N. Shatrujeet

8 dominant 'rituals' reflect young Indian male behaviour: Rediff study

By decoding the advertising directed at the young Indian male, the study attempts to uncover new communication possibilities aimed at this consumer

In an attempt to identify distinct behavioural patterns among young Indian males and arrive at a core socio-cultural value that drives this species, Rediffusion | DYR recently conducted a first-of-its-kind study that attempts to analyze this consumer segment by decoding the advertising directed at them. The purpose of the analysis (based on social scientist Geert Hofstede's model of understanding human societies and cultures) is to understand the dominant rituals that young Indian males subscribe to, and thereby unearth new brand planning and communication possibilities for advertising targeted at these consumers.

"There are several youth studies that have been done before and there is a lot of material on the subject that can be got off the Net," agrees K Subramanian, planning director, Rediffusion | DYR, whose team undertook the study. "However, what is unique about what we have done is that while all previous studies tried to understanding the consumer by looking and talking at him directly, we have studied him through the media and advertising he consumes. This has never been attempted before."

The reasoning at Rediffusion is fairly simple. Society and culture is shaped by a variety of external stimuli, media being one of the more prominent among them. And over the past decade or so, advertising has emerged as a key component of media, and has thus become a significant stimulus in itself. "More than ever before, advertising has started influencing Indian society, and this target segment (the young Indian male in the 18-to-25-years bracket) consumes media and advertising voraciously," Subramanian points out. "Our reasoning was that if advertising is a culture-forming stimulus, why not look at a sizeable body of advertising to see how advertising shapes and reflects today's youth."

Towards this end, the agency identified five broad product categories that addressed this segment - Alcohol, Automotive, Apparel, Accessories and Foods. Next, 2,600 pieces of advertising (2,200 print ads and 400 television commercials) from across 150-odd brands were compiled and analyzed. The ads were decoded for emotive payoffs (the emotion each ad flags off), kinds of appeal (tonality), the relationships they depicted (how the protagonists in the ad interact with one another), the setting/ambience used (urban, rural etc) and the language used (formal speech, everyday lingo, Hinglish etc). "We then did a bottom-up compilation and clustering to find commonalities, and arrive at the primary rituals of the young Indian male," says Subramanian. "What we discovered is that as far as this segment is concerned, there are eight dominant rituals (or behavioural clusters) that advertising either reflects, forms or cues into - consciously or subconsciously."

The first of these is an ‘orientation towards success', with a desire to make an ‘arrived-in-life' statement about the self. This can, of course, have an external and internal manifestation. The advertising for brands such as Van Heusen (power dressing), Arrow (refinement) and McDowell's Signature (the young CEO) exemplify the desire to make a badge of success. The ‘need to stand out in a crowd' is another behavioural trait. "The need to be distinct and get noticed, maybe through one-upmanship or by stoking envy in peers, is real," Subramanian says. Ads that plug this need-gap include the ones for the Nokia 8310 (‘soup bowls'), Kinetic GF (‘Jiya jale…') and Dockers.

I-am-like-that-only-with-a-vengeance is the third behavioural cluster. The strong individualistic streak is hard to suppress, with an accent on being unconventional, discarding set rules and making ones own rules. The advertising for Sprite, Hugo Boss and Weekender celebrates this ‘my own way' spirit. If being different from the tribe and being self-driven are two dominant rituals, almost paradoxically, ‘building bridges' is another dominant trait. Here, the need to be an integral part of society and culture seems to be the driver, so the so-called generation gap collapses as father-son and uncle-nephew bonding takes over (Vimal and Close-up Lime Fresh). Also, there is a melding of the east and the west, where traditions are adhered to, but on more contemporary terms (‘Hamaara Bajaj' and Siyaram).

Letting the hair down and spending time with friends is yet another ritual. Here, the objective is either breaking monotony or simply letting the good times roll. Bagpiper (‘Khoob jamega rang…') and Kingfisher (‘good times') are examples of ads that cue into this behaviour. ‘Quintessential machismo' is something that seems to go down well with this segment, whether it is standing up for a cause (the ‘traffic light' ad for Caliber) or plain and simple bravado (Thums Up). Heroism that does others good is amply reflected in advertising, but it need not only be about brawn. The ‘car park' ad for McDowell's No. 1 is one where mind wins over matter.

Coming across as ‘attractive to the opposite sex' is, of course, a high-priority ritual. "Here, the thing can range from pure fantasy (the ‘striptease' ad for AC Black) to pure romance (Expressions) to flirtation and a little fun on the side (Parx)," Subramanian observes. Finally, there is the need for ‘the surreal or the exaggerated', be it in terms of extreme humour, or the kind of heightened experience that a lot of techno brands use in advertising.

"These rituals are not exclusive to one another, and an individual can subscribe to more than one ritual at different points in time," Subramanian clarifies. "The core value of the young Indian male that can be derived from these rituals is ‘Assertive Gratification.' Today's youth are clear about themselves and things around them, have a point of view on everything and are not reluctant about voicing those opinions. They make a statement with whatever they do, and this makes them more assertive compared to the kids of yesterday, who were more passive and receding. Also, the emphasis today is on the ‘I', so gratification - be it material, emotional or spiritual - of the self comes first.

Looking at this from the advertising point of view - and Subramanian says the agency has sliced the data in different ways, without revealing all the findings - distinct possibilities emerge. "One of the things we have done is see what are the dominant rituals used in each of the five categories," he says. "Now, apparel advertising, for instance, almost always rests in the areas of ‘success orientation' and ‘seeking distinctiveness' - even more so when you consider shirt advertising, with the possible exception of Parx. The other ‘ritual' areas have not been used here. This either means that the category codes here are unbreakable and whatever you do has to fall within. Or it means that there is a window of opportunity that allows you to look at the other behavioural clusters to tap into."

Subramanian believes that findings offer brands strong competitive advantages. "You can look at competing brands and tailor your course accordingly. And even if your proposition is the same as that of your competitor the study lets you look at treating the creative differently. And even the same communication idea can be treated differently by cuing into a different ritual. You really don't have to be the fifth denim brand that is either ‘tough' or ‘attractive to the opposite sex'." © 2003 agencyfaqs!