Ashwini Gangal

Are consumers above 40 irrelevant?

Are marketers guilty of a millennial fixation? Or are they merely grabbing a ripe business opportunity?

Watch the full discussion here

India is a young country and a lot of the purchasing power rests with youngsters, presently. However, will millennials – a sharply defined cohort – really drive growth across all conceivable product categories?

To be clear, millennials, also known as Gen Y, are consumers between 25 and 39 years. This age band is flanked by Gen X (40-55 years) and Gen Z aka centennials (below 25 years). One premise this sort of age based classification is based on is that buyers within an age bracket are at a similar life stage and, consequently, share similar needs – needs that brands that can then address.

The second premise is that, broadly, age-mates have some key traits in common – and when an Indian marketer says "millennial", he or she means a type, not an age group. Millennials are characterised as impatient and tech-savvy buyers with low attention spans, who value access over ownership, prefer experiences over material things, and favour brands that come with a larger purpose. So the next time you see a tyre brand vowing to salvage the ozone layer or an apparel brand imploring us to save the oceans, it's safe to assume they're speaking to buyers between 25 and 39.

Are consumers above 40 irrelevant?

A panel of three advertisers and one adman deconstructed the subject, recently. Amit Tiwari, vice president – marketing, Havells India, doesn't subscribe to the Gen X-Y-Z classification at all; instead, he believes it's about catering to Generation–i. “It's about how the internet is connecting brands to their audience, irrespective of age and consumption patterns,” he explained.

“The marketing community is smart and shrewd; every six months they come up with new terminology to impress at board meetings or impress the consumer...” he said, with self deprecating humour, about the 'millennial fixation' he and his fellow marketers appear to be guilty of.

Bimal Kumar Sahoo, marketing manager, Hewlett Packard India, said, “As marketers, we must know who we're going after. It depends on the category. Sometimes it's a sharply defined demographic, sometimes it's a mix of demographics and psychographics.”

Dheeraj Sinha, managing director – India and chief strategy officer – South Asia, Leo Burnett, said, “I've always struggled with the idea of millennials. In advertising, whenever one puts up an image of a millennial, it's usually a guy with curly hair, many tattoos, some piercings here and there... I don't find those kinds of people around me. In ads, there's a certain caricaturisation of youngsters – and of older generations for that matter. We need to be more real... and there's a lot of meat in the generational midpoint between the two (young and old)...”

“A label like millennial must be telescopic,” Sinha opined, insisting that any label must give one an instant visual peek into the mind of the person it represents. The word 'millennial' fails to do that for him.

Why so? “May be because it doesn't come from an Indian context,” he said, going on to classify consumers on the basis of their age at the time of society-shaping events: The Partition Generation – consumers who were in their 20s when India got independence, The Transition Generation – those who were in their 20s when the India's economy was liberalised, and The No Strings Generation – those born in a post-internet world.

“The bulk of the marketing effort in India is directed towards the No Strings Generation,” he lamented.

Concurring, Sandeep Shukla, general manager and head of marketing communications, Jaquar Group (global ops), said, “Largely, these definitions (millennials, baby boomers, etc.) have been borrowed from the West, but there are some synergies that have emerged... In India, some value systems transcend generations. Millennials are a tech-enabled, do-it-yourself generation. They are on the cusp of the generations ahead of them and behind them. So brands can either keep their basic design constant and keep refining it for different generations, or keep changing the design…”

This panel discussion was conducted at the first edition of Great Lifestyle Brands, an event organised by afaqs!.