful beacuae of VooDoo marketing will force many to continue to put far more influence behind advertising than it deserves.

      1. Im 14 years old and have seen every keynote by Apple from 2007. I only became interested in technology two years ago so I can only watch the ones I find on YouTube. It’s true, I definitely don’t have the resources for any MacBook, but I was able to scrape together enough money for the first generation iPad, and recently upgraded to the new iPad. I could tell you all the specs for any apple device. Yeah, I’m young, and not as smart as MOST (there are some nut jobs) people on MDN. But I know my stuff, and I’m 100% Apple.

        1. Four for you Glenn Coco.
          I’m 17
          I bought my own iPad 2 and I gave it to my dad (there’s the older demographic for ya) and we’ve had a MacBook since 2006. We all have iPod Touches and mom has an iPhone. And I’m now working on buying an iPhone and a MacBook for myself.
          So our family shows both the older and younger demographic.
          And I know a whole bunch of other families (6 I can think of off the top of my head) that are the same.
          Apple will always be trendy as long as they give us quality products.

        2. Thanks. You are the one. Do you think that changes anything? I work with a dozen people who buy Apple all day everyday. Iphones, Macbooks, iMacs. One has seen a keynote.

    2. Right, because Samsung isn’t run by old men. Oh wait. Samsung is run by old KOREAN men.

      Also, Google doesn’t seem to be just about making money? They are ALL about making money. Only thing is, they do it by selling all of your personal info that you “trusted” them with.

      I don’t think you are wrong about these perceptions. I do think a lot of younger people are stupid and lack critical reasoning ability

      1. “I do think a lot of younger people are stupid and lack critical reasoning ability”

        Indeed. As do adults of any age category, since the internet has given propagandists unprecedented power to tell half-truths, omit key data, slant, and otherwise mislead a whole world full of people who are all too happy to read only what they already believe and thus self-reinforce their delusions.

        People today, in general, have been brainwashed into believing only those narratives that they were brought up to believe, and that narrative usually came from one of a relative few self-serving political organizations on the planet: their church, their corporate moneyed class, or one of the two corrupt political parties who are the mouthpieces of corporate power brokers.

        The independent thinker actually has to work hard to parse through the crap that these entities shovel out to the masses.

        1. My opinion FWIW:
          Older people viewing a product they would like to acquire ask “where do I buy it?” Younger people (under 35) these days are conditioned to ask “how do I get it?” It’s a subtle difference but indicates an inculcated attitude of paying less, or paying nothing at all, and being indifferent to long term impact of these actions. Android has been popularized among the young through its perception of being free and open. Samsung built on top of that by making their products look like Apple products. This is, of course a broad generalization, but I don’t think there is a realization of the economic impact of “free”, especially when it is accomplished through theft of IP. We have a generation that saw no problem with pirated music and videos, has no problem with going into a retail store to scan bar codes so they can find a cheaper price on the internet, and certainly loves the idea of cheaper Android phones, regardless of how they came about.

          As far as the commercials are concerned, I think that they were probably well targeted to the Olympics viewer demographic, although I somewhat agree that they should not have seen the light of day. They are mediocre and obvious; something Apple is not. Apple captured youth with iPod, plain and simple. It was a product cheap enough to give to a 5 year old; kids could buy their own with allowances. Apple needs a low cost consumer device to continue reach the folks of all ages that have limited budgets. With the iPod slowing being subsumed by iPhones, they are no longer priced for entry level consumers. Young consumer enable young, exciting advertising.

    3. What BS…young folks love Apple products.. Especially college students … I have a picture of a lecture hall full of students with laptops … 95% Apples… Young people are not lured by gimmick features .,. They want there tech to work just like older people… The reason Apple is targeting. Older consumers is because they already own the intelligent youth market.., the ONLY reason someone buys android is because those products cost less…

      1. Certainly, he has a good point. But it may have do more with the timeless generation thing.

        The younger demographic is always in search of an alternative identity. Some follow the parents and some rebel.

        Time will tell.

    4. So what perception does Samsung have other than another bunch of old men copying Apple? I fail to see why Shamsteal has ANY cachet WTH youth. There’s nothing to relate to except a faceless foreign company that steals.

