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NUFgen Marketing or, Selling to the New Urban Family (cont.)


Sudhir Karar...At lunchtime, Sunil comes looking for me. When he sees my swollen face and red eyes, he bites back whatever he was intending to say. He brings me a cool, wet towel, and a couple of aspirin. He holds me as one would hold a child who's had a nightmare, and rubs my back and tells me he's there for me if I want to talk. When I shake my head, he nods equably. A few minutes later, I hear him on the phone, ordering takeout Chinese from The Golden Dragon, my favourite restaurant. When the food arrives, he sets it out on trays and brings it to the bed, fragrant steam rising from the little red-and-white containers of fried rice, chowmein, and Kung Pao chicken. He fills a plate and hands it to me and starts telling me about a funny incident at work
Sister Of My Heart, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Track him as he transits from tradition. The NUF Man is changing in 3 ways as a result of family forces:

The stereotypical hunter--the provider for the family--is giving way to the power-sharer, who is no longer the sole authority by virtue of being the only earning member of the family. As Man P:SNAP, 1997, points out, the proposition of the working woman as wife--with the rider that children do not suffer--is acceptable to the man (score: 4 on a 5-point scale).

The veto power on purchases that flows from the status of sole bread-earner is being diluted. Since the woman and the children in the NUF are able to finance many of their own purchase-decisions, what the man is being compelled to provide is approval--not rejection. Claims Sonia Pal, 29, Group Project Manager, MBL Research & Consultancy Group: "The extent to which he exercises his traditional veto power is falling too." But, as Man P:SNAP, 1997, points out, the transition is creating its own tensions as the male tries to adjust to the new power equations within the family.

As his original source of authority gets eroded, the man is being forced to raise himself in the esteem of his wife and children through other means, such as his personal appearance. Agrees ORG-MARG's Gupta: "The man's attitude towards his grooming is changing."

Against this backdrop, the NUF Man-as-husband is no longer limited to being the bread-earner and the muscleman. The rising pressures of gender equality, coupled with a genuine shift to the sharing of domestic responsibilities, is making him move into what Contract Advertising's Srivastava describes as "the shopping zone and, increasingly, the cooking zone." In fact, the last province of no-man's land, the cleaning zone, is about to be invaded too, anticipation of which is evident in Chaitra Leo Burnett's commercials for P&G's Ariel detergent, where it is men, and not women, who are depicted in the process of communicating the product's ease of use.

Explains Asit Mehra, 39, International Client Director, APL: "Mr Mom as an attitudinal entity was non-existent here, but things are changing." Most important, the concerns of the woman are now being shared by the man. So, when purchase-decisions include these concerns, it is both the husband and wife who are involved. A classic example: the choice of washing-machine, given its benefits, was always the woman's. But now, an awareness of the needs served by the product is bringing men into the decision-making process, a transition being used by NPL, whose storyline for its washing-machine ads presents the husband buying the product for his wife.

Smart marketers are picking up these cues, and weaving them back into their product as well as product-delivery vehicles. Companies like LG and Samsung, for instance, are factoring in the male participation in the purchase of durables like refrigerators and washing-machines. For, the value of these appliances are, increasingly, being perceived by the NUF Man, who uses them--for the benefit of his family--personally. Thus, although LG's primary target-audience for the pitch for its refrigerators remain women in high-income households, it chose its media to communicate directly to men too. Confirms Rajeev Karwal, 36, Vice-President, LG Electronics India: "We bought 3 spots per day on a wholly male-dominated TV channel like CNBC for the entire period of the campaign."

