Marketers over the years, have invested both time and money in understanding the woman consumer. The truth, however, is that there are very few studies which have tried to understand the 'Indian man', except in terms of his relationship with the 'woman'. So to paraphrase Star Trek, we decided to boldly research what no one had researched before and embarked on the ManMood project.
The learnings were assimilated from over 27 Mind & Mood Workshops as well as 16 in-home family interactions among SEC A&B households, generating over 100 hours of free and frank conversations. This served as a singularly rich source of insights and understanding into the Indian man. These were further enriched by analysis of data points from secondary sources like the Indian Readership Survey and Target Group Index. Literature reviews of almost 75 studies and reports, including the FCB Ulka Hindi Magazine Study and The Cogito Consulting Reel vs. Real Life Report, were consulted.
The study uncovers the myriad dimensions of the life, challenges, aspirations, fears and dreams of the Indian man. The focus of this article is the implications of these findings for marketers. We have looked at some key categories with a view to give marketers an understanding of how the male consumer interacts with them.
Electronics and gadgets: bigger is better
Home electronics is a category where the traditional game of one-upmanship is being played to the hilt. Bigger devices or more expensive ones are chased at the cost of indebtedness.
The acquisition of an expensive electronic item obviates the concern of taking on a loan due to the perceived image as an 'asset'.
At the same time, today, electronics also need to express a décor theme since looks are becoming as important as features in some categories driving consumer choice.
However, even as excitement is rising in most categories, among affluent audiences an element of mobile fatigue is being expressed with incremental changes unable to generate the upgrade hysteria of the previous years.
Financial planning: money matters
The attitude to money perhaps is one of the biggest changes in the Indian consumer landscape. This generation does not value money as an asset but rather as an enabler. Accordingly, the attitude to money is not of conservation but of optimal utilisation to achieve desires.
But money is also one of the biggest stress factors for today's consumers as expenses and inflation mount. Estimating the correct amount of money for a better tomorrow is becoming tougher and tougher.
Today's consumers are looking for help with managing money but are being alienated by the confusing and alienating language spoken by the financial organisations or the rosy pictures without any real basis in facts which are being propounded through communication.
Male grooming: vanity thy name is man
The importance of grooming is being brought home to the Indian man empathically by a variety of factors - not the least of which is Bollywood and television. There is a significant incidence of appearance anxiety today among the youth and young consumers, who easily ascribe a clear relationship between grooming and success.
The repertoire of grooming products used by men increases exponentially the lower you go down the age ladder. But interestingly, in the less economically affluent segments, it is often the man who introduces newer, branded cosmetics into households, even as the woman of the house often continues to use traditional remedies.
TV: rising attraction
Indian television has changed dramatically from the early 2000s when saas bahu serials first came into prominence. From being entirely female led with the male characters normally playing a bit role, today's prime time soaps increasingly rely as much as prominent male characters as much as the female characters.
A significant impact of this has been the increased bond between men and GECs with the average time spent per month on GECs almost doubling over the past 5 years.
However, in affluent households, the emergence of the second screen - whether laptop, mobile or tablet - has meant that men use these as an escape instead of fighting for the remote.
Car buying is more democratic
The car buying decision, which for years has been the sole preserve of the male of the household, has today become a family buying decision and it is the wife who often holds the veto power on the brand buying decision.
Increasingly, the consumer also appreciates the fact that the choice of car styles today is no longer defined by the budget, body shapes are increasingly a factor of personal choice and a sub-Rs 10 lakh budget today affords you the choice of a hatchback, sedan, SUV or an MUV depending on your needs and personality.
While shopping, men display a high level of achievement orientation rather than search orientation. They prefer to buy something rather than walk out empty-handed from a store even if it is sub-optimal.
Online shopping has opened up the world of brands to men outside the metros and they are increasingly willing to jump into this new world of choices and styles. More importantly, on a psychological level, online shopping almost recreates the feeling of a hunt with the guy who cracks the best deal winning boasting rights.
In a nutshell, the new Indian man is a marketer's dream consumer with an ever-increasing appetite for consumption. However, in this exciting new world much of what was fixed for generations has today become flexible, there are new codes of behaviour expected.
Marketers need to identify these and move in line with their consumers.
(The author is head, strategic planning, FCB Ulka, Mumbai)