The hunt for cool

Setting off a transformation   -  Shanker Chakravarty

Gen Z wants unique experiences in everything it encounters, and marketers are adapting to that

Pop-ups are pesky. But this kind of disruption makes students stick to their screens when they’re reading or watching something educational, according to Piyush Gupta, President of integrated marketing firm Kestone, which also builds learning courses for students online. “Give them some information non-stop for 15-20 minutes and they’ll log off. But put in some snippets related to their study material that pop up on their device, and there’s much more stickiness,” he says.

Reputed for notoriously short attention spans and little brand loyalty, Gen Z, born between the late 1990s and 2009, is now the next frontier for marketers. “Even education, we’ve to make it cool. Cool drives marketing,” says Gupta. While not all marketers Catalyst spoke to saw this generation as a very different animal, there was unanimity on the ‘cool’. They spend a lot of money on things that make them look cool – phones, earphones, data packs – but are not stuck on big brands, he adds. And marketers are eager to make both marketing and products fit those expectations.

The young ’uns are after novelty, be it holiday, food or the shows they watch. Experimentation is important. “A recipe or a cuisine or a product, they are fine even if it doesn’t turn out to be tasty, as long as they are trying it,” says Prashant Gaur, Chief Brand Officer, Pizza Hut. He does not see Gen Z as very disparate from Gen X or Gen Y, but believes there is a nuance that marketers need to capture. For instance, how they use a medium could differ, he adds.

It’s cool to do the right thing

In the experience vs ownership contrast that marks generations, Gen Z would much rather prefer a rock concert or a good vacation to make a statement. Sanjay Gupta, who heads marketing at Uber, says previous generations were defined by what they owned, such as a car or a house. But Gen Z is keen on doing and supporting the right things, such as preserving the environment. It’s cool, too. On New Year’s Eve, for the first time since its launch here, 90,000 users used Uber’s Pool service to travel between points, as it saves fuel and restricts the number of vehicles on the road. Gen Z accounted for a significantly disproportionate chunk. Could that be because it’s cheaper? No, says Gupta, adding that the older workforce is actually the largest user of Pool. Gen Z is interested in the environment because they are going to live in it for the next 70-80 years.

A study from TagTaste, an online community for food professionals, says that in 2018, the concerns of sustainability and ethical treatment of animals will drive food trends. Flavours and texture will become as important as taste. Jaspal Sabharwal, Co-Founder, says categories such as soft drinks and fast foods won’t find favour with Gen Z. It grew up learning from teachers that sugary drinks were harmful, and had that reinforced by their parents and the Internet.

The thirst for new experiences and conservation will reflect in a greater demand for ethnic cuisine and revival of local, purer and alternative grains. The resurgence of millets is a manifestation. In the West, people are going vegan more for environmental reasons than for moral reasons as a study found, he adds.

Products are changing

Travel is being changed by the hunt for cool. They are keener on destinations with a Wow! factor than on the discount they can wrangle, says Manmeet Ahluwalia, Marketing Head of online travel agency Expedia in India. They would rather save their money and travel to unusual destinations such as Argentina, the Rio Carnival in Brazil or to paragliding centre Bir Billing in Himachal Pradesh than the usual crowded tourist hot spots, he adds. As for spending power, while 22-year-olds may not have much, “they can influence people to purchase and pay online, and help our business as early adopters of technology”.

Manav Sethi, Chief Marketing Officer of video-on-demand platform ALTBalaji is one marketer who does not believe Gen Z has an attenuated attention span. “It’s short only when the content isn’t interesting,” he declares, saying that movies such as Bose: Dead/Alive and others are drawing many viewers. Gen Z is also paving the way for unexplored themes: ALTBalaji shows Romil and Jugal has two men falling in love, Dev DD has a woman as a protagonist in the mould of legendary lover Devdas, and The Test Case, which tells the story of a woman in a combat role. “Viewing is no longer a family activity,” he adds, saying that shows are now made to suit individual preferences.

In a recent survey on family dynamics, Britannia found out that millennials and Gen Z lose out on creating strong family ties. One out of two people had not met family on festivals more than once in the last three years, and one out of two spend 30 or fewer days a year with their parents. It has used these findings to launch its Great International Family Holiday campaign which sponsors 60 families for an all-expenses paid holiday to international destinations.

Digital delight

Marketing campaigns are evolving to suit the Gen Z digital denizen. ALTBalaji spends 80 per cent of its marketing money on digital. Any new launch is preceded by social buzz for about a month. Uber’s Year in Review feature, which enabled users to look back at the rides they took in 2017, took the form of a music video. After the 2016 Olympics where shuttler PV Sindhu and wrestler Sakshi Malik won medals, Pizza Hut ran a promotion asking people whose names contained ‘Sindhu’ and ‘Sakshi’ to come over and get a free pizza. It gave out nearly 2,000 pizzas, but then, hardly anyone came alone, all came with their families, says Pizza Hut’s Gaur. Much of the marketing is aligned to the smartphone. Given the focus on chatbots, robots and hi-tech, marketing will now have more to woo this burgeoning set of consumers with.

Published on February 22, 2018


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