30 October 2014

Like Mum, Like Daughter

By Shaziya Khan, VP & Executive Planning Director (JWT Mumbai) 

Brands can get closer to women consumers by helping them nurture their goals of financial freedom

There are charming quotations. There is fierce emotion. There are tender moments of unspoken understanding.

On the topic of mothers and daughters, there is, in short, endless and timeless poetry.

The slant of this piece though, is different.

One that revolves less around emotional dependence and more around financial independence. There is a new story bursting through consumer research.

Mothers and daughters, we learn, from a JWT study of (March 2014 online survey of women SEC A, B) have a common dream: Of financial independence.

A top goal of approximately 42 per cent of women in their 30s and 40s is to be financially independent. Nearly one in two mums is nurturing not just her home, her family and her children but also her own desire to be financially her own mistress. In the wake of this dream follow related ones such as wanting to advance her career (40 per cent), open her own business (36 per cent) and travel the world (45 per cent). As well as buy a home (37 per cent) and a car (36 per cent).

Thus, women today are seeking an independent financial infrastructure that supports their mobility, flexibility and freedom. Some of their key personal duties done, they are seeking to flex their professional talents and skills beyond the home sphere, step out into the world and earn their financial independence.

But that is only half the story. These women are surrounded by, and possibly raising, the next generation of women that dream alike.

Women in their early 20s are citing financial independence as a top goal too (65 per cent). 'Girls just wanna have fun' now comes with some definitive ideas of what's involved, including career advancement (61 per cent), opening own business (47 per cent), travelling the world (42 per cent), buying a home (49 per cent) and buying a car (50 per cent).

Interestingly a few of these financial goals take precedence over getting married (51 per cent). Getting married remains a top life goal - a 'suitable boy' matters, of course! But 'suitable career' comes first.

Young women are stepping out into the world driven by clear-headed wishes for financial independence. That they are today supported by mums who share the same dream implies incredible support, drive and understanding to help achieve their financial goals. (And possibly, provide wise counsel, to each other.). Across all age groups, a whopping 85 per cent women believed that having a career defines a 'successful woman' today.

Younger women (20-24 years), when asked, 'Thinking about your generation compared to your mothers, which of the following do you think have been most influential for women? ' cited opportunities for work and career (53 per cent) and financial independence/spending power (43 per cent) as the most influential drivers for change for women.

Mothers and daughters have a common dream, of financial independence.

This dream offers a relevant platform for brands to play significant roles in the lives of mothers and daughters in support of their financial independence and spending power. Ranging from enabler, educator, cheer leader, catalyst, re-inforcer, call to action. And needless to say, sponsor or benefactor. What's more, if the ladies insist on giving a treat or two, don't be surprised! They've been wishing to do so for two generations.

This article was first published in Hindu Business Line July 4th, 2014

Across the economy, shoppers rich and poor seek value

By Shaziya Khan, VP & Executive Planning Director (JWT Mumbai) 

Budget used to mean cheap. Expensive used to mean classy. The world was divided into cheapskates and spendthrifts. But the old definitions no longer apply. Budget or value is the new smart. (And expensive is the new stupid). Budget spells not only good value for money, but also pretty good quality. Words like accessible, experiential, affordable and hip describe the new value. The new value consumer rejects excess in favor of responsible spending. Modern India’s enormous geographic, demographic and economic shifts drove this revised perception of value. It’s apparent everywhere:

  • In the long queues during holiday time, at the budget airline counters, where evidently the upper crust, who travel premium class on business, find it perfectly acceptable to travel budget class on vacation.
  • With the woman who has the savvy to wait and buy the latest IT gadget after it’s on sale, or the teen owner of the trendy phone who figured a way to buy it cheaper from the US or Singapore or online from FlipKart.
  • From street vendors selling designer label merchandise almost as soon as designers produce it, and from fashion forward street customers who expect no less.

Above all, value means smartness, experiential savvy and cultural cool. There is a new language and set of meanings around value. We call them the five new smart codes of value.

1.   Opportunity in the smart name As the mass market evolves it requires new names to describe the changes. These names include: the value segment, the strivers, the aspirers, the emerging markets, or even masstige. These names are laced with opportunity and panache earlier reserved for the premium end of the market. The term value now signals inclusiveness and respect, not just low price.

2.   The importance of smart timing Among the many factors that drive purchasing today, timing predominates. Consumers and marketers are engaged in a game played in the world of buzz and WOM (Word of Mouth). It’s a world when certain days or weeks, magical time zones, combined with incentives, persuade consumers to spend. The game includes whatever incentives work, such as 25 percent or even 70 percent off, free add-ons, cheaper flights on weekdays and for off-season holidays, frequent flyer points, coupons and interest-free loans. But what works today may not work tomorrow because in value, as in humor, timing is everything.

3.   The smartness of playing one offer against another A generation that just a few decades ago first tasted the sweet life of credit has evolved to a more savvy thrill. It’s learned that playing one option against another provides the satisfaction of winning a superior deal. Comparison-shopping reigns! Excel sheets, charts and even apps that help make comparisons are everywhere – from insurance packages and hotel rates to telecom options and employment offers. The catch phrase of this buyer’s market is, Kitna doge? How much will you give? Squeezing out the best buy is the new normal. Service providers, vendors, sales agents, loan officers, even long-time business partners or potential employers are not exceptions.

4.   Being responsible and understated is now smart The benefits of value go beyond the transactional and include the relational or emotional. Post-recession prudence has made value conscious thinking not just permissible but almost aspirational and responsible. Down trading, down sizing, down traveling, down housing, down anything has acquired new age minimalist cachet and approval. Value is associated with responsibility, focus, and even social sensitivity. Bling and showing off has made way for more muted, understated purchase behavior. Package lunches, group discounts, cloth carry bags, local instead of foreign holidays, redemption coupons all point to the responsibility associated with being value conscious.

5.   Smart, accessible design leads the way Value consciousness has unleashed a burst of creative design solutions. There is a promising segment, across categories, which focuses on providing premium yet accessible quality. It celebrates the good life – for all. Inclusive, edgy and driving volume, this segment attracts the hottest talent, significant investor support and the most innovative designs. Whether in hospitality, home décor, travel, fashion, personal care, technology, music or the environment, accessible design solutions lead the way.

The new meaning of value is a fascinating shift. Because it operates at several levels, it has set in motion a virtuous cycle. This follows from a sense of entitlement, brought on via exposure and experience. Once consumers have tasted a “happy meal” they feel entitled to similar happy experiences in other purchases. Experience raises expectations and entitlement and it sharpens the skills needed to fulfill new aspirations.

This article was first published in BrandZ India 2014 report.