Family Jewels

Nicholas G SmithIt's a sparkling example of marketing a brand to the entire family. The first company in India--as, indeed, in the world--to market branded diamonds, De Beers is offering the value of its product to the entire family, playing skilfully on relationships as well as the approval factor. The first message depicts the husband gifting a diamond to his wife in a hotel-room while the anxious children check on the progress of the process over the phone. The second portrays the parents presenting a diamond to their son, to be passed on to his wife. Invoking the dynamics of the New Urban Family effortlessly--the new spousal relationship, the children who consider their parents to be friends--the marketing strategy for De Beers proves how appealing to the entire family is particularly crucial for high-value products. Although the source of the money for the purchase is often the same as before--the man--the pressure to make the purchase is greater since it comes from every member of the family. Says Nicholas Graham Smith, 37, Marketing Director (India), De Beers: "In India, all diamond purchases are for the girl child, right from her birth to all family occasions. What De Beers is attempting in its targeting and advertising is to address two distinct gifting occasions within a family: pre-wedding and post-wedding. All very real in any Indian family's life." Well, it's a gem of an idea.

The consuming characteristic of the NUF Man is also affected strongly by his role as an approachable father, well-evolved from the older, authoritarian paternal figure. Crucially, the former was not a persona that marketers could depict as a role-model when targeting their brands. Says Kakar: "Earlier, the father was the missing element, and came into the picture whenever demands on his authority were made. Whether it was beating up naughty or unrelenting children, or a decision that needed to be taken. Now, he is more involved with the children and, hence, marketable."

In fact, today's family-matrixed man is defined sharply by his relationship with his children. Says MBL's Pal: "For the child, there is an inherent need for her father to be seen as approachable." As ORG-MARG's Youth Track, 1996, surmises, the father beats the mother 6-to-4 on role-model power, being the primary source of inspiration for confidence, balance, far-sightedness, ambition, wisdom, and success.

That's the opportunity for marketers. By creating a father-image that enables the target customer to say, "That's me," they can capitalise on the attitude changes. Ingenious image-makers are seizing the chance in 2 ways. First, they are setting forth an aspirational model for the NUF Man, soft-selling his consumption habits as part of the package. Analyses Sushil Pandit, 35, Vice-President & National Media Director, Contract Advertising: "A man does not want to be seen as a hedonist in pursuit of his own goals. Smart advertising addresses what he wants to be while selling to what he actually is." That's the intention behind the indulgent-sensitive-carefree father persona depicted in APL's commercial for the Maruti Esteem.

The second strategy: offering the man his new image as a cushion for the guilt of being a high-spending consumer. Exploiting the relationship with his child, the family-focused marketer is trying to balance the consuming side with the caring side, as though they necessarily go together, of the NUF Man. A classic example: VXL's advertising strategy for Digjam Suitings, where the protagonist's powerful corporate half is complemented by his tender, sharing-a-sandwich-with-the-daughter half. The catchline, What You Want To Be, says it all. The sub-text? Answers Kakar: "It's the quality of his relationship with his children that forms a significant part of the man's self-appraisal today. Your marketing strategy must enhance that."


These after-dinner conversations, with the cook standing by, were a family ritual that made sense of our lives. There were endless arguments about food: the height and consistency of the cheese soufflé, the hotness and the flavour of the pulao, the stickiness of the meringue gateaux, the proper way to cook spaghetti. "When will the cook learn to make fish saas the way Granny makes it?," my elder brother would ask. There were discussions about school reports, about tennis matches--who could beat whom--about holidays--where we should go as a family--about home improvements--when the holes in the roof were going to be fixed
Beach Boy, Ardeshir Vakil

Responsibility and realism, not revolt and rebellion, constitute the glue that binds teenagers to their parents. The tell-tale signs:

  • Material gains are highly aspired to, creating their own pressures both on teenagers as well as their parents, who have to finance those aspirations. "Money is everything in life," agree the majority of teenagers, irrespective of gender, age, income, and location, in ORG-MARG's Youth Track, 1996.
  • Westernisation no longer equals the best. By extension, global brands are not axiomatic preferences. As Youth P:SNAP, 1997, discovered, the belief that "foreign goods are better than Indian goods" is not widespread any more (score: 2.70 on a 5-point scale).
  • Conventionality and playing the system are the hallmark of the NUF children. There is no flouting of the family code, a strong attempt to secure the approval of parents, and an aversion to risk-taking.

