Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Horn, ok, please...

A few years ago I was to do a review of the “yes sir” commercial for fastrack watches. In case you do not remember the commercial, it is set in a class room, which could be St Stephen’s in Delhi or St Xavier’s at Mumbai and it is roll-call time. (What a relief to parents like me that things like this still happen in college).

As students keep saying “yes sir” with varying degrees of disinterest, it is observed that one of the young gentlemen is wearing a groovy fastrack watch and all the girls in the class keep drooling and saying “yes sir” when his name is called out, to the embarrassment of the young man and the merriment of the rest of the class.

The commercial seemed interesting enough though I am not sure if I got the commercial in its entirety. Of course, I am not the target audience for the commercial or the brand, so I asked my second son who was 19 then, as to what he thought of the ad. His response was instantaneous. “Pa, it is kickass!” he said. If I had spoken like that to my dad, then I would not be sitting here writing this column, but that is not the point I am trying to make.

The point is that India is a young country with close to 57% of the population below the age of 24. But in the same country we have marketing managers in their forties and managing directors in their fifties who are trying to woo these twenty some things. If that is not a marketing and a communication challenge then I wonder what is!

What works, what doesn’t?

So what do we know about India’s youth? Not very much I am afraid but I think we need to feel our way through this generation as it is very important to understand this emerging segment of the market who could soon be leading it in terms of importance and size.
The obvious thing we need to remember is that this generation is relaxed if not spaced out. It can laugh at itself and others in stark contrast to dour middle aged professionals like me. So advertising like the ads for Mentos or Sprite works for young people, while people of my age may look at it with distaste.

Try to talk the language of the young however...

complex it is, which first means that you have to understand what they are saying and if they are your consumers, you better figure it out fast, in your own self interest.

Don’t lecture

My son, labels me as a dangerous combination as I am both a parent and a teacher. He says parents advise while teachers lecture and I do both! So as marketers, for God’s sake, do not lecture.

We do not have a captive audience out there, waiting to be converted. These sophisticated young things have a potent weapon in their hand, the remote control and so can easily shut out our message and our brand if it does not entertain at least, even if it does not engage this demanding set of consumers.

Surprise the key

I think we need to remember one important thing about today’s youth, particularly the urban youth. It has been there, done that, seen it all and is on the verge of being cynical.
You need to spring your brand message in a manner that is surprising to say the least and completely unexpected. Brands like Levi’s in India and Nike world over seem to understand the potency of this segment and have a better feel for what makes them tick.

A brand is a brand

This generation understands the need for and value of brands. Look at the importance it assigns to education at IIT, IIM or now the National Law School. It waits for sales to buy brands that it aspires to own whether it is Levis, Nike or Reebok.

My marketing professor called India’s young as the MTV generation, which is multiple processing, time compressed, value seekers. Seek them out for your own good!

Ramanujam Sridhar is CEO brand-comm and the author of “One land, one billion minds”


P. Sriganesh said...

I remember my trip with Mr. Mallayya in the year 1994 when he took me and other friends in his SUV around various pubs in Bangalore between 7:30 pm and 12 midnight before he left us to enjoy his hospitality.

The one line that he said to me at "The Pub" was you are not my customer ( I was 43 and liked my beer) but the guys here in the 20's are. He ensures that he maintains the image that he needs to cater to this group. This beer business supports the airline business which is meant for those in the 30's and 40's.

Those above 50's please use Jet or Indian.


Ramanujam Sridhar said...

Yes more and more brands want to cater to young people, because India has 57 per cent of the population below the age of 24.Brands are constantly trying to remain you ng and cater to the young, though only a few are succeeding in this.