The MTV-Brand Equity Youth Marketing Forum held in 2004 had some eminent speakers who shared their perceptions of the various trends taking place just now. The Enclosed Note covers the key points made by each of the speakers.

1. Bill Roedy, President of MTV Networks International gave the opening address. The key points he made were as follows :

a. The biggest advantage of India is that half its population is under the age of 25 years.

2. Change is the common theme among the young.
3. The top 10 trends among the youth around the world are as follows :

i. Modding – Modifying yourself. Expressing yourself in a unique manner. Creating your own playlist. It’s got to be about me. Personalisation. Seen in the choice of ringtones.

ii. Communities – Age does not matter. What matters is who is hanging out with whom. The need to belong to communities of interest.

iii. Be Authentic – The need to become real and relevant. Sony organizes an event around break-dancing.

iv. Double identity – Co-opt another persona. Obsessiveness with Celebrities. Chatrooms.

v. Too much Information – Media turnoff. Navigation is what is being looked for. Serve it up fast and easy.

vi. Let’s rock – Music has its cycles. Rock is on the upswing.

vii. Local motives – National pride is in. Young people want to connect with their culture.

viii. Star seekers – Reality TV. May have nothing to do with talent. Want to become stars.

ix. Mobile-ization – Portability. I need it on demand and on the move. Has to be where I am. Centre of my universe.

x. Hin fluence – All eyes on India. Madonna and the bindi. If it’s Indian it’s gotta be cool.

4. Trendsetting can be inspired by risk taking. Fight the inertia to play it safe.

2. Irma Zandl, Founder of the Trend analysis shop, Zandl Group made the following points in her presentation on “Trendspotting – Trendology”

a. Need to first devise methods which are consumer-centric to find out trends. Some of these methods are ‘Crib-chats’ done in the home in an informal setting where there is no fronting. Also Ethnic travel where one goes to places which are proving to be Trend Incubators. Like in the USA, the South and South West are the places from where the last 4 Presidents have emerged. New Mexico influencing the growth of New Ageism. Another method is to have Panels which are a source of information which becomes the content of their ie. Zandl’s ‘Hotsheet’ Newsletter. She has a panel of about 3000 youth aged 8-24 years.

2. After this one needs to substantiate one’s findings with Facts/Figures. The Census, important polls like the Gallup polls or the CNN poll, and reliable sales data.
3. Lastly the above needs to be translated into ‘directions’ which are shared with the client.

4. There is a difference between ‘Trends’ and ‘Trendy’.

i. Trends are Long-lived eg. Hip-hop is now completing 25 years.

ii. Trends are based on lifestyle, technology, demographics. Eg. Moving away from obesity and ‘casualization’. Whatever is Indian being adopted in the West. Yoga, Food, Music, films like ‘Bend it like Beckham’

iii. Trends are always directional and can be monetized.

iv. Need to look everywhere to spot trends.

v. To spot the ‘Trendy’ one needs to look at ‘Fashionistas’.

vi. ‘Trendy’ has a shorter life span.

vii. Ultimately ‘Trends’ need to be used in Strategy while ‘Trendy’ needs to be used for promotions.

e. The Global Youth Trends according to Irma are as follows :

i. Free Agents :

– 30 and below are a group which is very discerning. They will buy online getting good discounts, download music free from the Net.

– Technology is the face of change which makes it exciting and innovating. They will burn their own movies now.

– Speed, Power and Upgradation is impacting brand loyalty among this group. They are changing the notion of what heritage means. They are looking for brands out there now and on which they have already done their research online.

– Fragmentation in virtually every category is impacting brand loyalty. Shorter product life cycles and declining market share.

– Companies are resorting to fluid pricing and deflation. Dropping prices and everyday low price.

– The DIY mindset. Want to create what they consume.

– Rise in niche brands. Mass customization. Nike bought Converse. Estee Lauder grew by purchasing niche brands. Strategy for growth through the purchase of niche brands.

ii. Chicks in Charge :

– Post-Feminist. No longer feel the need to sublimate one’s sexuality. If you’ve got it, flaunt it.

– Revolutionary, empowering and independent. Less pressure to conform to social roles.

– Take charge – Get the woman to purchase her ring. Left hand ring rocks the cradle. Right hand ring rules the world.

– Education/Careers – men relocating because wife’s job has shifted base.

– Single women buying houses, pole dancing classes.

– Marriage – The unmarried in the 17-34 age group in USA is today at 30%. 33 % of children are born out of wedlock. One of the possible reasons for the rise of Metrosexuals is that the boys now have single mothers as role models.

– P&G ran the tag line “Strong enough for a man, Made for a woman” for its brand ‘Secret” for years. They always do things after having done adequate research. They have now changed the line to “Strong enough for a woman.” A clear indication of the changed role of the woman.

iii. Soul Searching :

– Fundamentalist/Conservative Groups are rising in the USA. 46% are Born Again Christians. 141 mn. View Christian media.

