Consumer of the future 2: The classic Markets A to E: my generation

Continued from previous post 1. Life couple of generation ago

Market A

As you saw in the lifestyle of the times of my grandma, the expenses catered purely to the minimal requirements which couldn’t be managed inside the house. The first terminology to describe this basic setup is “Market A”. (I would use diverse terminologies in the following section to show you how the market evolved. Please note that these are my own picks and not from any other source). Where a government couldn’t support the population with employment opportunities, it was this joint family system which held the whole structure from crashing down. Sharing was the basis for such economy and savings was the only way which could rescue a family in case of any mishap. Please note here that I’m not using the word “person” rather “family”. For this “Market A”, a person would always be addressed in a “collective” sense. So selling a product to such a person would be bought only if it made sense to the whole household, especially the women who will mostly be the users of the products. This mindset exists even today and can be seen with the Indian ad’s where they typically try to sell a product to a woman, even sometimes if it’s a product for the kid or the man of the house. Of such private produced products, the ones which made way in the initial years into the house were tooth cleaning powder. With this powder as an example, the evolution into further market types are described below, which then gradually in the end will tend to understand the consumer of the future. Products like tooth powder were the transitional products which led to a “Market B” which tried to ease the effort of running a joint family household.

Market B

Before arrival of tooth paste and a brush, south Indians used the branch of a lemon tree to cleanse the teeth and which was also not an easy thing to use. Convincing people to move from such a habit which had been in practice over decades and making them buy a brush was a humongous task. Instead of one simple branch, it’s normal that there was inertia to buy two products – a paste and brush – to do the same job! It felt as an expensive plastic alternative for a simple branch which was found everywhere. But the one problem the branch had had was the ease of use. If pressed hard, sometimes the tooth would bleed hard or even break in worst case. Colgate might have used this as an anchor and introduced a powder! The powder was packed in a can with some holes on the cap. One shakes the can and releases some powder on the left palm. Using the forefinger of the right-hand as a brush, one would brush their teeth. The powder did the same task as a lemon branch and was not hard on the teeth. It was just one product and not two. Moreover, the genius part of a powder was, the usage was left to the user. A conservative user will brush with a just a meagre amount of powder and would have the sensation that the product is lasting forever!

Over years, what really got ingrained in the heads of people was the trust on the brand. “Colgate” as the company was considered to have thought something for the customer after trying to sincerely understand their problems. Later when the company introduced a tooth brush and paste, the attitude towards these products weren’t seen as an alternative for a lemon branch, because, by this time one generation later no one was using the branch anymore. What went in the people’s mind was “Our trustable Colgate released a new product which will be certainly in good intention as how they got the tooth powder for us. It will certainly be something which will make my life better”. This modus of operandi was the same with many other products. The one hidden agenda what all the products targeted was to get the household outsource their jobs and also reducing dependency on nature. For which, the first thing was to break a habit which was many decades old. First release a product which addressed their immediate problem. Change the habit and simultaneously gain the trust for the brand by maintaining consistency over years and then release the actual product which they had in mind from the beginning.  In a similar fashion to tooth powder leading to paste and brush, external tailoring eventually led way to ready-made clothes, cinemas eventually led to a Home screens, external mills led to owning a Mixer and Grinder, milkman led to packaged milk, public transportation led way to private owner vehicle, automatic and electric cars are leading way to driverless cars and so on.  Not all the products had this pattern. A Radio was government driven, the savings mindset made the sale of Fridge easier and climatic conditions easily led to an electric fan to be accepted in the market.

Market C

When one by one the products started increasing in the household, more time was available to the individual person in the household, but not all the households converted this extra time to productivity. Before they did, the TVs rushed in and held its audience hooked to the Programmes – mainly the women! Men escaped this for most part of the day, as they were working. Women population, the housewives were neither highly skilled as their mothers in nor let to work, as the man’s salary was enough to address their needs too. From the eyes of my grandma’s generation in “Market A”, it was seen that only a poor household would send their women out to work. Such mindsets did not let the women to grow in “Market B”. Amidst these superstitions and social fear, an Indian housewife of the 90’s or 2000s was nowhere close to the skills her grandmother had. That housewife still was as busy as the grandmother, as joint family concept was broken by the new market. The household which had its activities divided among more women, now had to be run by one woman. It also brought an advantage in a way that children got more attention than the previous generation. In grandma’s generation, the saying is that the children brought up by themselves. The joint family brought up all the children of the house together and not necessarily just the mom and dad. Childcare got high in that sense that the parents had more private time for the kids. Also TV domination which began in the 80s still had its strong hold. This scenario is “Market C”, which managed to change the definition of a customer from joint family to nuclear family. “Market B” sold one big tooth powder box to a whole joint family with five sub nuclear families with three people in each family. Meanwhile “Market C” sold 5 toothpaste tubes to the 5 sub nuclear families and 15 tooth brushes!

