With a third of India’s urban population and a strong “buying” class, today kids form a segment that definitely cannot be ignored. Buyers, Consumers, Influencers; they are indeed an imposing segment. Mobile phones, Cars, Apparels, Retail, Consumer electronics – their influence can vary across categories but it is unequivocally established that the new generation kids are exercising power that marketers should be aware of. Though we accept the growing power that kids are yielding, we fail to recognize them as a distinct segment or include their influence while devising strategies.
Before we delve on the changing kids today, it’s important to understand the reason for this change, which is not too far to seek. From a sociological point of view, multi level and multi cultural exposure of media and technology, new hierarchy of needs and changing family structure come across as some key reasons. However, it is the new age parent and the shift in style of parenting that is cited as the single most potent reason.
The new age parents are:
- Driven by rat race – the strong psyche to outdo the peers
- Prone to encouraging ‘indulgence’, especially in light of their deprived childhood
- Highly success driven, with clear material parameters defining success, leading to ‘material-driven’ kids
- Full of contradictions in both values and personalities (as pointed out by numerous psychologists)
- Trying hard to be friends in line with the modern environment
Believing that their kids need to keep up with the times, parents are encouraging the drive to succeed. Not just that, it seems that new-age parents are competing with each other as well.
As a result, irrespective of what the kids want, they are constantly being pushed around. Parents, however, do not fully endorse this view, and feel that they are ‘friends’ to their child giving greater freedom and imposing fewer restrictions on children.
Kids account for a third of India’s population
Let ‘em live
Interestingly while parents are trying hard to be friends and playmates, kids have a different story to tell. Let’s see how…
- Constant cribs on feeling stifled by the numerous restrictions – TV/movie viewing, social media time, gaming, playtime. Nothing seems free flowing; all to be done within boundaries that are defined by parents. What parents fail to understand is that fun should be purpose-less and not time-bound. Fun with a timetable makes it less fun.
- Parents are trying too hard to be friends and in the process, losing the ‘cool-ness’ associated with friends. Kids are resistant in comparing them with friends (e.g. running, fighting, doing meaningless things repeatedly are activities they can do with their friends). Kids have their own definition of friendship – friendship is with someone who speaks the same language. It’s about fighting and then making up, without any thoughts or qualms.
So far, we have been looking at the reasons for transformation in today’s kids. What do all these changes mean for the kids? No kidding here, but as the story unfolds we will see the emergence of a powerful consumer segment that is slowly but surely becoming a key driver.
Despite this core, kids are behaving as mini-adults:
- An in-control, assertive and evolved generation, that understands the difference between Audi and BMW as well as the imagery of iphone vs. Galaxy.
- Rising self-orientation: Fierce need to be recognized as individuals and severe the umbilical cord fast.
- One up man ship and goal orientation, which is essentially a teenage phenomenon, is perpetuating much sooner. This is observed across extracurricular, sports and collectibles.
- Rising aggression, caused by positive viewing of competition at an early age. Teachers encourage competitive-ness rather than co-operation, besides kids are surrounded by everything that is ‘fast’ and ‘exciting’.
- Pompous-ness, due to their understanding that ‘power’ needs to be displayed, be it material or knowledge-based.
With media and technology being all embracing, this trend of ‘mature’ kids is felt to be uncontrollable. The option is simple – to rightly guide them. They are an amazing and curious mixture of an adult-like mind, with a child-like heart. The urge to do something different and creative comes out only if they have the time to get bored, and are away from the ‘technology’ riff-raff. It’s so important that they have time to get bored.
What’s their playground?
“All children are artists. The key is how to remain an artist once they grow up.”
- Pablo Picasso
Whether the personality shift is redefining their playground or whether newer play avenues are causing the transformation– it is difficult to predict. Whatever be the case, the fact remains that their playground has changed and various aspects of personality are finding expression in this new playground. The new playground is challenging, exciting and adventurous, versatile, semi play and semi attitude, poses high need to discover.
- Free play is on a decline vs. closely monitored, defined play.
- Outside play is high in small towns but is on a decline in metros and large towns.
- Result oriented-ness rather than co-operation has crept into play. The values of perseverance and struggle are giving way to ‘instant’ gratification and this is visible in their play as well.
- Obsession with ‘digital’ leading to a wired generation of kids. Psychologists put the blame on parents and environ, not on schools for this change in play.
- Technology = Newer, Better, Modern, Status. It is hip to handle technology. Fast, Speed, Efficiency, Power are all outputs of technology. Overwhelmed by buttons, kids find an unstated attitude if they are familiar and knowledgeable about it. And look down on others who cannot handle it.
Are our values shifting? Or are they realigning to Western values? Undoubtedly, self-orientation and competitive-ness is creeping in values. Wishing elders at home or teachers in school is rarely, if ever, seen. Exposure to instant solutions is limiting them other areas such as patience and deferring things for tomorrow (core of the erstwhile generations). In the meanwhile, debate continues on if family values are truly changing or if it’s only their manifestation that is seeing a shift. Just because everything is different doesn’t mean everything has changed.