Continued from Consumer 2: The classic markets A to E: my generation
Evolution of smartphones and associated behavioural patterns:
I was doing my bachelors between 2005 and 2009. My parents bought me my first ever phone in my third year bachelors – 2008. It was a simple Nokia phone with a touch pad and a bigger screen. It was at this point of time, Sony Ericsson had made a bigger impact in the market with their large display and compact phones. Then came blackberry and with its ultra compact keyboard. It was also one of the first phones which made social networking possible on phone. Any further launch just enhanced this feature. There was also a simultaneous movement to get the size of a laptop reduced. A Tablet got launched. A tablet combined the advantage of a blackberry and a laptop. Then year by year, there was an intense competition on getting its size reduced. The outcome of this was when finally in 2007, the first ever smartphone got launched in the market: Apple Iphone 1. It was a first kind of compact computer which can be inserted in the pockets. Soon enough Android phone got launched, but they got wider adoption and market dominance only by 2012. In 2019 now, we already have the IPhone 10Xs. If we take IPhone as the reference, the growth of this industry was simply at rocket speed. With ten upgrades in just 10 years, the duration that one upgrade lasted was just a year. Comparing to the examples in the previous blog post, these companies cannot have longevity of the product in their brand promise anymore. The speed of innovation necessitated that the companies launched their products faster than their competitors to win the market. Consumers were able to keep up to the latest technologies, but the financial commitment expected from them does not make sense in terms of the longevity of the product. If the consumer will stick to IPhone 1 for its lifetime of e.g 10 years, there would be no takers for IPhone 2 or any of its follow-ups. This was the marketing success of the Apple and the other smartphone manufacturers, despite the credible speculations that smartphones were inherently programmed to die in 2 years. For users to constantly buy the product, the advertising campaign focused on other subjective aspects as status symbol, being cool, being upgraded and of course getting to use their latest technology. Users grasped to such an extent that they were ready to open their wallets anytime the company would ask for!
Smartphone introduced two things. First it made the screens personal. Contrary to that one TV per street or one newspaper per household, now each of the 15 persons in the household have their own personal screens where companies can talk to you one on one. Off from generic advertisements, it gave the opportunity for marketing to be personalized. By marketing, it was not just about ads on the screen, it was also about social networking: Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram, Pinterest etc… They are even bigger in terms of peer advertising. The selfies our friends make with their new fashion release from Zara, or the new Samsung edge or with their new TATA car is also form of advertising for the companies from your peers. You are likely to purchase a Samsung edge because your friend recommends it than recommended from a random ad on the sides. Marketing was getting wildly personal. These days, if you should click the “like” button for your friend with his new Samsung edge, you automatically start to get ads for the same phone on the sides. Basically your use pattern in your phone is also used by the companies in getting to know you and to send you more personal ads. With so many new products and new innovative features being released in the market, a marketing expert can easily say that you are likely to buy this product based on your past behaviour! Off from this personal marketing, smartphones also captured a second thing too – the consumer’s time!
Just few decades ago in 1980s, the market was shifting from one screen per street to one screen per household. The notion of marketing was different too. There was a classic marketing with posters on the wall, peer marketing if you should see a product physically at someone’s home and word of mouth. Advertisements in newspapers and magazines were available too. TV marketing had just begun. It was more an indirect advertising on the TV i.e. the clothes that a movie star would wear or the items that were used by the characters in the movie. Video ads also slowly made way into the market, when Doordarshan, India’s national channel had upgraded its status to national broadcaster in 1982. Until then it had series of experimental programmes telecasted on smaller scale from 1959. Doordarshan in the initial years had just a few programmes per week. TV Channel got the grey screen, If I remember right, after 8PM. Overall, including newspaper and Doordarshan, the time spent on media was less than one hour per day. Media gave three items: productive information, entertainment and ads on products. On top the ads, there was also an indirect awareness of the latest trends in the market – the clothes a movie start would wear. I remember pestering my mom for a certain eye glasses that my favourite star Vijay was wearing in the movie “Love today”. Considering such influences, my experience would judge that the media used 10% of the consumer’s time in making them aware of some product. In one hour, this 10% was just 6 minutes which was used to sell a product. Rest of the 54 minutes went into some productive information and entertainment.
With inception of Internet and social network which was adopted mainly by the new generation, the total exposure per day on desktop computer, in my case, increased to about 6 hours. Meanwhile the exposure of my parents also increased to the same level as TV also started making a high impact. It was the same 6 hours, but just the type of media was different. My parents had increased exposure to generic advertisements on the TV and newspapers and meanwhile my time got higher exposure in Peer marketing due to Orkut, the predecessor of Google plus, and Facebook. Further introduction of Laptops and tablets did not change this scenario much until the first smartphone made its way to the consumers in the household. Smartphone made it possible that the user is by default available all the time to the seller and for the seller it was just about making the right ad to get the attention. There are many apps in my android today which oversees smartphone usage and which apps are being used to what extent. The 10% number which I had estimated for the awareness time for the consumer would now span to above 90%. Only 10% or less of the usage is really bringing something productive for the user in terms of information. Entertainment, peer marketing through social networking and direct marketing has consumed the rest of the time. Internet and TV got the usage upto 6 hours and now that smartphone made it above 15 hours easily. Even our average sleep time has got reduced. If I take 6 hours as a standard time for sleeping, smartphone is available in the background for all the 18 hours! In reality it does not mean that we are constantly staring at the smartphone for 18 hours. I use Smartphone for 30 min before I go to work. I listen to the radio for 30 min while im in the car both ways, I have my computer active at work for 10 hours in which I’m using it for a minimum of 6 hours, coming back home I use my smartphone for about an hour and watch TV or listen to a podcast for 2 more hours. The collective direct exposure is 9 hours out the 18 hours I’m awake. Of which my productive usage would be about 30% i.e. reading news, communicating to someone or active working. In the rest 70%, peer marketing and indirect marketing is turned up to the full and classic marketing has taken a backstage. For the rest of the 9 hours, where we are not actively using the phone, the scary part is that we are at its service!