    5. “There is a perception that Apple is a bunch of old men ”

      Only inside the heads of you and other clowns.

      Oh no, Apple will never gain a foothold in Asia! Oh no, antenna-gate is the end of the iPhone! Oh no, did you hear what Steve Jobs said about trucks and cars? Apple has dicontinued Macs! Oh no, the iPad is being annihilated by 7 inch tablets! Oh no, the new iPad gets too hot! Bye bye Apple! Oh no, Apple has lost the youth market!

      This is yet another fake Apple crises in a very, very long line of them.

  3. The ads were “yanked” or they were “scheduled for a limited run all along.” That is a pretty big difference. And the entire thesis of the “yanked” position is at adds with the theme of the article. If Apple has a young person problem, which frankly is absurd, then it would be marketing to the young.

    Just more drivel from someone who needs to fill space.

  4. Thelonious, you come off as someone who thinks they are some kind of genius technologist that knows all better than this stupid 500 billion dollar corporation? You ego astounds one. You work for Google perhaps?

    1. I work with Apple converts in the under 30. I also have “senior citizen” friends who have switched Apple. One of the local prvate schools just distributed iPads to all of its students. Apples demographic is about 2 to 92. Most of the purchasing power is with the “seniors”. Purchasing power for under 30’s is a credit card and low initial cost, thus the uptake of the “free” android phones -since the monthly plan costs are about the same.

      My 12 y.o. loves Apple and despises Samsung and Android.

      By the way -which phones were more obvious in last night’s closing ceremony for the Olympics – iPhones, of course.

      1. “By the way -which phones were more obvious in last night’s closing ceremony for the Olympics – iPhones, of course.”

        Which was great, especially to counter all the Samsung Galaxy SIII ads we saw every 15 minutes since they’re an official sponsor.

        But watch the IOC move to ban non-Samsung phones next Olympics. They almost didn’t allow people wearing Pepsi shirts to get in, to prevent “ambush marketing” (search for “pepsi shirt olympics” for news on this). A sea of Apple logos among the athletes during opening and closing ceremonies does measurable damage to Samsung as viewers go “hey, our Olympic champions use iPhones, not Samsungs!”

        (While we’re still on the Olympics:: NBC was f’ing retarded for not airing the closing ceremonies live on TV. Thank goodness I had around 7 different channels in Canada to watch it live.)

  5. It is a problem that apple is loosing its wow factor in my opinion!! Apple needs new designs and a new GUI ….. Look at the Galaxy III phone….the user interface is stunning….with video backgrounds and a more versatile customization. In a world of fashion forward and cool factor…other companies are building on apple’s genius and beating them at their own games…..the GUI needs a facelift as well as new products that are a must have design wise. Samsung is a real threat with their multiple mobile products and amazing TV’s that are becoming integrated with their phones….and Google has already shown they can make amazing software like Sketchup……what’s next??? Watch out Apple…..the wolves remain at the doors!!!

    1. The Galaxy IIS interface looks stunned, not “stunning,” Steve. Also, Samsung’s TVs are crap and Google *acquired* Sketchup! years ago–Google has nothing to do with that application’s excellence.

      1. Well I read other blogs and young tech savvy people do poopoo a stagnant iOS look.

        Why can’t I have widgets on my iPad or iPhone hom screen?

        Why do I have to look at rows of icons on my beautiful iPad home screen. It’s so Windows!

    2. Apple has a consistently beautiful design asthetic, that is recognized world wide.  Apple’s GUI and hardware style is classic.  In my opinion, the Galaxy phone’s GUI is flashy and gimmicky in appearance.   One of the best HI-FI brands, also called McIntosh, has a classic design asthetic that is recognized worldwide. McIntosh changed its appearance very little in its 63 year history and never took on the flashy, gimmicky look of other brands such as Sony and JVC. A great design never looses it’s  “cool factor” adding to a great product that will always be desired. 

    3. Which is exactly why Samsung is not copying … they are making better. Which is Apple’s claim to fame. Ooops!

      There seems to be this mind set that the older people need a “genius” expert to help them. Au contraire, mon frere … older people are the one’s that built this city on Rock and Roll. Just like in any age group – there are those that are technically savvy and those that are not. You can be good at Apple products … because you’ve used them. Or maybe you went to Apple School.

