cannot hard sell any more," said Mrinmoy Mukherjee, director - marketing and business development, Raymond (Retail). He refers to a core audience of 25-35 years. "We are observing two shifts in consumer behavior: one, he wants to stand out in his everyday environment through a 'My personality and what I wear to make me stand out' attitude and two, a need to get what is the best available, to blend in."
While that may sound contradictory, research reveals that this is an emerging pattern in consumer behaviour. Rajeev Lochan, VP, research and finance, VML Qais, the WPP Group's digital marketing agency, said: "This is a 'me' in the 'we' phenomenon."
He is citing the finding of a qualitative study of 18-35 years digitally connected Asians called Generation Asia Study, of which India had a significant sampling, conducted by VML Qais. "The study found that Indian behavior is characterised by a pursuit of personal success, the optimism that this is possible and the desire for that success to be acknowledged by others," Lochan said.
The study's findings are supported by MTV's 2012 youth study, The Power of One, which said: "While the youth derive most of their power by belonging to a larger group, they never forget to acknowledge their own personal identity." Another nugget: "Being the first one to know something or spot the latest trend is like a badge of honour… There is a constant, informal game of one-upmanship within the members of a social group. It is indeed a curious case of individual participation, collaboration and competition."
Satyaki Ghosh, director, consumer products division, L'Oreal India, qualified: "It's all about new things. About knowing first. Standing out in the group, though the group is very important. The 18-35 years consumers are optimistic, have the drive to succeed and believe they will succeed if they put in the effort. They are in a continuous audition mode and believe looking good increases chances of success. They are future-confident."
This core ambition for success and the desire to be recognised for it defines consumption behaviour towards beauty, fashion and luxury products and services. There is an underlining desire to look good at all times. The Generation Asia-India study indicates a belief that good looks help more than talent at the workplace.
Kanika Vasudevan, 31, assistant vice president - international sales distribution, Foxstar Studios, said: "Working people believe they need to be well turned out to be successful. Starting out, they probably believe self-presentation is the most important thing, but later understand that talent also counts, though looking good remains important."
She reaffirms the Generation Asia-India study's findings, saying that consumers are influenced by both advertising and the styles adopted by film and TV celebrities. The fact that ideas of style and grooming are drawn from entertainment celebrities is surely a significant pointer to the individual's desire to self-express in ways that the group can recognise and appreciate.
Ghosh added: "In a group, all consumers strive to stand out in something or the other. They revel in refreshing their styles every week. They don't want to use their mothers' brands, so newer brands have a greater chance of success. So also notice how existing brands are constantly reinventing themselves." He points to healthy trials for Garnier Oil Clear for Men, endorsed by John Abraham and the more recent Garnier BB Cream, endorsed by Deepika Padukone.
Finally, attitude drives this entire phenomenon. As Lochan concluded: "Living in the now, looking out for themselves and chasing big ticket dreams, the thought of an insecure future is non-existent and this, combined with the arrogance of youth, makes them a generation powered by almost ruthless ambition for the betterment of self. It's not about them matching up to a brand; it's about a brand fitting who they are."