Monday, October 24, 2016

Are you speaking yesterday’s language to today’s youth?

It’s important to understand the target audience when creating ads 
Last week I watched a commercial that sent me back in time — 43 years to be precise. Before we come to the commercial let’s take a look at a romantic past. It was in November 1973 that the film Bobby was released. It was the film in which Rishi Kapoor made his debut alongside Dimple Kapadia.

No, I am not going to talk about how time flies. Instead, I’ll talk about a song that made waves in its time with the lyrics ‘Hum Tum Ek Kambre Mein Bandh Ho’. You must be wondering what the fuss is all about.

Now, let’s cut to the present and instead of a room to a lift and a commercial for deodorant. Before you watch it, let me quickly tell you the script that I have understood. There is a guy and a girl in a lift and as a twist to the tale the girl starts whistling. And what tune is she whistling? Yes, you guessed it; ‘Hum Tum Ek Kambre Mein Bandh Ho’. It makes the guy blink; it tells you that the deodorant gets out your hidden thoughts and desires. 

Who is the target audience?
I suppose most of us use deodorant and in a sense it can be argued that we are all target consumers for the category, but every category has a core target audience and that is people in the age group of 15 to 24, which leads me to my concerns about the creative execution of such commercial. How would a millennial remember or recall a song that was a hit in 1973? More so, when it was merely whistled. Of course I was able to pick it up in a flash and that’s hardly surprising. But am I the target audience for such advertisements?

This leads me to what I am trying to emphasise. Too often advertising is created by older people who are double guessing what young people like. Often enough they are lost in their own world and forget that today, a generation gap is all of four years! So the biggest challenge for people in advertising and branding is to live the life of the target consumer. They must listen to the music of teenagers, understand their lingo and follow their lifestyles if they want to create advertisements that will catch a youngster’s attention rather than that of their fathers and uncles! 

It’s all in the detail
A few years ago I went to the Levis store in Bengaluru which had fantastic décor and clothes that were targeted at hip teenagers. But what was the music playing in the store? It was Bryan Adams, an oldie. Clearly the store manager was old and he was playing music that he liked rather than what his or her teenage consumers wanted or liked! Executional gaffes like these are common in brand management and they can send out contradictory signals that end up confusing consumers and make them wonder if the brand is really for them. 

Time to think young
The reality is that most marketing and communication decisions are being taken by older people for a younger generation and therein lays the challenge. I am fond of repeating “VPs are in their forties, MDs are in their fifties and customers are in their twenties”. But we can’t stop short at merely paying lip service to the youth as a market, saying how important they are and continue to talk to them the way we talk to ourselves (adults) and feel good. 

Live in the consumer’s shoes
The word ‘empathy’ is one that is often abused in marketing. What is empathy? That’s putting you in the consumer’s shoes. It’s understanding their concerns, discomforts, likes and dislikes, interests, and just about everything that makes them tick. Formal research will help but there is no substitute for observation. Keep observing life around you, customers around you and who knows what nuggets of information you might discover. 

Don’t be locked in your own world and don’t speak in Sanskrit to today’s youth!

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