Thursday, February 14, 2008

Man Oh Man

About a decade ago, most marketing people would discuss how the Indian woman is changing and how we can leverage the understanding of this change to drive differentiated brand positions. I used to work in a marketing team that used to target women and I remember discussions around how attitudes and needs are changing dramatically for the Indian woman across demographics and geographies. Today, I think the change has happened and now the movement seems to be a bit more linear and no so dramatic.
Then there has been a lot of research money spent on understanding the huge change happening in kids, teens, tweens etc. All these consumer groups have been under the scanner over the last decade.
The Indian Man has been conspicuous by his absence in the discussions around change in this period though. While this may not be true for brands that go after the male in a very sharp manner, generally speaking this is the trend that I have observed.
But things are changing suddenly and very fast – suddenly the Indian man is all over the psyche of the Marketing folks and every one wants a slice of this change pie in the Indian Man.
Lets, face it. The 35-year-old urban male is where a lot of the consumption action is. While the woman controls and influences most of the household and family consumption, the socio economic and cultural environment in India being what it is, the Individual consumption of the CWE (Chief Wage Earner) multiplied by his size makes for the single largest consuming group when you segment the market by age and gender. This means that if there had been a change in this animal in the past, the marketers would have been quick to spot trends and jump in them – but – nothing seems to have happened, in the post liberalization era even. Of course, the size of spending and income levels have changed but attitudes, wants, roles, cultural codes and functional and emotional needs from products and brands have not really evolved beyond what they used to be.
But why is every one excited all of a sudden – why is the Indian Man changing and what is the change.
Very broadly, the buckets in which life of this group can be slotted are 1.Work 2.Family and 3. Self. Historically, work and self have been the key priorities for this group and family has been some one that they need to provide for, receive and give love and quite often a source of fulfilling the self actualization needs of the self. The weight ages of each of these buckets have not changed over several years and hence the man has not changed.
Suddenly the family bucket has changed – today its not some thing that you just need to provide for and love and be loved. Today the expectation of the environment is to be involved to be immersed and to love doing it. Kids expect and need that involvement, wives need it. The guys who do it are no longer pansies and “joru kaa ghulaams”, but they are the real men. Its no longer un macho to cry, its great to be able to express your feelings openly and freely. Its stupid now to walk into the sun with a broken heart and a smile on your face. There are three big implications for brands and markwting people due to the change - The bottomline ...

1. Since the rules are changing there is a strong need for anchors where the man can park himself and justify to himself that its okay to make this transition. I suspect this is an area that brands could play a role.

2. The weight of the expectation from others for him to make the change just like every one else seems to be doing is huge. The rules by which he could be cool earlier are almost signs of immaturity and foolishness. The new rules and the pressure of this expectation is huge. This is where I think there is an opportunity for new products and new business ideas to be born.
3. The sacrifice that he has to make on the third bucket, i.e. the Self-bucket, in order to manage the other two buckets is also huge. Considering that the Indian male has been fairly selfish and spoilt for all these years – this change is creating a big emotional void and a feeling of incompleteness. Again an insight that can lead to opportunity unlocking.

Folks, this time our guys cant get away. This time its not just for show, but for real…it’s a big change for our big guys…and it has all the qualitative research agencies and brand managers excited. Excited like hell because the monolith has finally woken, its finally standing and is finally moving. Every one wants to get under in a great position to fire that silver bullet on the soft underbelly, lest the beast sits down again and only the hard skin is visible to chip away on. God knows the next time the buggers get up again may be after 20 years!


Anonymous said...


You've layed out a premise, but if you were making this presentation to me, I would ask you to : what does this translate to, bottom-line wise?

Does the AIM (Avg Indian Male), now that he is concentrating on Self, as you put it, buy more face lotions, go to more spas, buy more high-end shaving and grooming products, sign up for more health club memberships, travel more abroad (for vacations i.e.)? What does he do, I ask you, as you are the marketing expert?

I wish you would have had a more 360 degree approach to your post. It was like a meal that had the first few courses but you left the last few courses unserved. What are we talking of, in real terms? What does your philosophical/observational take, lead to, Dev?

Considering the fact that (in many cases) the woman in the household (apart form being a major breadwinner herself) is also THE major decision holder in what to buy/ where to go ,etc. would you rather not target her concerns, as a marketer? Am I missing something here? Plz enlighten me.

Also, I do not know if this is available in Indian stores, but, may I (humbly, as ever...he he he) make this suggestion -- plz read this terrific book:

Although this book tries to slice and dice various "microtrends" in the US, can we, apply similar analogies to our Indian demographics? For eg -- would you target-specific the Punjabi/Haryanvi male (more whisky than say, beer for him, more tea than say coffee for him, more pizzas with butter chicken toppings for him, more movies with Deol brothers in them...) versus, say the Chennai professional female (Kanjeevaram sarees for special occasions with actresses modelling such as like Kushboo, Suhasini, Simran, etc, how will you leverage Sun TV to target her needs, would you promote tourism needs for her in Ooty, Kodai, Palghat, Guruvayoor, etc i.e. in hillstataions and holy placesin Tamil Nadu and Kerala for her, etc)? Would you create a whole marketing strategy for kids whose parents have more disposbale income?

