What Ticks for Indian Consumers/ Teens – Kiran Khalap and Siddhartha Mukherjee

22 Sep,2014

Continuing with our extracts from the second edition of the MxMIndia Annual, we present contributions by Kiran Khalap and Siddhartha Mukherjee

 

 

 

Engaging teens in Middle India: 2014 to 2020′

 

By Kiran Khalap

 

In 1993-94, when I had just shifted roles in Clarion Advertising from National Creative Director to NCD and General Manager of the Mumbai office, we had the privilege of having Dr Pradeep Kakkar (UCal; Wharton School, Cornell, Columbia World Bank) on board as COO.

 

Clarion needed some thought leadership ideas, and Pradeep proposed using the Delphi technique to predict the future of Indian society (and hence mass media communications).

 

He roped in some of the finest brains in marketing, anthropology, research and HR and distilled their responses (remember that none of them knew who the others were) to two simple questions, “What was the biggest change in the last decade?” and “What effect will it have on the next?” into two simple answers, “TV” and “Social unrest.”

 

Earlier, feature films also sold dreams but they were ‘bought’ in the darkness of a cinema hall, where disbelief was easy to suspend. In the 90s, TV screens brought the dreams into the living rooms of middle class homes. Result? A seething anger against less qualified ‘other’ Indians making it big…and social unrest as the safety valve that let off this subterranean anger.

 

 

Youth relations start with listening

 

By Siddhartha Mukherjee

 

At a time when India continues to bask under the feat of housing the largest population of garam khoon (read: youth) demography, what very few communicators or marketers talk about, however, is the complexity of relating with this public segment.

 

The reasons are basic yet prominent challenges for all of us custodians – marketers, researchers, social observers, policymakers, politicians, educationists…and even parents.

 

Does the youth listen?
Ask a parent or even an (senior) employer, the answer will be an emphatic NO! Quite a cliché now! Well, if they don’t listen, we certainly can. Youth wants to be heard. Generations on, youth has reacted at the drop of a hat and always been the catalyst of a reaction! However, the question that arises here is that how often do Public Relations professionals spend time on actual listening? Today, there are some amazing mechanisms and research methodologies that offer interesting amenities for us to listen. As marketers or communicators, well before we push out our messages, we should make it compulsory to listen to every action or reaction of the youth. For a firm, long term Youth Relations campaign, brand stakeholders need to be clear on a) How often they should listen? b) Is listening holistic? c) Should listening be in spurts or continuous?

 

 

 

As I sit down to do the impossible and possibly foolhardy task of trying to predict the next five years in an era of nanosecond change, I am struck by the almost total reliability of that earlier Delphi prediction. Instead of five wise men to predict, let me invite you to three different windows to the future.

 

Window One: The past is prologue, said William Shakespeare. Our past influences what we value in the future. My father’s past included living under the Portuguese in Goa, so he valued political freedom above all else. My past included a nation that was considered poor (“Where in Ethiopia is India?” was a question asked in the US), so I value economic certainty.

 

What is the past of the teenager in 2014? A nation that is at the centre of the worldstage because of its ‘soft power’: India is exporting yoga, Bollywood films and dances, Indian weddings, sarees, English fiction, software engineers, VCs…so this teenager is most likely to value his own freedom of expression rather than the rest of the world’s!

 

Window Two: What else will middle India value in the next five years? Thankfully, I have research rather than grey hair to support what I say. In 2011, Chlorophyll was asked to adapt an online group dating US brand to India. Our initial hunches were proved right by research in middle India: the ‘night’ in the brand name was guaranteed to scare away teenage girls; ‘dating’ was unknown and ‘group dating’ sounded terribly confusing and risque;-)

 

What was most welcome instead was an opportunity to meet new people for new experiences! That is what middle India wanted: new experiences. Just as the TV of the 90s had created a need for new opportunities, the web of the 21st century had created an inexhaustible thirst for new experiences from around the world: a wonderland etched in pixels by photographs, opinions, objects, stories, self-made films…

 

Window Three: When Chlorophyll worked on defining a telecom brand, one of the big insights we got validated the one from Window One: in middle India, the mobile phone is the every teenager’s secret door to a bigger, starrier, exciting global neighbourhood. Far away from her grungy surroundings and most important, totally shielded from the prying eyes of her parents! Between 2011 and 2013, the biggest change in India has been the web: smart phone-based web access overtook PC-based web access in May 2012!

 

India is about to reach the magical 10 per cent figure of smartphones as a percentage of overall phones in numbers. Apparently, in other emerging markets, after 10 per cent, the conversion goes ballistic. Smartphones are growing at 150 per cent because 85 per cent of the market is still feature phones, whose owners are upgrading at a furious pace.

 

To every individual who owns a Smartphone, Facebook and Tumblr and Instagram and Pinterest (80 per cent are women; why? search me!) and Twitter are doors to an ever-expanding universe where your opinion is published and responded to! This is a genuine high…like an online bungee jump, especially if you are in a small town!

 

Now come closer and put your face against all three windows to the future simultaneously (yes, it is possible to do such things in a thought experiment!) and tell me what you see. That’s right: accessibility to a world of infinite new experiences from all over the world…specifically, experiences that allow selfexpression. Any brand that facilitates this need will be able to engage middle-India. If you are a brand that can thrive in Mumbai you don’t need to engage Middle India.

 

Why do I say that? Out of a total of 204 countries on earth, only the first 60 have a population higher than Mumbai (1.6 official; 2 crore plus unofficial)! But if you are a brand that dreams of a market of billions, your path to middle Indian teenagers goes through the smartphone and begins with a platform where the teenager is the hero! No, there is no shortcut.

 

 

Youth’s opinion

What makes it interesting for brand stakeholders is that for youth, no opinion is permanent or long term for that matter. It can be changed, moulded or influenced. They are one of the few demographies that traverse through multiple touchpoints…right from the time they wake up till they sleep at night. Which is why, what can make brand stakeholders overcome this challenge is by constantly listening to them.

 

Media consumption

Well, rarely do we come across visuals where a youth is static, literally motionless (not fidgeting…), paying attention to one thing at a time. An exact depiction of this is when he is asked to, expected to or required to read. The reality is that the youth has drifted far, far away from consuming print. If at all Print, best if the brand’s communications is largely through pictorials. That primarily leaves us with TV channels, Radio, Online or Experiential.

 

Today’s youth will be tomorrow’s revenue and GDP generators for marketers and the economy. Might as well focus on them and keep telling them your brand story…starting now. However, for that, you have to constantly listen to them to realize what kind of story they want to be told and how! The PR industry can do wonders with Youth Relations for their clients…the question is how many of us start with “Listening”?

 

 

Tomorrow: Tuesday, September 23: Children – Ashwin Padmanabhan and Divya Radhakrishnan

 

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