Neighbours’ envy, owner’s pride’ was the punch line of a commercial promoting a popular Television brand in India a few decades ago. The advertisement had made waves as the innovative appeal had clicked with just about everyone.Today, we are in a different era. Television no longer is the product that can be reason for the owner’s pride. It has been replaced by the latest versions of Apple iPhones and tablets that consumers feel proud to possess. More so, the millennials. In fact, it has become the common thread among the millennials world over. It is not just the Indian youth whose craving for the Apple products borders on obsession. Even in as distant and distinct a culture as that of Eastern Europe, the young are desperate for the iPhone. It was experienced by this columnist while conducting a workshop on consumer behaviour at European University, Tbilisi, Georgia. As we were discussing how the big brands influence or rather manipulate consumers’ Psychology, one of the participants, a young Georgian girl named Likaput, put up a question. She wanted to know that since she was desperate to possess an iPhone but did not have enough money to buy it, what could be done. Having no clue to this aspect of consumer behaviour, I simply told her to go for an affordable brand. She was not satisfied. But the point to be understood is that this is how brand fixation works. Marketers play those many tricks to alter the consumer psyche. It is no longer about the “necessity” being “the mother of invention”. It is rather the other way around. An innovation with new features is created first, and marketed later, creating a need for the product. Many a time, it is not even innovation. It is only some incremental addition marketed as innovation. But this is what is happening. And it is not new. Somewhere around 1939, a popular Tea brand offered free tea to the people waiting at the Gaya and Patna railway stations of Bihar. And look what it did. Tea has become the favourite pastime of Indian people. With or without sugar may be the new additive, but the issue is tea. The consumer’s world is driven by marketers who are the trendsetters and the want makers. More importantly, the consumer fails to realize that he is the tool as well as the object. Tool for manipulation and object for business. However, what those so called global products that define lifestyles have done is that they have created a global consumer class. Particularly the youth who are fashionably called the millennials. Interestingly, these “millennials” have common trends in their psyche, be it in Eastern Europe, the Middle East or South Asia. They speak different languages, but their emotions are similar. Incidentally, there is a hybrid generation too, born during 1975-80, trying to find its place. It thinks it is young, has an unconscious contempt for the Gen X, but doesn’t quite fit in Gen Y. They try to imbibe the Gen Y- texting more than talking, abbreviating more than expanding. For them, all innovations veer around IT and Apps and think they are Gr8 and F9, meaning great and fine. An interesting way to express, it is more of a subtle manifestation of existential angst than some freedom of choice. The domain of consumer psychology is wide and fuzzy and interacting on the subject at Georgia courtesy professor EkaDevidze, the host, was more of learning than teaching.
Pathak is a professor of management, writer, and an acclaimed public speaker. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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