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!