I'd like to know more about what you were driving at, with egs that could be embodied/relatable in real life...



Dev said...

aah - looks like I have not been able to connect at all with you on this one Sri. Maybe its written with Brand Managers in mind.

The man is not focussing on the self - I said he is not able to focus on the self and hence there may be some oportunities.

The purpose of this post is to talk about a major trend that one is seeing and how it may be relevant for Brand Managers. The idea was not to serve a 4 course meal, the idea was only to provoke - to provide some food for thougth. I have done some editing - maybe understanding the post may get a bit easier now. Sorry dude - If i missed u on this one

Anonymous said...

Hello Dev,

Arre sahi man...sweet...I love it...hee hee hee....I get it! Like Quick Gun Murugan (Modalu sambar, aparama nee), I should have read your post after eating something. I was on an empty stomach when I read your post and hence, was not able to digest it (pun intended).

I want to ask you another question -- as a marketing guy, you profess that you are seeing these changes. But, just like the classic chicken or egg dilemma, is it possible for Brand Managers to hasten that change (or even create a new change), by inserting certain agents/catalysts (as implied in your bullet point 2.)? I am very eager to know what *specific* agents of change can you think of, man?
For eg -- I have seen that a lot of people get cues from Bollywood/Tollywood/Kollywood, etc. These cues could be anything from hairstyle, motorbikes, cars, lifestyle choices, etc. Indian movies almost certainly validate what is kosher or not. For eg -- I have seen on internet clips and at friends' homes here that Indian movie songs have become quite openly sexual (in the past few years. I am not a regular Bollywood watcher. So, my knowledge on them is not cutting-edge) Now, is that a reflection of what has been going on in Indian society in the past few years or are these movies giving cues to folks that we need not be so puritanical.

In short, do you guys, as Brand Managers initiate the changes or do you just reflect the changes that are taking place?

One last thing -- in classic B-school ishtyle, could you explain your hypothesis with an eg, just like case studies, if you know what I mean, even a couple of lines will do the trick man. It'll really help drill the concept home, instead of just ideas that are floating all over your post.



Dev said...

To a large extent I think a trend feeds on iteself and keeps getting bigger. Initially, it may start as something small and then sudenly (when it reaches "tipping point" - read the book), you start seeing its reflection in movies and brand postions, advertising etc etc and the trend becomes huge. Yes, Brand managers may find it very difficult to create a new trend (possible but difficult) but they can catch a trend early and make it huge, while reaping benefits. Since you are pushing me I will give you an example to bring alive the Male evolution trend that I am seeing. For The Man needs anchors where he can park his emotions, An Airline Brand can offer late night flights as the product solution. It can also offer on these flights gifts that u could pick up for your family - toys and flowers for e.g - the brand could be positioned as "we know u r trying hard to be the man every one wants u to be...we understand the pressure...dont worry big guy, we are with you"

AAAHAARRRGGGG@#@#@$ - I am not enjoying giving you this example - i wanted this post to be a bit loose on the specifics and only an appetiser, a stimulus that makes you take out what ever u wish from it - but kaa karen ! Sri - tune mujhe mazboor kar diya !!

Shrinidhi Hande said...

I do not quite agree on the 3 bucket thing-by and large men didn't care much about self (brand consciousness, style statements, show offs, shopping etc, except may be in certain specific age group) Anything that serves the purpose was just fine. Family factor was always there, but more in the form of say saving for a home/education/marriage etc than for taking them on a vacation.

Now probably this shift, if any, may be more towards short term delightments (travel abroad, fancy car etc) than long term fulfillments.

nevertheless with the change you're predicting what is in it for me as a consumer? Will it only result in more and more girls in commercials of men's products?

Dev said...

Srinidhi - What i meant by self was more like, spending time with the boys club, following intellectual pursuits on their own, watching sports (cricket on TV) etc. There could be a lot in it for you as a consumer - more brands and products that help you deal with the pressure in the changing paradigm could be one obvious thing.

Anonymous said...

Hi dev,
Thanks for ur thoughts...just to cooment on ur Bucket thng...guess u hav generelized the "Indian Men" a bit.
Men start earning pretty early these days...thanks to BPO boom in india...(which turns boys into men as they start earning)..and if i may nt count parents in family assuming the spouse nd child as family...i thnk men in the age group of 20-26 does nt satisfy ur bucket he cares bout is work and self...
waiting for further comments from ur side

Anonymous said...


I "get it" -- I understand what you're driving at. Basically, from your vantage point, you have detected a phenomenon that is in its nascent stages. You are obviously way ahead of the curve. That's what makes you a Brand Manager and the rest of us are mere duffers.