This 9 hour collective usage is also not one single usage at a stretch, where we can resort to something without its presence for the other 9 hours. It can vibrate, ring or blink and we are immediately at service or we ourselves have the itch to check from time to time if there is new information waiting for us. Addictive quotient in making us not avoid its usage was also one of the biggest successes from the marketing perspective. Addiction was a prevalent topic in the gaming world, but how the social networks managed to bring it to the non-gamers in form of “Scrolling” was impeccable. Empty scrolling for hours and receiving constant peer information has grown into a personal habit, favouring the sellers. I read about some new guidelines which defined any usage more than 5.5 hours on a smartphone can be termed as addiction. In my perspective, I would look at the collective usage too. This personalized “constantly on the hook” marketing is the Market F! Back to our tooth-powder example, Market F managed to install an automatic order chip at our home, where the consumption and ordering of dental products happen by itself automatically.
At the time when I was thinking that Market F is the most aggressive version of marketing or in other words when I was suspecting if there could be a Market G, I was proved wrong when I saw a 8 year old kid who liked toys from a brand called “Top Model”. Market A to C is the shift which transitioned the products from the generation of my parents to my generation and beginning from the Market F is the transition to the next generation. Market A to F, had one basic assumption where a consumer had requirements and wishes taught by the parents, school, family and friends. These markets tried to cater to their requirements and simultaneously made them aware of as many world products as possible and got access to their wallets. The evolution from Market A to F also changed the definition of a consumer. From a market serving a joint family, the latest market considers each person as a market! Each person is a market! Meanwhile Market G begins with a generation, where information fed to the kid from the media will be as much as or higher than that of the teachings from the parents, school, family and friends put together. In a way, the consumers of the market G are groomed by the market itself as soon as their senses start to work. An eight year old kid looking at the “Top Model” cover picture is conveyed that she needs to be slim, wear tight pants, have well styled hair, have puffed up lips, wear lip stick, apply makeup, wear glitzy t-shit and sneakers. All of this combined, at the time when my wife is about to give birth to a kid in a few months, had put me under distress in thinking what can I do to my kid about this. What should my wife and I teach this next gen kid?
My grandma was an all-rounder in the household. For the woman of the 50’s to 80’s generation, she knew tailoring, she knew cooking, she knew how to prepare her own ingredients, she knew how to keep the home clean and decorate it, she knew hospitality, she knew how to entertain herself, she knew singing, she knew dancing, she had friends, she played with them, she knew how to read astrology, she knew nature and this list can go on long. Thanks to this topic, I developed a completely new respect to her and her peers. Now one device has replaced almost all of these activities and is increasingly covering more. On how the kid will interact with other people and moreover how the kid will get to appreciate nature: this is a bigger threat. She can theoretically be left with this one device in a room and with access to finances, the device will completely take care of her. The demarcation between her basic requirements and wishes will blur and her wishes might not be her wishes at all. One thing is for sure and my only hope to save the kid from this misery is to teach her finances. Sticking to the basics, all this drama is just for the wallet! If I can teach her how to save money from the beginning no matter what and if she gets to learn that all these antics are just distracting her in making her wear the hook, she will lift her head up and live the present!
My grandma’s generation knew how things worked and the next gen kid of Market G should know financial planning!
It’s hard to say which direction the world will go to. Some random thoughts which occur to me are.
- System will have to crash at some point of time. An economic recession of heavy nature will happen when world credit will cross a certain threshold or supply of resources will reach a saturation point due to over consumption; personal finances will take a big dent. Governments will have to chip in to save the economic downturn or health of the audience.
- Virtual reality or alternative reality experiences will be the next immediate step. Connection to the reality will blur. The new reality will have interactive advertisements in a virtual 3D room. You talking to a seductive man or woman in that virtual environment will initiate some sort of purchase in the real world.
- First world will get f**ked sooner or later, with its people taken care by the government. The manpower will come from the third world. The bias between an active workforce and technology slaves will be strong. There will be moral dilemma on which mode earns a better status symbol – lost in alternative reality or being conscious in a workforce. Companies might have to install jammers of different kind to keep their workforce active. Robots and AI might even reduce the need for workforce. Jobs of the future will be for people who have understanding towards the electrical and mechanical world. Programmers will be high demand. Doctors, Strategy makers, managers, Technical programmers, mechatronicers, lawyers, designers could be some of the jobs of the future.
- Minimalism and all products are computers – TV, phone, laptop or tablet
History says one thing again and again: “Don’t let a salesman in your home” (E.g. this statement is a simplified version of the British occupation of India)
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