What Ticks for Indian Consumers/ Family – Colvyn Harris and Prasoon Joshi

03 Sep,2014

Continuing with our extracts from the second edition of the MxMIndia Annual, we present contributions by Colvyn Harris and Prasoon Joshi




Having it your way with the family


By Colvyn Harris


While a lot could be said about the positive impact that a family manages to create on the life of a brand, it would be appropriate if we could first figure out how the definition of a family, especially a ‘happy’ family is changing.


A happy family

Good human and compassionate values lead to happiness. Another important element is that satisfaction comes from a ‘want’ state. You can have a very happy family with limited resources and you may have a family, which has everything but may not be as happy. Good middle-class core values keep a family united, and religious beliefs create happiness. A feeling that somebody like parents, are watching your actions, what you do, how you behave and manages to keep the family focused, together, close and hopefully happy.


Socio-economic reasons for changing family dynamics

Family dynamics are changing and there are two key reasons for it: one is aspirations and the second is keeping up with peers. What my neighbour has got, what he is doing, what has my friend got, what has my colleague got, creates a certain kind of peer pressure or competitive nature in people. This larger, bigger, better are new attributes where everybody wants more…like a thinner laptop, faster working phone, flashier car etc. These are very complex behavioural and intrinsic actions that people take based on what they see. Of course, these values are based on whether someone has the propensity to spend.


Rural vs. Urban life

Urban families live a city life which comes with its own set of opportunities and challenges. The type of community, living, working, commuting, aspirations are so very different because we live in this melting pot, we are a part of this wonderful golden so to speak rut. I met this Chinese taxi driver in New York once who said I stop working when my eyes close and when they open in the morning I am working. I think that pretty much articulates urban life – you get up, your entire grind is towards getting into office, and then there is the grind (which is a full day at work) and then the grind back home only to come back the next morning and start all over again.




‘Marketers better be honest to the consumer’


By Prasoon Joshi


Today, the definition of a happy family has definitely changed. To what extent, depends on the socio-economic strata of society you are talking about. If you ask a person in a village how family happiness has changed for him, it would be very different from middle India where I was brought up.


The biggest change is that society has become more individualistic and the joint family structure is gradually diminishing. We have not yet moved into an individualist society completely though. We are in a cusp where people are finding it difficult to be a collective society. The notion of self, my needs, my life, me, my achievements is increasingly becoming more important.


There is a flux of people to metros, big towns and cities. The happiness that people used to get from family has somewhat shifted from family to material things, and that is the first sign of a consumerist society.


Consumerism has tip-toed into our consciousness. We are willy-nilly going the western way, which is based on consumption. When your economic principles are changing, then your value system also changes gradually. It is not to say that the meaning of happiness has gone diagonally opposite of what it used to be – Indians still value inner happiness.


Rural vs. Urban

When you say development, it means different things to different people. In rural India, there are infrastructural issues like in many places there is no electricity, no roads etc. While on one side their basic infrastructural needs are being met now, they are also getting connected with the world at the same time, thanks to the way mobile phones have reached rural India. It is leapfrogging ahead and they are experiencing things faster than urban India did. Unlike urban India, they are not experiencing changes in phases.


The challenges of rural India have also been different – people in urban India cannot even imagine that somebody still gets water from a faraway place. We live in a very compartmentalised and disconnected world. On one hand, we are talking of having hundreds of channels where the number keeps increasing every day and on other, people are living in media dark ages in the same country.



Then I look at the juxtaposition of rural life. I have not lived there but I have been in many villages and in my view it is simpler, less complicated, one has fewer things to do and it is definitely not hurried. They have stress of a different kind – they have living stress, water, electricity, sanitation etc., though that is changing now.


It is not to say that people in rural areas do not chase dreams and aspirations. TV is a great window for anybody who lives a rural life to understand how we live in cities, which is why today the sachet packs of brands are being sold in rural areas – nothing prevents them from wanting a Sunsilk shampoo sachet or a Horlicks sachet. Distribution might be an issue but that will get resolved too.


From a collective to individualistic society

Individualism has been there since the time hedonism was invented. The time we live in makes it more pronounced. I do, I hope, I did, it is the ‘I’ word that drives the behaviour in all we do. It is a lot of self-credo and want for ‘myself ‘ and that is a big change.


When it comes to purchase decisions, people do seek approval but decision making is purely individualistic. You may want affirmation after you decide it, but by and large you pretty much decide it. As for the stories about my child influenced me to buy a red car or some other product, it is said so but I don’t really believe in that maxim.


Most challenging TG for marketers

Teens, in my view, are the most difficult to reach. They are at an age where they think they know everything but haven’t tested it yet. They have that rebellious spirit as well. Peer group pressure is maximised with this audience or market segment. They have aspirations, dreams, they want and every marketer is trying to reach them. They are definitely the most important audience segment.


