Advertisers need to reach the 'excitement consumer', says Rajeev Bakshi

By , agencyfaqs! | In | February 18, 2003
Speaking at this year's Annual Ad Review, Pepsi's honcho argued that the dilemma facing advertisers is how to pitch themselves to consumers in an increasingly homogenous world

As the convergence of consumer segments occurs, the dilemma facing advertisers is how to pitch themselves to consumers in an increasingly homogenous world, where traditional rules pertaining to segmentation along age and income groups no longer necessarily hold. This, in a nutshell, was the core argument that Rajeev Bakshi, chairman, PepsiCo India, presented before a sizeable gathering of advertising professionals in Mumbai last evening. The occasion: this year's Annual Ad Review, organized by the Bombay Ad Club, where Bakshi was the guest reviewer.

Without pigeonholing the advertising from the year gone by into 'good' and 'bad' (as has been wont in the past), Pepsi's honcho chose to draw attention to a couple of broad concepts/insights vis-à-vis a changed consumer environment. He then demonstrated how some of the advertising from 2002 fit into (or reflected) these consumer insights.

'Youth stretching' was the first concept Bakshi touched upon. "Youthfulness is being pursued by the Indian consumer like never before," he said. Quoting from statistics, he revealed that in 2002, 47 per cent of the total ad spends on television went behind 'youth-oriented' categories. Interestingly, however, he revealed that the element of 'youthfulness' was not limited to traditional youth constituencies. Referring to statistics, Bakshi showed that youthfulness, as a concept, found strong appeal in the 25-44 age group. "These are the children of liberalization, and there is a strong desire in them to express their youthfulness and stay young," he said. "So they display conscious casualness, are 'friend figures' to their children, have a strong entrepreneurial mindset with a desire to exercise their creativity and imagination to experiment, are highly ambitious and highly individualistic." But most importantly, they want to preserve their youth.

To make his point, Bakshi alluded to the commercials for ICICI Prudential Life Insurance's retirement solutions ('Retirement… sirf kaam se') and Cadbury Temptations ('phone call'). "Here is an ad for retirement that is still not about retirement," he pointed out. "And the Temptations ad is all about the child in you. Both are clearly about people above the age of 35, so both are 'youth stretching'." To explain the entrepreneurial mindset, Bakshi cited the Standard Chartered Bank ad ('Hoga, hoga') - the belief in oneself and one's capacity to make things happen. He also dwelt upon the ongoing Western-versus-Oriental tussle within the consumer, where the willingness to experiment with the new/modern is tempered by the rigidity of tradition. "It's a period of conflict and reconciliation," Bakshi said, drawing parallels to the Pizza Hut ad ('masala pizza'). "So what emerges is a neo-traditionalist who wears Versace to work, but goes to Vaishno Devi the next day."

This consumer is also "unwilling to let life be a spectator sport". So he/she is in the thick of action, be it holidaying or partying. And yes, everything about him/her is an image statement, an attitude. A functional accessory or tool simply won't do any longer. So the cell phone isn't about making and receiving calls but about being cool and at the centre of attention (the Samsung 'It sing' ad). While a car is as much about youthful flirtation (Santro's 'Sunshine car') and doing things differently (WagonR) as it is a means of private transport. "You are a person, you are the brand, and that's all that matters to this highly individualistic set of chilled-out adults," says Bakshi.

The second concept Bakshi discussed at length was about the SEC C or 'Savvy Subsisters' phenomenon. Using PK Dubey - a.k.a. Parbatlal Kanhaiyalal Dubey a.k.a. Vijay Raaz from Monsoon Wedding - as the SEC C mascot, Bakshi argued that the SEC C consumer in India "mocks Maslow's hierarchy" by defying the logic of subsistence. "In Monsoon Wedding, PK Dubey flaunts a mobile phone, has an email address and even has printed visiting cards. That is today's SEC C consumer. SEC C consumers are not limiting themselves to their means, and they display a zealousness to convert," he said. Reading from statistics, he pointed out that the so-called subsisters in India voiced a propensity to 'live it up' that outmatched the aspirations of higher SECs. "For SEC Cs, media exposure is as high as that for SEC A and B, and many ads that talk to SEC A consumers resonate with SEC C consumers, in terms of aspiration." Bakshi cited the ad for Whirlpool's 'Fast Forward Ice' ('mother's birthday') as one such example.

Having tabled the concepts of 'youth stretching' and 'savvy subsisters', Bakshi put a poser: with demarcated consumer segments (either on the age parameter or in terms of income) collapsing into one another, how do advertisers pitch themselves? There are no badge consumers (SEC A), no value consumers (SEC C), only 'excitement consumers', Bakshi believes. Citing the example of the Center Shock ad ('barber'), he reasoned that ads should cut across consumer profiles and get consumers excited about the product. Peppering his case with a handful of foreign commercials (including Nike's 'Tag' and NASCAR's 'jogger'), he added that advertisers had to move from "selling to seducing. A new individual is emerging from the convergence, and the way to reach him is through excitement." © 2003 agencyfaqs!

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