      But if Apples never break, this is the dispute … then no one can be the expert to fix them.

        1. You do know, by the indent level, that I was replying to Steve S, right? I’ve got nothing against Apple ,,, but I do reserve the right to like and buy any products that I want to. And no one under 35 is going to change that. I don’t believe Apples patents are valid because of prior art … so even though both companies SURELY viewed each others products (as all competitors do) that doesn’t make it copying.

          People wanting to customize their iPod Touch and iPhone by jail breaking kind of validates what Steve S was saying. It’s a great platform … but needs to allow more customization and apps that people want or need. Having total control over your device, IMHO is whole lot better than Apple having total control over it. We see how that worked out when the guy got his i-devices erased. I have minimal cloud stuff turned on – and upon learning of that story I turned i completely off.

          1. Sadly, you have now confirmed my secondary assertion. (that you were clueless and rambling.)
            I had really hoped for the reverse, or wait… perhaps you have devised and even more clever piece of satire, like zune tang, on meth! Eh… On second thought, never mind…

            1. You will never let anyone win. Even if you haven’t really said anything substantial yourself. Actually I think you are a computer program. You are an Insult-Bot.


            2. Please show where I bashed Apple products? You’re just pissed because one or two people have the fortitude and intelligence to stand up to the Apple Religion and are able to form their own opinions and exercise that right to do so. You would take away that right. If we don’t sing Apple Fight Songs along with you – we must be stupid or pathetic.

              And that makes which of us pathetic? Um, You.

            3. You are an apple hater hanging out on an apple news site.
              (to prove that all anyone needs do is re-read your initial post)
              And you don’t think that’s a little pathetic?
              Ok for you then.

  6. Judging by how my two year old nephew fiercely fights his siblings for possession of the iPad, and how most of my nieces and nephews (I have fourteen brothers and sisters) love and use Apple gear, I’d say Apple has all the demographics in the bag. Just this month, a niece bought a MacBook air for college, a 7 and 15 year old nephews purchased MacBook Pros, two older sisters and a brother bought iPads. And some of these kids had to save a big chunk of the cost for Apple gear themselves. it was not all given to them.

    Now, I happen to have one brother who is a PC zealot, but even he could not keep his kid and grand kids from switching to the Mac. Heck, even the wife switched to the mac and the iPhone.

    And here is a cute story. When my college age niece went to pick up her Air at the Apple store, she saw two kids, 7 and 10, get the same Air she was buying. The PA interrupted to announce that the kids (brother and sister) were getting their first macs, then everything stopped as the stored erupted with cheers, hoorays, and applause.

    But OK, I do agree that the ads sucked. I was watching TV with a large family group and felt embarrassed by the ads when they first aired. Well, I sure did keep quiet about Apple that one time.

  7. How about the adds just were crappy? Hip young genuis helps doofus 40ish man. Bad idea. Not cute. Not usual understated add showing a lot of what can be done with Apple products in a 30 second time. Sometimes the add company blows it. Why look any deeper than that?

  8. I’m Old- but teach at a major University.

    Based on the phones and computers I see the 18 -30 yr olds (underclass to graduate level) using, there is NOT an age issue. Macbook Airs, iPhones and iPad are common. The iPhone is the dominant phone, iPads everywhere and Macs are the most popular computer sold at the university.

  9. Wasnt it just the past two Christmas’ that the iPad was the number one thing kids wanted? I know that by hung people, the survey is talking 18-34, but I don’t think it’s a generation sandwiched by two such distinct tastes. I would bet its more about youth without much money getting the cheapest phone. I see a lot of young people with MetroPCS (a discount cell provider).

    1. Right and I don’t understand why otherwise bright people here don’t get it. Maybe the more telling development is that Apple overestimated the intelligence of its existing users, believing that they would UNDERSTAND that the target of the ads was not them, DUH, but then was forced to rapidly reassess our intelligence, concluding by withdrawing the ads. I suppose the next ones will be directed by George Lucas, or maybe Uwe Bol.

      Some of us are just self-absorbed, opinionated, spring-loaded, malcontent, dullards

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