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Youth Marketing | Target: Gen Y

Youth Marketing | Target: Gen Y

When Tata Indicom, the brand under which telco Tata Teleservices Ltd offers its services, wanted to reposition itself from a mass market product to a youth-centric one, it opted for a multi-pronged approach. First, it tailored its advertising campaign to attract the desired target audience. “The characters are young, trendy and we have gone for a more upscale look," says Haresh Moorjani, creative director, FCB-Ulka Advertising Pvt. Ltd, the agency for Tata Teleservices. “The look and feel of Tata Indicom’s campaign is completely different" (two of these television commercials, starring brand ambassador Kajol, topped Mint’s monthly ad survey last year).

All these marketing initiatives were put into place within a span of six months. “Our focus is on the youth," says Abdul Khan, marketing, Tata Teleservices. That’s a statement executives in other companies will agree with. Reaching the young consumer in India today has become more important than ever before. It has also become more challenging.

“This age group is open to risk and is willing to try anything and, as a result, marketers are willing to try innovative strategies," said Ashish Dikshit, president, Madura Garments, a division of Aditya Birla Nuvo Ltd, at the India launch of Esprit Holdings Ltd’s youth brand, EDC, in October (Madura Garments is the sole distributor for Esprit in India). Dikshit described the youth as “trysumers" (consumers who are willing to try new products) of the Indian market—a group that can play a pivotal role in any marketing campaign.

These “trysumers" are also trendsetters, an attribute that has been accentuated by their growing purchasing power. “The young always had the power of voice, but today they also have wallet power. And they decide how they want to spend, and what they want to spend on," says Manish Sinha, vice-president, strategic planning, Bates David Enterprise.

This segment has an influence on consumer spending far in excess of its numerical strength. Nine million people in the age group of 12-25 years from the top 35 cities (one million plus population) in India are the ones setting the trends and raising the aspirational value for one-billion-plus Indians, reports MindShare Insights.

Another critical factor is the increasing buying power of this segment. MindShare Insights found that the earning age in India is down by 10 years, and 54% of youngsters are earning while still studying. “Business process outsourcing and other service industries have lowered the average working age. This has made them an immensely desirable target group to marketers," says Sinha.

These trendsetters are, however, difficult to typecast. The study found the young in India aspire to international style brands, such as Armani, but consider ethnic brand Fabindia to be stylish too. They are comfortable grabbing a bite at McDonald’s, but relish the Indian fare at Haldiram’s as well. They are willing to stand in queue for hours to get their copy of the latest in the Harry Potter series, while buying into the exploits of the animated reincarnation of mythological hero Hanuman. They watch the youth music television channel MTV, but are responsible for an increase in the viewership of religious channels such as Aastha as well.

Another distinctive feature of Indian youth, identified by the study, is that they are extremely tech savvy. They are comfortable with the latest gizmos, and are clued into the latest mode the virtual world offers, whether it is social networking, blogs, or online gaming.

Many marketers are aggressively targeting the tech-savvy generation. Consumer durable giant LG Electronics India Pvt. Ltd now plans to direct its advertising spends mostly on “young products" such as laptops and mobile phones to position itself “as a youth-centric brand". “Our portfolio has changed from a consumer electronics and home appliances company focused primarily on being a family brand, to catering to needs of young independent individuals," says V. Ramachandran, India director, sales and marketing, LG Electronics.

Another electronics company, Philips Electronics India Ltd, too is on a similar path. It is renaming its consumer electronics and home appliances division its ‘lifestyle’ division to appeal to the needs of young working professionals and nuclear families.

Even realtors are working on pitches to the young. “Today the average age of a homebuyer has reduced to 30-35 years, which was about 45 a decade ago," said Arvind Parakh, CEO, corporate strategy and finance, Omaxe Ltd, a real estate developer.

“Earlier we would stress on location and townships; today we’re talking about imported fittings and other lifestyle features that attract young buyers," he adds.

Luxury brands that earlier focused on the well-heeled have become youth conscious. “The younger generation is the wealthiest generation that India has ever had," says Peter Kronschnabl, president, BMW India Pvt. Ltd. “While we cannot ignore the older members who still control the wealth in the family, we are now including young professionals in our communication as they now have the authority to buy high-end cars, and have a say in the decision-making of their families," he adds.

In this race to target the youth, most marketers are turning to youth-friendly digital platforms for more focused access. Says Sinha: “The youth are the early adopters of new media channels such as the Internet and the mobile (phone). It’s easy for marketers to access them through these channels, (against) the conventional mass media channel."

Digital marketing, currently accounting for Rs350 crore of the Rs22,700 crore advertising market, is set to grow at 150% over the next three years, according to a joint study by audit and consulting firm Ernst and Young and industry lobby Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India.

According to the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), an industry body, around 40,000 brands targeted at Indians advertised online last year, and the numbers are increasing. “The early adopters of the Internet and mobile are younger people," says Subho Ray, president, IAMAI. “This segment consumes much less of television and even less of newspapers, and much more of mobile and the Internet in the course of the day, at least in some marketing segments," he adds.

Agrees Divya Bhatia, consultant, eTechnology Group, IMRB. Young adults, she says, are spending a lot of time on the Internet because they spend a significant portion of their day at work, where other mediums such as television and newspapers may not be accessible. “They are tech savvy and find it convenient to look up information on the computer," she says.

Again, digital advertising itself is seeing new tools of access, some more effective than the others. Alok Kejriwal, founder of Contests2win.com India Pvt. Ltd, points out that viral marketing is perhaps the most popular and effective tool among youth today. “People are likely to watch a 30-second viral marketing clip sent by a friend because you know it will be funny, or of some importance to you, rather than watch all the advertisements on televisions," he says.

The latest medium in the marketers’ arsenal, the mobile phone, is even more youth-friendly. Of the 180 million mobile users in India, more than 80% are estimated to be between the ages of 18 and 35, according to Kejriwal. “If done right, in the digital platform, consumers become the marketer and communication gets a more positive feedback from the end consumer," he adds.

Many marketers have bought into this theory. Not just youth brands such as MTV and Nike, even financial companies are going digital in their advertising. The credit card launched by Tata Sons and State Bank of India’s subsidiary, SBI Cards, rolled out a viral marketing initiative to get through to the young. The clip shows a young man trying to use his father’s name to get discounts, when the credit card could have done the trick. “The clip was forwarded 200,000 times in a month," says Kejriwal. “When we started out in 1998, we had a handful of clients and today we have 1,200 across sectors," he added.

Another form of mobile advertising gaining currency is the Bluetooth advertising, or Bluecasting, where the advertisement is beamed at mobile owners in shopping areas. This technique, too, is focused on the youth. “Mobile advertising is one of the ‘hot’ trends fuelling retail growth in the country," says Narasimha Suresh, CEO, TELiBrahma Convergent Communications Pvt. Ltd, a firm which provides Bluetooth-based interactive solutions on mobile phones. He had estimated the size of the mobile marketing business in India at about Rs40-45 crore, in a Mint article published in December.

The ways and means of reaching the young are multiplying rapidly. But their effectiveness remains doubtful. Even when marketers manage to reach this critical consumer segment, retaining their interest remains a challenge. “The main question on the mind of marketers targeting 18-35-year-olds is, ‘how do I reach out to this group’ and, more importantly, ‘how do I keep them engaged with my product’," says Ratish Nair, chief executive, Interactive Avenues Marketing Solutions Pvt. Ltd.

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