Willing to stay within the demands of so-called family values--since that provides the infrastructure for personal development--the NUF Teen is repelled, rather than attracted, by images of rebellion. Analyses Kshitija Krishnaswamy, 32, Manager (Marketing), Levi Strauss: "Rebelliousness as a youth value is not relevant in today's context, where the lifestyle of the teenager is a delicate balancing-act between individual ambition, pragmatism, and family tradition." That is why Levi Strauss, for instance, is not marketing Levi's jeans as the mutinous teenager's flag, but as a symbol of individual personality.

Kiran KhalapEqually importantly, getting to the top is not a function of getting out of India or abjuring a local identity any more. On the contrary, it is an anchor that marketers can leverage. Says Kiran Khalap, 40, CEO, BatesClarion Advertising: "The fact that Ajit jokes and mehndi, which are very Indian in their appeal, are featured in commercials shows that the new generation is confident about its Indian-ness." It is in recognition of the internationalised-but-Indian moorings of the teenager that quintessentially global brands, such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi, are grafting a local execution onto their global positioning.

Thus, the image that the NUF Teen aspires to is one that seeks the support of his parents. Says APL's Mehra: "Their role-models are Dhirubhai Ambani and Sachin Tendulkar--people who built fortunes for themselves." And that is what is plugging the teen customer firmly into the family rather than forcing her to go off the beaten track--as her predecessors did a generation earlier. Barely half the respondents in APL's Youth P:SNAP, 1997, think that their friends understand them better than their parents do.

And the most admired person, according to TNT Cartoon Network's New Generasians, 1998, is the mother, with 31 per cent of the votes. That's why a Godrej-GE--in its Honour Your Scholar campaign for all the products in its range--or a Marico--in its ads for Parachute coconut oil--portray the NUF Teen as one who empathises with her parents and has a close relationship with them. Which is why the Cabinet for decision-making in the NUF is a real coalition, with the children having a major say in purchase-decisions concerning consumer durables, vacations et al. Adds Kakar: "Children are also getting more manipulative."

Realising this, marketers are using them as a communications conduit to their parents. Explains Anand Bhardawaj, 42, Senior Vice-President (Marketing), Maharaja International, which manufactures products for Electrolux: "Electrolux is sponsoring college-programmes as the youth influence their parents' choice of white goods." Whirlpool of India's FCB-Ulka-created commercials for its washing-machine, therefore, include children as prominent players as it tries to build involvement with the brand. Says Srivastava: "Doing the laundry is not something that the entire family is involved in. But, by bringing in the children, the advertising acknowledges their role as influencers."

Pravin VisariaGiven her changing profile, how can marketers target the teen-as-individual? With aspiration occupying the largest share of her mindspace, it is smart to appeal to the teen's dreams instead of the reality that she is in. Says Mehra: "Brands need to tap not into what is, but into what is missing from a young person's life." HLL knows that, which is why its commercials for Close-Up toothpaste feature a young boy-girl interaction--a key driver in youth behaviour--not so much because it is an all-pervading reality, but since it is a romantic illusion of escape. The critical issue: not to trespass into areas of unacceptability. Warns Mehra: "A brand can play the role of a romantic enabler or an ice-breaker, but should be careful not to transgress this generation's fairly conservative mores."

Clearly, the psychographics of the NUF are, by no means, going to stay frozen. Nor, therefore, will be the marketer's response to its unique dynamics. What will remain unchanged, however, is the fact that, no matter how deeply it is fragmented and restructured by social and personal forces, the family as an entity--whatever its composition--will have to be the target of marketing strategies in future. For, the evolution of Indian society identifies the family as the unit of identity for the individual. And that will hold true even if the composition of the family changes.

Importantly, the family-as-consumer displays certain characteristics irrespective of who its members are. All consumption decisions, be they for personal or common use--Which Brand? How Much? How Often?--involves role-playing by the members of the NUF. Sure, the precise roles vary according to both the dynamics of that family--flowing from the personalities of, and the relationships between its individual members--and the nature of the product being bought or the need being served. What is clear, however, is that, virtually, no purchase is made any more by any of the individuals in isolation of the rest. That's why, for Marketer India, it is the family that will be forever in future.


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