Posted on 19-09-2010
Filed Under (TRENDS) by Shombit

The Indian EXPRESS/ The Financial EXPRESS article

Why do brands fail to engage the below-30 Digital Zap generation? Making all business decisions today, Compromise (30 to 45 years) and Retro (above 45) generations continue to drive 20th century culture in the 21st century. So last century’s advertisement style does not connect to Zappers. Using new media does not make much sense if the content is not relevant to Zappers.

Although the century gap is a real phenomenon, it seems to have passed by certain daily usage global brands—brands like Heinz ketchup, Coca Cola, Cadbury’s, Mr Clean, Colgate, Evian and Laughing Cow. They may have very good quarter-to-quarter results, but do they keep up with the breakthrough trends the 21st century’s Digital Zap is dazzling us with? The brands can argue that they are sustaining some old values, but do the disruptive Digital Zappers connect to them?

Eight socio-behavioural clusters: Historically, social stratification, from feudal agrarian to socio-economic classification, followed an evolutionary process. But socio-behavioural clusters that defy all predictable segmentation parameters is the revolutionary way of researching into people’s attitudes, behaviour and aspiration in the 21st century. We have studied this phenomenon every year for the last 10 years and find they are common to the three generations.

In all three generational groups, there exist all eight behavioural clusters—Low Key, Value Seeker, Sober, Flamboyant, Critical, Novelty Seeker, Techy and Gizmo Lover. Digital Zappers supremely influence everything, so connecting to them is crucial for the future. The Compromise generation tries hard to follow Zappers in being trendy but doesn’t quite get there. The Retro generation is generally “stiff.”

Is income a factor for audience segmentation? For any business, if you follow the traditional socio-economic stratification of customers, you will not go far today. That’s because the eight socio-behavioural clusters are prevalent across all age groups and generations, all income groups and across all countries. Income is no longer a key factor for purchase of mass products.

The world is moving towards a situation where, at any price point, there has to be cost, quality and aspiration in the selling proposition. Today, even low cost products have trendy aspects. Expensive luxury brands that low income groups cannot afford should not be advertised in mass areas.

Every brand cannot attract every socio-behaviour cluster. For a brand to address all the eight socio behavioural clusters, it requires a huge magnifying glass. It has to unearth the customer behavioural clusters and drive strategic planning accordingly. There will be immense pressure from low cost trendy brands that every one finds affordable. Nike, for example, would connect to the Critical, Flamboyant, Novelty Seeker, Techy and Gizmo lovers. On the other hand, Nivea and Nokia, would address the Sober, Low key, Value Seeker clusters. But the strategy that Swatch watch has created in the West has been so brilliant that it enviably touches all behavioural clusters.

Bulldozing per capital consumption: In developed countries, the consuming base is small, so customers are bulldozed for an increase in per capita consumption. Just look at how many types of product benefits are being offered in the food industry—from functional food to low salt, low fat, organic, sugar free etc. Does this not confuse the customer?

It is amazing that when technology is changing so fast, there is an absolute paucity in creative thinking in the digital world. Digitalisation is commoditising every aspect of business. Look at flat television sets, DVD players and microwave ovens, all brands look the same. These industries suffer from lack of differentiation because the manufacturer’s Compromise and Retro thinking process is not connected to the Zappers’ thinking.

Nightmare of how to penetrate the market: The over-riding phenomenon in developing countries is how to achieve penetration for a product. As the population in these countries is large but the infrastructure poor, the nightmare is how to reach people in remote places. Another challenge is catering to the vast cultural differences of customers.

In India, from one joint family structure there are now seven different living conditions— there are bachelors living alone, young couples, nuclear family with children, either with only the husband working or both husband and wife working, the joint and neo-joint families and retired couples. Family size cues the quantity and size of the product, clarifies stock keeping unit size for efficient supply chain management, indicates the price band and sharpens the inventory. It gives an idea of what products to bundle as special offers, helps to maximise space at the retail as per the catchment requirement, and provides high proximity to different family size buyers and the retailer.

Experiential product research that delves into the psycho-socio-behavioural context gives the socio-behavioural dimension. I have often seen researchers go to the market for validation with structured preparation. So, before the customers even start talking, they have already established what they want to find. This is not right. With a global mind frame, we need to achieve local proximity to deliver extra benefit. Research cannot be like the wheat pasta dough that you can put in a machine to get a variety of different shapes of pasta or noodles as per your expectation.

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