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American Tourister launched a new advertising campaign for its backpacks called #GoSwagPackin. The new commercial launched on TV and digital platforms featured Virat Kohli.
American Tourister launched a new advertising campaign for its backpacks called #GoSwagPackin. The new commercial launched on TV and digital platforms featured Virat Kohli.

Opinion | Brands cash in on the ‘swag’ factor among the youth

Brands have realized that ‘swag’ is synonymous with youth’s confident spirit

Earlier this month, American Tourister launched a new advertising campaign for its backpacks called #GoSwagPackin. The new commercial launched on TV and digital platforms featured Virat Kohli. At the launch of the new campaign, Anushree Tainwala, executive director marketing, Samsonite South Asia, said Kohli fits perfectly with American Tourister and “reflects the best attributes of today’s India—go-getter spirit, assertive individuality, and, most importantly, swagger".

In February, at least two other brands—Pepsi, and Johnson & Johnson’s face wash Clean & Clear—used the term “swag" in their communication to the young millennial and GenZ consumers. According to Pew Research Center, the millennial is the consumer cohort born between 1981 and 1996 (ages 23 to 38 in 2019). Anyone born since 1997 is part of a new generation it now calls Generation Z or Gen Z. The oldest among GenZ are just turning 22 this year, and most are still in their teens or even younger, according to Pew Research.

It’s not difficult to see why “swag" is becoming the word of the year in brand campaigns. It probably describes and defines the consumer segment that these brands are addressing like no other word. Pepsi, for instance, talks about har ghoont mein swag in its summer campaign. Speaking to Mint earlier, Tarun Bhagat, director-marketing, hydration and cola, PepsiCo India, said that the Indian youth has never been more confident and aspirational as it is now. They are effortless and armed with self-belief. They know that they no longer need to follow a set path to fit in. Through its conversations with consumers, the brand discovered that the one word that resonates most strongly with consumers is “swag". It is a synonym for their confident spirit and is a sentiment, which is prevalent in young consumers across the country. The word “swag’, he says, defines today’s millennials and har ghoont mein swag refers to living in the moment and seizing opportunities—all with a swag.

Clean & Clear cashed in on the same attitude among teenagers. It launched unbottle apna swag—a marketing campaign that celebrates different teen personalities though limited edition My Swag Bottles. The personalities were identified as fun, bakbak, bindaas, foodie and padhaku. The campaign by DDB Mudra Group asked girls to express themselves proudly whatever their personality.

Shagun Seda, executive creative director, DDB Mudra, said the unbottle apna swag campaign is a departure from the functional world of product promises to an emotional one celebrating teen attitude. Conversations with teenagers revealed that each of them has a facet or quirk to their personality, which makes them who they are. “Teens are proud to wear their personalities on their sleeve. Clean & Clear wants to celebrate this teen behaviour by encouraging them to put their true selves out there," she says.

The brand came up with “swag" as it was looking for a word that captures the intent perfectly, but still leaves room for imagination. In this context, “swag" means anything that teens believe is their uniqueness. Seda said the word adequately expresses the young consumer today. “The Urban Dictionary defines swag as the new generation’s alternative word for ‘cool’. The Oxford English Dictionary says the word has been derived from swagger, and used in slang to denote ‘bold self-assurance in style or manner’, or ‘an air of great self-confidence or superiority’. While the internet still debates over whether swag is a millennial word or one used by GenZ, it continues to be liberally used in pop culture and teen lingo, and stands for the same thing in almost all contexts," she added.

Interestingly, Tainwala of Samsonite said that this is not the first time that the brand has employed the term in its communication. It first launched the #SwagPack campaign last year. “We were early to the party," agreed Abhinav Tripathi, executive creative director, McCann India, which created the advertisement. “We wanted to up the swag this year. A backpack is not just a capsule to keep things in for millennials. It is a fashion accessory. It reflects their attitude and is an extension of their personality. We wanted it to be more than just a backpack to get social currency. We wanted it to be a swag pack," said Tripathi.

Besides, Tainwala said that the word swag is neither metro-centric nor niche. “It resonates as much in smaller towns as in Bollywood. With this, we can talk to a larger audience."

Shuchi Bansal is Mint’s media, marketing and advertising editor. Ordinary Post will look at pressing issues related to all three. Or just fun stuff

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