What Ticks for Indian Consumers/ Teens – Ashwani Singla and Aditya Swamy

04 Nov,2014

Continuing with our extracts from the second edition of the MxMIndia Annual, we present contributions by Ashwani Singla and Aditya Swamy.


Look at the world through our eyes to get the picture


By Ashwani Singla


Information and education through entertainment is the way teenagers learn. The ‘Network of friends’ is their support system, whether online or in the real world. Borders are only for politicians as teens live in a borderless world. Home is a sanctuary to rest and recuperate and parents are ATMs. Teens are adept at multi-tasking, easily able to process multiple streams of information. They can do homework whilst watching their favourite TV programme or research for a paper whilst chatting with their friends online.


The mobile phone is but an extension of the hand. I could go on. Teenagers today are also perhaps a bigger influence on family’s purchase decisions. The famous “pester power” of a teenage consumer is more than his or her purchasing power, which in any case isn’t insignificant any longer and before you think this is it. Brand loyalty is an archaic concept. Here and now works. Brands are bought and discarded as if they were a seasonal fashion statement. Bottom-line. Ignore them at your own peril.


So where do you begin? This mind boggling complexity has left many a communicator bewildered about the choices they need to make to be able to grab their attention enough to engage them in a dialogue. Let me attempt and try to do the impossible – establish a brand in the mind of a teenager. I believe that in order to capture the mind and heart of a teenager, the brand needs to become a crucial link in their identity and must inculcate a sense of empowerment and achievement amongst their network.


This means not only do we need to grab their attention but also create a presence across their ecosphere of influence. So how do PR professionals do that? The answer lies in using what I call – The science of persuasion. PR practitioners need to ‘get under the skin’ of the teens. They need to generate ‘Eureka moments’. PR has for too long focussed on just promoting and publicising but has played little or no role in understanding how the teens act or behave in relation to the category and the brand.




The open letter generation


By Aditya Swamy


Keep Calm and Carry On – exactly captures the sentiment of the generation. This is the most practical, optimistic and a happy generation; and Millennials rarely waste time crying on their imperfections. About one-third of them agree that life has become too busy, competitive and difficult to cope; yet, 94 per cent declare they are shiny happy people. At an age where they are barely eligible to vote, they do have strong philosophies of life and are mighty vocal about the same too.


MTV Roadies, the biggest property in the genre, is not just a show. Roadie is an attitude that has come to signify the surviving and winning skills. The series is the most watched show in the genre on television and also the most followed / viewed show on web; and garners more than 100mn views in one season. Millennials are not a homogeneous bunch of people. They live in one world of many worlds. It is aggregation of many sub-cultures that are united together by their overlapping interests.


Their attention spans are miniscule and they’re awed by very little. Marketing to these youngsters need one to start thinking like one. It is about starting interesting conversations, and keeping it a two-way street. This generation is anything but linear. Take a minute to think about how does a youngster today introduce himself or herself ? Sample the twitter handles and descriptions or Facebook covers and display pictures or tumblr profiles. Their intro lines don’t always have their names and coordinates.


Rather, they are a play of words that captures their theories of life. Step into a college and you will bump into a bunch of youngsters – they all look beautiful. Looking at the group in a college cafe or going through one’s playlist on iPod, one cannot decode their socio-economic class. What strings them together are their interests in music, sports, movies, humor etc. These interests fuel conversations. Today conversations are more meaningful than lectures, therefore, monologues are lost. Millennials love to share their thoughts, and ‘memes’ are the new ammunition.




The impact of brand on their self-esteem, perceived benefits, enhanced utility in their lives etc. These insights will provide a clue about the storyline that would be most compelling; the storytelling format that would be most effective and the advocates who would be most persuasive. Most importantly, these insights will help you understand the best way to engage. I could say use Facebook, Twitter or Myspace. But that is like suggesting that one size fits all strategy works for this group in entirety. Rather, it is absolutely the opposite.


Different stroke for different folks is the key here. PR practitioners need to look at the best ways to deliver their story, which not only makes it relevant and compelling but also makes it most believable. But before I am pronounced guilty of being ignorant, here is how I manage to win the hearts and minds of the teens:


The ABC of Teen PR:

1. A for Authenticity. The brand has to deliver real benefits or utility. Performance pays. So understand your product well before you communicate.

2. B for Believability. Talk only what you can walk. Puff does not work. Show & tell works better with teens. Comparisons are effective.

3. C for Credibility. If you don’t have advocates, you have lost the battle before it has begun. Work hard to get the “tribal leaders”.


Last, but not the least, when you are in the 13-18 year age bracket, 23-25 years looks like old age. So don’t look at them with your lenses. Put on the ones which make you look at their world through their eyes.

Happy hunting.



Memes are ready to share idea / symbol that is ubiquitously understood by everyone in their circle, is easy to personalize and share and yet strictly young. The fact that an internet meme is not easily decoded by parents makes it a potent tool for expression by the Millennials. Simply having a celebrity tell you what soap to buy isn’t going to cut it anymore. Only 10 per cent of youth actually look up to a public figure as an icon. Youth don’t want to be talked down upon, rather they love a dialogue.


In fact, they crave for constant dialogue. On an average, 85 per cent of them connect to social media thrice a day. They not only surf for new happenings, they also share their POV with their social circle. Hence, there is a continuous need for fodder for their conversations with their circle. And, that’s the opportunity today for brands. A property like Coke Studio@MTV creates conversations around the fusion music that lets one discover new sounds, new artistes, new music… It continues to be one of the most buzzing topics on social media.


The first ever MTV Bloc Party presented an immersive on-ground experience of seamless partying across multiple hubs like jiving to music by the beach, relaxing by the beer garden with live bands and interacting with their favourite artistes etc. Everyone who partied went back with a bagful of memories and stories. MTV Nano Drive, the social road trip, allows the audiences to interact with the contestants and help them complete their tasks within the cities. In sum, this is the open letter generation.


They love dialogues and conversations about the good and also the bad. 57per cent use social media to complain about brands that do not meet their expectations. Therefore, the challenge for the brand is to always toe the line; else face the music from the audience. On a brighter side, this is also a rare opportunity for brands to dig into consumer feedback, and a genuine one at that. So, listen in to consumer conversations to course correct campaigns and initiatives. Keep Calm and Carry On.



Tomorrow: Wednesday, November 5:  Men – Kevin Vaz and Saurabh Yagnik


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