I have to torment you a little bit more -- the target male demo (very very broadly speaking) is going to be from the pool of 300 million people or so (not all of them being upper middle class. They may be college educated but not yet upper middle class), who are benefitting from the fruits of liberalization. However, for the males in the other 700-800 million pool of people, would you recommend anything specific. For eg -- when I was in India, Ganesh beedi was a very strong and reputable brand, man. Would you, based on the inceasing mainstream-ization of Bhojpuri films, use them to target certain demos in the BIMARU belt? I know I'm thinking out loud here, but would, you, for eg, use a very powerful Hindi newspaper in N India (Dainik Jagran is big?!!) or in Tamil Nadu (Daily Thanthi/Dinaakaran papers) or in Maharashtra (Loksatta/Lokmat/Maharasthra Times) to perpetuate/promote/attract certain trends for males there? My generic query to you is -- shouldn't Brand Managers care for those males too? Do they??!! I do not want to say that males in this demo have NOT benefitted from liberalization or that they are all poor or something. I'm sorry but I realize my post gives that impression....there are so many males in this demo who prefer access to regional media mainly and have enormous purses....


Dev said...

TC - You are right, I am talking about the 35 yr old, big bucks earning, having 2 kids type of Indian Male

Sri - OF course Brand Managers who handle Brands that target the lower SEC, non metro male audience will use the media that reaches them the best. There are several options other than the ones u have mentioned as well. The trend I have talked about is wrt the Urban (Metro skewed, higher SEC, may be A1+ type of Male)

Sudhir syal said...

Hi Dev,

Read your post and read the comments. Though, as you yourself have expressed here - it's a little focussed on brand managers. 'Gavar' types like us, might not be able to understand it completely, and you perhaps could have written that disclaimer right on top:)

Now that I think about it, I certainly see that change. Man has certainly looked at identifying his own pursuits, his own areas of unique expertise. Today Dev writes, Rajeev plays golf and Arjun goes to the shooting range. Previously, all three of them would probably have sat at home and looked into the accounts of the house.

There has been a point of inflection. Certainly. A Tippling point. But like the book, which left me wondering why the exact change happened ( Like with the Hush Puppies example). I would like for you to answer why this change has happened?

You could even say that why it's happened is not important. And you would be right. But hey, nothing wrong in putting forth an explanation...

Dev said...

Sudhir - To answer why it has happened very specifically would mean I would be answering why trends happen - if i have the answer to that I would be writing "my tipping point" and you, its preface and its book review :-). May be it has to do with global exposure and global travel and being exposed to how men across the world normally behave, maybe its to do with lots of our desis coming back and being different. Maybe the new woman (who has already chaged significantly in the last decade) chooses to have more sex with more men who display these behaviours (the last on is a sure shot way to fast track a trend :-). I really dont know - it could be host of things and a combination of several also.

But generally speaking, I guess a trend starts slowly by a few people because of what ever reason (Like the hush puppies example), however, there is an element of coolness attached with it (hush puppies for example was cool as it was unique dated etc). This coolness satisfies some emotional unmet need in other people and they take it on because now it is not only cool, but it also makes a difference to their lives. Typically these first two groups would be opinion leaders. Now there are a lot of followers who will adopt the trend because there are others doing this. Some where in this process some one will read this trend and make a movie about it (Taare Zameen par - its OK to cry BIG Guys). Typically the film Industry is the fastest to pick up trends as they are experts in understanding human behavior. Then Brand Managers pick it up and do stuff with it. By now it has become so huge that every one is touched by it and its now a trend.

There are 3 stages to it really. Stage 1 is the "FAD" stage - can last for 6 months to a year but then dies as it has no sustainable coolness driving factor/Does not really touch lives – most fashion falls in this category. Stage 2 : Some FADS can become trends, can have a lifespan of a decade or so and typically would not stretch across the globe but would be restricted to Nations/Cultures and Stage 3 : When it becomes huge, with very large implications over many decades across nations etc (For e.g Vegiteranianism, Green Movement etc.

Hope this makes some sense.

Sudhir syal said...

Yes - I agree. But sometimes, all of this is purely coincidental and when someone looks back and studies it - it turns out to be a great Marketing trend.

Taare Zameen Par for instance, was a reflection of understanding how man has changed which naturally came out in the film. I don't think Aamir Khan didn't think about even a quarter of the things you've written about here while making the film.

I agree with you on the trends bit. But for a lot of trends, there has been defined reasons. If you've read Freakonomics for instance, the reason for the crime rate to fall in New York was actually because the ban on abortion was removed.

This could make some sense. I agree with you. I think, by us 'blogging', we are showing our 'New male' sides and maybe girls dig it and we will get more ...

Anyway. :)

The crux of it is that what is considered 'cool' itself changes, and that is very important.

Dev said...

Think of it Like this Sudhir. Maybe Aamir Khan the Man also changed due to the trend. Therefore in the movie he found it OK to cry. He may have not made this movie 10 years back becasue he had not been exposed to the trend.

You are absolutely right that its easier to do a retrospective analysis - but for Businesses the message is still the same - if u can catch it early, you can milk it.

Paramvir Thakur said...

Hi Dev,

When you mention 35 yr old, having 2 kids type of Indian Male ( typically urban )..i see 2 trends developing..maybe still in the first stage of fads... mens fairness pdts & the male fitness(6pack abs )trends..highlighted by Bollywood.


Dev said...

Paramvir, thats a really interesting observation. Again an indication of the man trying to expand the defination and the meaning of the "self" vector.

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