In the eighties, some of my classmates went to the US to study further and I was a bit envious of them. The reason? The US was going through a “sexual revolution” or so one read and here I was sitting in India where even the green revolution was a flop. When they returned a few years later a little rounder if not much wiser, I asked them eagerly about their experiences and they said rather shamefacedly “I missed it. It just passed me by”. Now
when I see the digital revolution taking over the marketing the world over, I am reminded of this incident. Is our generation, which has its fair share of industry leaders, missing the digital bus? Now why am I saying this? Consider this. What is the greatest challenge that Indian marketers are facing. To my mind it is simple “Heads of marketing in companies are in their forties, Managing directors are in their fifties, while consumers are in their twenties!” Enough and more has been said about the Indian youth market, its size, its complexities and its obvious potential as a market. What does the Indian youth particularly urban youth have similar in broad characteristics to youth the world over? They are a plugged-in community and are either on the mobile or on the net 24/7. They can bare their souls to complete strangers unlike us who are tighter than clams. They have the attention span of nano seconds and are bored easily. They are not satisfied with what they are born with and what to equip themselves with to meet the demands of the world. If that means preparing for IIT so be it. If that means taking a year off from school to compete in Indian idol, then that too is par for the course! So where is the problem?
It is all in the attitude honey
Belonging to generation X, I believe we are different. We are unable to accept generation Y as our equals and peers, as my second son says quite succinctly “Dad, the problem with you is that you are a dangerous combination. You are both a teacher and a parent. Teachers lecture and parents advise. You do both!” So maybe it is time for us to do more introspection if we are to understand youth and their medium better. Are we still in the world of print and television while they are online? The other challenge is technology. Some, not all, of our generation are technologically challenged. I wonder how many of you have seen this commercial for R world, a value added services provided by Reliance communications. As it is a few years old, let me jog your memory. There is a class of young school children who are being taught. A parent of one of the children is standing outside the class, desperately trying to get his young kid’s attention. The kid desperately looks the other side. His friends draw his attention to the fact that his dad is outside and he comes out reluctantly from the class, only to be asked by his dad how he can see the score on his mobile. The kid looks at his father disdainfully says “Bus button dhabao” and gets him the score in a flash. As luck would have it, Dhoni hits a six and the father does a gig in the corridor, to the disapproving glares of two nuns who pass by. It is a brilliant commercial which addresses the consumer insight of how children take to technology like ducks to water while their parents struggle to come to terms with it.
I was at a seminar recently where one of the speakers asked an interesting question to a group of Managing directors of PR agencies “How many of you have Facebook or LinkedIn accounts “I am not going into the answers here. But my question is simple. If the next generation is in a different medium, should we not try to understand and harness it, for our own good? How long can we keep talking about being “technophobes” and take pride in being “pencil and paper” types? The same challenge is with advertising agencies. Today’s agency heads have been reared on the picture tube.
To them life is one long thirty second commercial. They do not understand the online medium, much less create for it. Clients too are experimenting with the medium much like radio in the nineties, without going the whole hog. I believe that while there are changes around us that we can all feel good about, I do not wish us to have the Indian mentality- “Look how much we have achieved in sixty years”. Yes, but there is so much more to be done. I think, perhaps the best expression that comes to my mind when we talk of India and the online medium is that “we have miles to go before we sleep”. And if we do not traverse those miles now, we will end up having sleepless nights.
Ramanujam Sridhar, CEO, brand – comm.
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