The recent Bollywood movie, Ra One, drove home a subtle point that reflected the changing times, at least in "urban" India - the father trying to gain the acceptance of his son by designing games, finally signed off by the 10-year-old.
Gen Z today is exposed to a volley of information available at a click. Awareness level about almost anything under the sun is at a tipping point, thanks to Google. With setting in of early maturity, kids today are far more opinionated, aware, tech savvy, fast learners and adventurous. They generally shun authority, finding comfort in games and gadgets. They are deciding what "cool" is.
Marketers can't ignore these changes and while we can debate with what speed they are taking place to understand the impact of digital social media, advances made in health sciences and technology on day to day life, there are some indicators I would like to put down:
Maturing early, living longer: on one side the average lifespan is increasing thanks to medical advancement, while on other side maturity is setting in early as kids grow up. This nearly doubling of "active life years" in today's generation has huge implications. People have gone beyond the official retirement age - they are retiring now to start new ventures at the peak of their careers. Staying active is in. This has affected category creation for this emerging consuming class who can take more shots at their dreams, given their longer active 'shelf life'.
Kids are adults and adults are kids: thanks to gizmos, mobiles, iPods and the burgeoning gaming industry, whether real or virtual or digital, the child in adults stays active. Children, on the other hand, are growing up to be adult-like much earlier, working while delaying marriage and child-bearing. With parents treating kids as peers, teens have become mini adults. It is no wonder that the father-son duo occasionally play video games together and more grown-ups play the angry birds game, while the mother peeks into her teen daughter's wardrobe to gauge the latest trends. In a manner of speaking, the lines are blurring between childhood, teenage and adulthood.
Parents are upsizing their indulgences: with both parents starting to work, they indulge their kids - probably 'crèche-d' during the day, with toys, gifts, knick-knacks. This perhaps stems out of the guilt factor of "not being there" and "not doing enough." The splurge is moving to electronic games, digital gizmos , other white goods. This trend is further accentuated by couples delaying child birth and having higher disposable incomes that allow for upsizing their 'indulge' tendencies.
Multiple emotional onslaughts: today's young generation is much more flexible in handling multi-emotional interfaces and chats on digital. For example, mobile communication involving acquaintances, peer group members, family members, schoolmates, college friends and office colleagues, all the while managing emotions right across. So what if it is on a mobile text or chat or micro blog… making up, breaking up, opinions, fights and arguments are emotional real time. With the ever increasing reach of the web, today's youngsters are far more adept in internalising and thus managing multiple cultures, ethnicity and diverse ideas.
Clearly, this generation is more secure about itself and won't be needing as many approvals as its parents' generation. Also, recent research has shown they are more close to family and wanting to remain closely knit family even at later stages of life. The barriers are down much more than what their parents saw in their growing up years.
With these indicators showing up, I really wonder what will happen to the traditional socio-cultural demography of consumer classification - SEC A+, A, B, and so on?
How does one market a lipstick to a 19-year-old and a 39-year-old, both expressing the same consumption tendencies?
Recently, we saw an apparel brand using a mother and a daughter wearing exactly the same attire in its advertising.
The so called Gen X, who are the parents today, worked harder than their children to get their parents' approval when they were youngsters. Ra One throws up a quirky one - the same Gen X is now working hard to get their children's approval. So, how old … sorry …. how young are you?
The writer is President - Food & FMCG Category, Future Group