Man’s role in changing family dynamics

Larger societal values drive them to perform and succeed, be it in a career or at home. The same motivations which drive anybody drive men as well – may be they are more ambitious, but here is where good family values make the difference as against the family values of a western world. In the Indian context, we believe in our duty towards family, towards career, towards children, towards marriage and more. As a result, there is lot more security in the Indian society. How people think in the western world is that at age of 16, 18 and 21, there are three rites of passage where you move out. Not so in the Indian society.


Advertising and changing consumer

To an extent, brands drive cultural change and we ride those cultural trends. It is like a cycle, a brand sets out a cultural nuance and then that becomes a trend which people ride. It continues till the next one comes along that inspires the next behaviour.


The power of social media

That is the future. I find it very instantaneous and effective. You can pinpoint it much better. The creation of the now famous Pink Chaddi brigade and the moral policing when they all donated their pink chaddis; or the Arab Spring or the recent Campa Cola Housing Society campaign and the sexual harassment campaign were highly effective. When targeted correctly, social media can be most impactful and effective. There are many such examples that show how it can fuel whatever cause it sets out to do. Having said that, the cause must be just and justified.


Mobile: the way forward

Mobile is specific, targeted, real time, geographic and relevant. Where the future development will take place is in the quality of messaging. Just tele-marketing, pushing out a banner, or a billboard, as is being done currently, would not suffice. Targeting would need to get more focused. For instance if I say Pizza, GPS would pick my location and show me the available outlets. But it should go beyond that – marketers would have to figure what can I do to entice a consumer to my brand v/s another? Or, perhaps it can get me to change my mind out of pizzas.


Changing consumer expectations & future readiness of marketers

Consumers would always be dynamically driven and a difficult-to-satisfy set of individuals. Brands and aspirations will drive them to expect more, to want more, and to spend more as their respective economic affluence grows. The richer you get and the better you do, you will continue to want more.


Are marketers future ready?

Marketers can be as future ready as they want to be. They are finally people taking decisions. Like there is no common man, there is no common marketer driving a purchase decision. For every brilliant marketer there is an equally not so brilliant one – so on average some will always be ahead of the curve driving change and others wondering what happened and that’s how case studies get built.



Family purchase decisions

The man and woman relationship and equation has got redefined in our society, more so in the urban areas. Earlier, man was the provider and woman used to take care of the house. Since the time women have come out and said, I do not need a provider – I need a relationship, it has changed. It has made her an equal stakeholder in the purchase decisions. Earlier children were kept at an arm’s length, they couldn’t look straight into their father’s eyes, forget about participating in purchase decisions. Today’s kids have much more say – in fact decisions even on buying a TV or refrigerator or what car the father drives sometimes are completely driven by their influence. As a society, we are becoming individualistic but the nuclear family purchase decisions are more collective today.


The most difficult TG to reach

Teenagers are the most difficult to reach as their media habits are very complex – they are on social media, telephone, they watch television. Though they are available, it is complex to be able to map their lives. I would say you still get appointment viewing for the housewife or the man of the house or children, but to get hold of a teenager is the most difficult part.


It is very important to reach them though. They experiment, and are emotional about the brand they want to associate themselves with. They are ready to spend money and most marketers and product categories want them. If you get them at that age, they will stick to your brand…they become your brand loyalists.


What holds the family together?

Today’s society is connected through festivals and special occasions. It is not that people are disconnected and are not interested in meeting their families and friends. They are so caught up with their life – life has become so tough that they are finding festivals and special occasions as a time to connect. Whether it is somebody’s birthday, anniversary or festivals, these have become much more serious interacting points than ever before. I think special occasions are keeping people together at least in metros and urban society.


Selling indulgence

It is not easy to sell indulgence to Indians. An Indian consumer prefers not to call himself or herself indulgent, still there is some resistance to it. Barring a few categories, if you want to sell them pure indulgence they will be little wary of that. Unlike the western society where there is no guilt for buying for indulgence, here age-old guilt still exists. However, that is gradually changing. Luxury products have already started finding windows – earlier the cars would be just of functional use for family but today a person can go for a car which expresses his individuality.


Changing consumer expectations

Consumer is an emperor now, he is spoilt for choices and he/she is going to be more demanding and discerning. The consumer of today wants less faff and more of the real stuff. Your brand is going to be very closely scrutinized and your promises are going to be looked at very critically. The consumer will want answers from you, and would want you to be accountable for what you say in your advertising and what you promise through your products. Consumer is definitely going to discard brands which would not fulfil their promises, or are going to be fly-by-night, flimsy and shifty.


Also, a social/environmental consciousness about the brand and the company’s social and environmental standards/commitments is slowly coming in at least some consumer segments.


Marketers have to realize that they have to live up to the expectations of the consumer. Hyperbole has to be used very carefully in brand communication. Marketers better be honest to the consumer rather than promising the earth. As is said, ‘Good advertising kills a bad product faster’.


– (As told to Ritu Midha).




Tomorrow: Thursday, September 4: Men/Divya Gupta and Paritosh Joshi


Post a Comment 

Comments are closed.