Listen to them

Jan 08 2013, 01:18 IST
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SummaryThe 21st century has entered its thirteenth year. So demographically defined this millennium is now a teenager.

Today’s teens are showing signs of maturity beyond their age. Marketers, however, seem oblivious to the changed reality of this crucial target group

Jitender Dabas

The 21st century has entered its thirteenth year. So demographically defined this millennium is now a teenager. Children born at the turn of the 21st century will be teenagers now. As per 2011 census data, there are 243 million people in India in the 10-19 years age group making almost 20% of India’s population and the world’s largest teen demographics. So it is no wonder that everyone today wants to befriend them. Every marketer— from telcos to cola companies to Hamdard’s Rooh Afza as well as SBI—is wanting to connect with them. The defining image of the teens in 2012 was that of young girls and boys holding placards, shouting slogans and fighting tear gas and water canons in bitter cold in and around India Gate in Delhi after the rape of a 23 years old student. Likewise, in 2011, we saw teenagers donning caps that said ‘I am Anna’ at Ramleela Maidan. In the neighbourhood, Pakistani teenager Malala Yousufzaibecame the most visible new symbol of resilience against the Taliban and fundamentalist forces at 15 years of age.

But if one looks at the commercial messages broadcast by marketers one would assume that today’s teens spend all their time hanging out at malls, inside fast-food joints, on social networking sites or chatting away on their Blackberry messenger. A recent flurry of ads on TV with teenagers in focus is, at least, suggests that. Airtel’s ‘Jo Tera Hai Vo Mera Hai’; Vodafone’s ‘Bhai, Ye Ladkian Kitni Baat Kartee Hain”; Cafe Coffee Day’s ‘sit down’, Pepsi’s ‘Change the Game’, or the recent Fast Track campaign are a few cases in point.

The contrast in the two images is quite sharp. So while we see the teens out there fighting the “system” on the roads, for marketers, they are a happy-go-lucky, hedonistic generation. The projection is no different on content platforms such as MTV, Channel V or Bindaas.

Clearly, there is something missing in the script. Are the marketers getting it wrong in their understanding of this TG? Is what we see on news channels is something short-term and isolated? Is there a tectonic shift that is going unnoticed by marketers?

What seems clear is that today’s teens are more sensitized and expressive. They are more inclined to stand up

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