– Polarizing the country.

– Impacting advertising and entertainment. TV, Movies, Radio, Online games, Toys and so on. Gucci is pushing back from sexual advertising.

– Janet Jackson’s wardrobe dysfunction was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It was done on Super Bowl which is like a religion.

f. The 10 ‘Trendy’ things today are :

i. Cubicle Action Figures like ‘Beanie babies’. Some of these collector’s items sell at $10,000 each.

ii. Being MOD/Strokes – ‘Strokes’ haircut, Rock and Punk, Girls playing the guitar is all a part of Modding. Being unique.

iii. Clowns/Krumping – In rap the singers put on clown outfits. In Krumping this means they put on a lot of ‘Tribal’ viz. war paint.

iv. – A website about kittens doing cute things. Becoming very trendy.

v. Videogame sound tracks- Boys are collecting and playing only this.

vi. Dummies – Using creatures in advertising. Puppets.

vii. D I Drifting – This comes from the street. Like how well one does the corner with one’s car.

viii. Halo Parties – This belongs to a Sci-Fi future where people book ‘x’ boxes on Times Square to play at certain times with whomever one wishes to play with viz. online games.

ix. Poker nights – The TV networks are promoting this. Poker shows. Ben Affleck is a poker addict. Rumour has it that it was this addiction that caused the split with J Lo.

x. Movieoke – this is the equivalent of Karaoke. Here people act out the scenes.

g. It is very difficult to tell whether the life of a trend is over. One can only see that possibly it is when business is at its peak. When even the laggards are adopting the trend.

h. Rap is not growing. Rock is in.

3. The key highlights of a research done on the Indian youth by MTV, Nokia and Pepsi was presented. The age group was 15-34 years. It was done in the major metros. There was a Quantitative study, a qualitative study and an interview with experts. (One found it difficult to capture all the details). Below are just the highest scores.

a. The place where most time was spent was the ‘Home’.

b. The favorite activity indulged in was ‘watching TV’.

c. The coolest activity was ‘going out with the family’.

d. The coolest things to have ranged from Credit Card (Mumbai) to well-groomed hair (Chennai)

e. The coolest careers were ‘doctor’ and ‘business’.

f. Better to be on one’s own – Higher in places like Lucknow.

g. Spend for today – Highest in Vizag.

h. Have had pre-marital sex – Delhi much higher than Mumbai.

i. To be considered ‘in’ must have a boyfriend/girlfriend – Highest in Mumbai.

j. There will be 462 mn in 2006-7 in the very rich consuming class.

k. In Fashion – seeking comfort in clothes

l. Don’t see any harm in figure-hugging clothes. Wear what suits me.

m. VJs are trend setters.

n. The coolest singer is Sonu Nigam.

o. Old Hindi music liked more.

p. In technology email and chatting the most ‘use’ on the Internet.

q. SMSssing bigger in smaller towns.

4. Peter Arnell the Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Arnell Group and Muktesh Pant, former Marketing Guru at Reebok made the following contribution.

a. Innovation and change is not about vision but guts to live with uncertainty.

b. Trend hunting follows the following sequence :

Hunt for Knowledge -> Discover the unexpected -> Create Catalyst -> Population joins brand -> Culture becomes trend.

c. How to create a trend and place it in the market becomes important.

d. There needs to be a desire to hunt for knowledge. Therefore need to listen more than talk. Most things have a voice. Bricks on a wall or people. Need to have a hunter’s mentality.

e. Train one’s mind to look for something not there. Look at taking responsibility for the void.

f. There are accidents. Getting lost is the essence to finding a solution.

g. Distill the essence of a message not there. Need to displace something which is already there in the category.

h. Identify a trend and then feed it to grow against all resistance.

i. The critical overlay is honesty. When the focus is on the right brain then realize how important it is to foster creativity.

j. Make the consumer a participant. If the consumer just buys then she is just a spectator. As a participant she is a medium for getting the momentum where the trend is concerned.

k. Can’t control a trend. Krispy Kreme Doughnuts lost sales dramatically because carbohydrates were suddenly seen to be the enemy. Anything is possible and has a lifecycle.

l. The story of ‘ipod’ shows how the elements are random but can be orchestrated by one man (Steve Jobs) to create a trend. The sequence in hindsight is as follows :

MP3 + Napster + Record industry in trouble+ Suits against suspects + Apple licensed Pixo Tech. + ipod + Steve Jobs on Fortune cover + Ad Campaign made by the same creative director who was responsible for the 1984 path breaking Apple campaign + website + current fashionable colours + articles which stress that Apple’s numbers are growing with ipod and all this leads to ipod becoming a Popular Trend.

