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The elixir of youth

Consumers’ average age is falling, and the older ones are thinking younger. Brands are looking to cash in and stay relevant by talking a younger language and introducing vibrant products.

business Updated: Nov 14, 2010 21:06 IST
Anita Sharan
Anita Sharan
Hindustan Times

Walk the high streets and shopping malls in India’s metros and every fourth shop is selling clothes for young consumers. Television advertisements are increasingly getting younger — the ad models, the celebrity endorser. The ads too are more pacy, vibrant and bold.

Brands are getting younger too. Godrej is trying to go young in look, feel and products. Dabur wants to make its healthcare products more fun and tasty. The Dove shampoo ads are using far younger faces than the earlier Dove soap ads that used 30-something consumers. And some leading anti-ageing cream and hair dye brands are talking grey hair and wrinkle worries to consumers in their 20s! Surely a little over the top? A close-to-40 Aishwarya Rai saying “And greys? What greys?” in a L’Oreal Professionel hair dye ad is fine, but a Garnier Color Naturals hair dye ad model in her 20s saying “Look, grey hair. My life’s finished”! Both brands are offered by the same company, L’Oreal.

Small cars, apparel, foods, computers, cellphones, skin and hair care products, cosmetics and beauty services are all talking young. Ranbir Kapoor, Imran Khan, MS Dhoni, Shahid Kapoor Katrina Kaif, Kareena Kapoor are in endorsement demand. Slightly older celebrities are in demand only if they appeal to young consumers. So John Abraham (style icon) and Aamir Khan (innovative, young-at-heart) continue to be in demand. Only Amitabh Bachchan defies classification.

“The media hype around young India with the highest under-25 population in the world, has ingrained the feeling among marketers that this target is a must for their brands. Also, when category penetration is low, brands tend to target the majority consuming population — that’s youth in India. Besides, younger brands tend to be aspirational even with older age groups,” said Sharda Agarwal, director, MarketGate Consulting. “If Marico’s Parachute hadn’t reinvented itself and the coconut hair oil category to address youth, the category may have lost relevance. Parachute made ‘Champi’ a trendy word.”

Ashutosh Tiwari, EVP, strategic marketing, Godrej, said: “Brands are going younger demographically, their targets reducing from 35 to 25 years. But psychographically, consumers across age bands are getting younger in their mindsets and behaviour.” The biggest defining factor, he added, is consumer optimism, giving rise to “an emotive and rational sense of freedom, fun, and achievement orientation.”

This, he said, is giving rise to a greater belief in the desirability and possibility of progress and success; the emergence of the “native expressive Indian culture” as a more confident self expression through consumption; and “a desire to experience the success through consumption rather than building a bank balance.”

Agarwal observed: “As Indian consumers become more willing to experiment, brands are grabbing and maximising the opportunity.”

Govind Rajan, category head, skincare, Hindustan Unilever, said: “India is changing fast, getting more affluent and younger. It is a given that all brands need to look and feel contemporary to retain appeal. Vaseline and Pond’s, brands with strong equity and trust, are uniquely positioned to lead the development of new habits. Pond’s extension into anti-aging, skin lightening and facewash intends to build new segments and markets. Vaseline’s opportunity is in new segments and creation of habits — Vaseline Healthy White’s to build lotions as a habit outside of winter and Vaseline Men’s to build new grooming habits amongst men.”

On talking ageing too early with the youth, he said, “Anti-aging is about prevention and not just solutions post the appearance of definitive signs of aging. Skin does begin to show signs of aging as early as the 20s.”

Garnier’s marketing head, Richa Singh, said: “The first grey is always a little scary, hinting at the onset of maturity. Garnier has just used this little twinge that every woman feels as its insight to highlight what Garnier Color Naturals does — it allows consumers, young or old, to forget greys and enjoy.”

Just looking and talking young is not enough, a brand’s products too must walk the talk. “For consumers, with optimism come mind-boggling choices that are definitely more than they can comprehend. So when new innovations and experiences come from a trusted brand, the risk of failure for them goes down,” observed Tiwari.

Godrej has launched products that are younger, more contemporary —avante garde Interio furniture; a rejuvenated range of consumer durables; more youthfully redefined FMCG products; and its own social networking site, GoJiyo, for “connecting with youth who have not really interacted with the Godrej brand,” said Tiwari.

For its healthcare products Hajmola, Dabur Honey and Dabur Chyawanprash, Dabur has reworked packaging and taste at a functional level, and gone for youthful and fun expressions in advertising. MS Dhoni now endorses Chyawanprash and Shilpa Shetty, Dabur Honey. “Our products are finding resonance in a shift in perception on healthcare — from disease and ill health five years ago to good health and wellness now. Our sales have gone up well since the changes,” said KK Rajesh, Dabur’s EVP marketing, healthcare vertical.

That young consumers are the fastest adopters of new propositions is something that Kaya Skin Clinic is discovering firsthand. “They are the most open to change, to trying new things. They respond to things that are simple and relevant to them,” said Suvodeep Das, Kaya’s marketing head.

“Eventually,” said CD Choi, VP corporate marketing, Samsung India, “it all depends on the products you offer. Samsung is continuously launching innovative, next generation technology and convergence products. Aamir Khan, our brand ambassador, brings mass with class to our brand.”

Jaquar, the Indian market leader in bathroom fitments, is also going young. “We’ve redesigned our products to look much younger, trendier and are working on more youthful, vibrant brand communication,” said Rajesh Mehra, director marketing, Jaquar.

First Published: Nov 14, 2010 21:03 IST