People were happy of this development as it gave them silence and got them peace from friction in a joint family setup. Although financially a joint family setup made more sense, the preference moved to individual liberation! “Market C” also infused a new habit: it decreased the inertia to buy a new product. People got trained that any new product got them liberated in some way.  This in a way drove innovation too. New products aimed not only at easing some of their existing activity, it also introduced new activities: the best example to this phenomenon was “Treadmill”. “Market C” enhanced peer pressure too. New products got bought not just for the sake of liberation, but also to catch up with a neighbour who seemed to have got a different liberation due to some newly brought product which she is proud of. “Treadmill” gained a wide acceptance in the society mainly by peer pressure. In reality it hardly got used and just either held a space or was used to dry clothes. Some or the other product of peer pressure may have been useless, but it led to an even bigger concept called “Branding!”

Market D

The advertisements still targeted women. Only transportation related advertisements and exclusive products for men like shaving cream targeted men, rest of the household products were making their focus only on women. Appealing to women, by this time, all the households got filled with products the market could sell. It felt as if the market was heading to saturation, but then, product variants started arriving just in time. My house had a TV from Solidaire Company for more than 10 years. Then word started spreading around that a new company from Japan entered the market and that they were better. Guests coming home would mock us saying on how outdated we were. Soon enough, the brand “Aiwa” made its way to our home. Please note here my conscious usage of the move from “company” to “brand”. A company makes a product. A brand shows promise. Ironically, no one knows how a “promise” is defined. Does it bring me longevity in usage? Does it make my use maintenance free? Does it hurt my wallet less? Or May the promise encompasses all these criteria together. But in reality, by the time we test the first promise, we tend to switch to a new promise from a different product. Onida might say that their TV would last for 10 years, but then the promise of “Aiwa” offered a much stronger promise, which due to peer pressure was difficult to ignore. This is “Market D” – the explosion of product variants. People received the trick called Branding! Correlating to the same example describing the other types of markets, “Market D” managed to replace the brand from “Colgate” to “Oral B” and some of the 15 brushes got even replaced with electric toothbrushes!

Colgate came back into game by introducing sub-brands. Concept of sub-brands let the company not falter when one their products should fail. Colgate had Colgate white, Colgate total, Colgate extra clean etc. If one of their products wouldn’t work, the whole company wouldn’t be blamed rather just that product series. Soon enough, this gave the company to completely disavow that series and make a new one. “Market D” also led to this concept of sub-brands which helped the company sustain its market by constantly introducing and renouncing product lines. This facilitated innovation too. Houses started to get filled with more and more products. Brands, sub-brands and product variants became enormous that no-one could keep track a new introduction to the market. Advertisements increased in their standards, as awareness more than the function of a product, brought revenues.

Monthly budget at the time of “Market D”: One big thing what worked in favour of India was the success of software industry. Money flow increased in the society and general affordability went higher. The biggest part still went to groceries and almost in the same proportions. Fresh vegetables got replaced with branded packs e.g. Reliance! The second biggest part of the salary went to the depreciation of assets or the monthly EMIs (Equated monthly installments) for diverse gadgets. Third share went to the now outsourced outdoor activities – gym memberships, swimming, karate, dance classes, singing classes etc.., Savings, if it all it existed, had the final place! Individual liberation does come at a cost!

Market E

Then came a “Market E” – its people were the new liberated generation! They were never in a joint family setup to begin with. They were less dependent on family members from birth! The gadgets which were available from the first time they opened their eyes did not give them the need to be dependent on other people! The shocking speed of all these developments was that the evolution from Market C to Market E happened within one generation. I belonged to this generation. Although Market E had many similar traits with Market D, there is one significant change. The new market spoke to my small cousins and the new budding members of the family! What made this possible and what also gives the need to differentiate Market D and E was the wider acceptance of internet and introduction of social network! Internet brought awareness on the A, B, C, D, Es of other world markets, thereby more new types of products were suddenly made available. Correlating to our tooth powder example, now “Market E” introduced Dental floss, Mouthwash, tongue scrappers, teeth whiteners etc. And social network offered the play ground to enhance peer pressure. More and more services got offered that people started choosing services not just to win the peer pressure, but also simply out of curiosity. Exponential product innovation gave them the tools to stand tall among peers. Restaurants started adopting western cuisines. An Italian meal of Rs.500 was bought without much thought, but a daily necessity of Rs.10 for rice was bargained.  My small cousin was sent for horse-riding classes in a 35°C burning hot city like Coimbatore. Coimbatore city had hardly any known arena to practice and the city itself was immensely crowded to take out the horses out on the streets. Innovation in product and services and speed of innovation blinded people from seeing their requirements. Before they understood the service, the money was already out. The monthly budget wasn’t enough anymore to afford the products. At the time, because of this lack of budget, when a second saturation in the market was about to happen, the banking industry came up with an innovative solution to make this situation profitable to themselves and get the market running too. When the customers did not have money anymore, they simply let them trade their future time to buy their product today. Higher the credit means, higher the time the person is liable or leashed to the bank. This Market E could also be said the introduction of Credit card in the market. Banking systems facilitated this consumerism and offered this electronic leash. Consumers on one side were bamboozled by what the market has to offer. The advertisements and the products themselves were so innovative on the TV and social networks that they couldn’t take the eyes of it anymore. At the same time, the banking leash to the wallet ensured that they could react to the desires and promised money flow to the sellers. The consumer’s liability to the bank increased. This was till 2010.


Figure 1: Market E represented in true Indian style 🙂

Continued … 3. Kids of today: Markets F & G

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