WHO IS THE CONSUMER? (Part 1 of 4)


Over the course of 15 years, working with over 800 brands, touching over  1 billion consumers in 25 + countries – we have come across countless briefs where our understanding of the consumer is nebulous at best. Last month – we went through 2 qualitative research reports for the same brand in the same market. The brief went on to describe the consumer as Male, 25-45, B1, B2, B3, C1, C2; seeks control and has a strong sense of family responsibility.


Who is the consumer?

This broad classification of the consumer is totally inadequate – and more importantly (and frighteningly) misleading. It presupposes little change in traditional classifications when India is dramatically changing demographically, sociologically and culturally. The underlying construct of the society is shifting. Speeding this up are technology, media and communications, the fruits of liberalization and a great yearning at the societal level that is now a seeking to establish the ‘great Indian dream’.

We are in the midst of a dynamically evolving society and our fixed points of reference are being challenged every day.

As the largest Brand Strategy/ Brand Design firm in the country, we are leading the charge in redefining the consumers. The old definitions no longer apply.

The trouble with Demographics/ Psycho-graphics.
  • Mercedes and BMW are expecting 30-35% sales to come from rural markets.
  • The age of luxury products in markets such as India and China is lowered to 25-30, as against 45+ in western markets.
  • Mont Blanc is the ultimate IT gift for son-in-laws of middle India.
  • Gopal Vittal is amazed to see the ubiquitous presence of Dove in Dharavi.
  • Vernacular India discovers spaghetti straps and showing skin is increasingly acceptable.
  • First noodles and now pasta is set to take over the after school snack market.

Our neatly ordered world is changing. Rapidly. And our neatly ordered Socio Economic Classification, whether A, B, C, D or A1, A2, B1, B2 is utterly meaningless.

How do we understand the consumer? Knowing the consumer is the foundation for building robust, lasting brands. The most successful brands in the world are the ones that exactly resonates consumers’ innermost desires, motivations or values. For TATA that stands for Trust, it is equally necessary for their customers to WANT trust in a corruption ridden economy, for the brand to resonate. For the Angry Young Man to succeed, there needed a generation of movie goers who were fed up and angry with the system. For Barak Obama to be elected, he had to be as far from Bush as possible.


If the demographic understanding of the consumer is blurring, the psychographics was flawed to begin with. The fundamental flaw in research is that it pre-supposes an extraordinary level of self-awareness on part of consumers/ respondents. That if you ask a consumer what his/ her motivations or desires at the deepest level are – they will articulate them.

There is a possibility of unearthing these, or at least the pointers to these, in qualitative depth interviews. The skill, however, of the interviewer is required to be at par with good psycho-analysts. This seldom is the case. And so, what we get most often is drivel such as: SEC A&B, 25-45, Male. Traditional but aspires to a better life for his kids. Seeks control in his life. Role models are Amitabh Bacchan and Mukesh Ambani.

This is not actionable research. It tells us nothing about the consumer upon which one can construct successful brands.
Contributed by Alpana Parida, President - DY Works
PART 1: Conventional consumer segments are no longer valid
PART 2: Need for a new consumer classification method
PART 3: The importance of Culture for Brands

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