m. Samsung was a company that was mistaken to be making luggage because of the similarity in name with ‘Samsonite’. It was also perceived to be making cheap products. All this was in 1993. By 2001 it was ranked 42 among the top 100 companies. To achieve this with a Company which had no specific plus to offer, came up with the tag line ‘Simply Samsung’. Grabbed at anything to get attention. 12 years ago there was junk real estate in NY. Took it and painted the huge wall paintings which have become common place today. Sold the Microwave on the basis of preserving the nutrients in food. Samsung bought AST a Telco which was making huge losses. Needed to build up AST. At an exhibition, got AST to capture the last signal to be released by Rover from Mars.

m. Hanes Hosiery was resurrected with Tina Turner. She epitomized the essence of the Hanes Resilience woman. She spoke to the woman. “All you’ve heard about me is true.” Created the ‘Wildest Dreams’ album. Partnered Oprah Winfrey to help make the dreams of the Resilient Woman come true. Creating a trend becomes plot based rather than product based.

n. To make DKNY into a big brand one had to come up with an idea which was bigger than life. The context where an idea lives is more important. Till that time cheaper fabrication was perceived to be at the second level. However, DKNY was positioned in a way that convinced people that there could be a casual side to the same sophisticated woman. So even though it was lower price it had the same ‘Value’ as the Haute Couture range. Now since Donna Karan was known for her drapery, the photograph of New York was draped to fit into the letters DKNY and this was painted on a huge wall in the historic precinct of NY. Because it was in the historic part of NY nobody could dismantle it. At a place where grafitti was regularly written on walls after 9/11 for 16 months nothing was written on that wall because that whole area took on a sacred significance. Everything one does needs to have talk value. Make a compelling story.

o. To make Reebok successful, married pop culture and entertainment to sneakers. Never done before. Needed to become irreverent. Reebok the brand name was written as if grafitti had been overwritten on the letters ‘ee’ and ‘o’. As well as ‘Rbk’. Teens like Rap and rhythm. So sneakers were created for rap stars and the 2 most influential rap stars 50 cent and Jay Z were used. Trends happen when a bunch of things fall into place. Reebok created a Terry Tate character. Ran it only once on Superbowl which served as a teaser to go to the website. The website still holds the record of the highest number of hits.

p. The trends one sees are the following :

i. Instant, constant communication.

j. Growing workplace stress.

k. Ever present Sound/Music.

l. Decreasing interaction with nature.

m. Longer careers.

n. Diet. Fitness methods.

o. India offers lifestyle solutions. Predated technology, Yoga, Ayurvedic, Rich cultural history, Superior managerial skills.

p. Project Y is what Muktesh Pant will be launching. A revolutionary new brand. It will impact lives. It will offer integrated facilities. Yoga/Ayurveda/Meditation. Brand extensions in different fields. Even if Yoga is known in India the way it is approached by Project Y will be different. For instance coffee is 1867 years old. Starbucks is just 8 years old. Yet Starbucks penetration is miniscule. Before anything good happens live through a period of uncertainty. Living on the edge.

5. Nagesh is the producer/director of ‘Hyderabad Blues’. He stated the following :

a. “Happiness is just a battle away.” Half the battles one fights is in one’s head. He wanted to prove to himself that he could make a film. If one attempts to do something on one’s own in one’s own way something good comes out. One does not consciously look for starting a trend. “If one doesn’t recognize a failure then there is no failing.” The name of his company is SIC (Stability is a Curse). ‘Hyderabad blues’ grew out of an anti-chic approach.

6. Wendell Rodricks is a fashion designer. He stated the following :

a. We want to blend in not stand out. So youth want freedom but upto a certain limit. They seek a balance between East and West. Trends start by being accepted by just a few. Madonna wore leggings in 1983. Gradually in 5 years it had become a trend. The influences for fashion are mainly Indian cinema, TV, Sport and Music. The actors and actresses are seen to be within reach. The Indian wants to preserve culture. She has a self-worth which flows out of an appreciation of one’s own culture and clothes. She wants to be Indian yet International.

7. Rishi Rich is a singer and one of the driving forces behind Bhangra and Asian sounds. He stated the following :

a. We are doing what we are doing. Proud of our culture. If it’s a trend then so be it. The Asians in Britain equate to 6% of its population. They traditionally owned shops and restaurants. Because of racial stereotyping polarization took place and clusters of Asian immigrants started forming. Asian business started flourishing. In the 80s music began developing with strong support from the community. They were doing traditional cultural music from Punjab. This became a trend. It began with groups playing at weddings. Traditional music mixed with modern music. Daytime parties and Club nights. Apache Indian was the first to break out.

Written by AD
ex waiter, angadia, travel agent, dotcomer, dukaandaar, marketeer, people watcher. appreciates single malt, food, friends