Casually Yours

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Shalini Rawla, Managing Consultant, The Key

Shalini Rawla, Managing Consultant, The Key, Consumer Diagnostics and Intelligence Solutions

What marketers should do to tap into a new social behaviour

The new social
Think of the years without the internet. Don’t think productivity. Think relationships. Yours and mine – without the internet. That was a time when ‘social dos’ had a different meaning. It was frequent offline get togethers. Where we drank ourselves silly and discussed things that mattered and did not matter. We bitched, praised and laughed about people, the things they did and should not have done. Discussed holiday spots and politics all in the same breath.

Perhaps we drank over a game of cards, pictionary or just aimless conversations. It was fun even if you woke up with a hangover the next day. Do we not do the same now? Of course we do. Except not as frequently. And when we do not meet that frequently, we tend to have those conversations still. Only, they are not in real time. Friends do ‘like’ or comment on our thoughts, which we now call ‘status updates’. We do get into friendly spars at times.

We still share memories and jokes with friends. But now we do that alone. Sitting at one end of the screen. Sharing things with not just a small coterie of friends but with their friends and with a larger unknown, unmet group of people we call friends.  That is how social we are today.

Age old social behavior
Man as a social animal is an age old behavior. The new social media is perhaps just technology’s way of playing catch-up with our real offline lives. And that is where we face the biggest difficulty in this game – we apply an offline context to our online discussions.

We have no idea that the world is our audience when we post something. We do not consider the impact our updates may have on the large unknown mass we call our friends of friends. We all need a lesson in the new ‘social dos’ of today.

Surely this is not a new observation. Nor is it an excuse to familiarise us with a new set of social netiquettes. But an observation on how our posts of 2012, what we did in 2012, wore a very different hue from any other year before. Observed in a collective manner, it portrays a very telling picture of the patina that coats our changing social behavior.

2012: The casual beginning
Whether it is Narendra Modi’s tweet on Tharoor’s ` 50 crore girlfriend or Shaheen Dhada’s much hyped FB post on Balasaheb’s death or Suresh Raina’s ‘besharam’ tag for team Pakistan or even an offline prank call made by the Aussie DJs leading to the suicide of the  nurse of UK’s hospital, there is a chillingly apparent casual and impusive tenor to the social conversations we are having these days.
This casual approach is evident in other dimensions as well – with relationships, with careers, with companies, with marriage, with parenting and what have you.

Casual is the new normal
There is a casualness to hitherto formal things in life. None of us who were working a decade back would find a resignation or request for leave through a text message, acceptable. But it is happening these days. And is considered to be perfectly normal by those who use technology as an enabler for doing things differently.

The same casual approach is evident in business writing which is nothing but an extension of a text message with cryptic abbreviations liberally interspersd with emoticons. The same casual approach is evident in the scant preparation for a job interview where the incumbent just knows the name of the company and not necessarily what it does. Or even if s/he does land a job, the ‘casualness’ rears its head in three to six months as Gen Y realises that ‘this is not what they had imagined it would be like’!

In a survey done in Mumbai amongst fresh graduates/post graduates looking for full time employment, guess what the most important factor was that could help them choose one company over another?  No, it was not the reputation or the size of the company, not even the job profile, growth prospects or pay packet, but proximity of the office to their place of residence!

A 2012 survey by Catalyst shows that 78 per cent young Indians aspire for senior executive and/or CEO roles, and they’re very impatient about getting there.

Stickiness is out
And why just blame the new generation? The average tenure of employees in the US. is 1.5 years, according to the Department of Labor. A recent Mercer survey highlights that no fewer than 54% of Indian workers are seriously considering leaving their jobs, and that figure spikes to 66 per cent in the 16-24 year age bracket.

The same casual approach is evident in the way parents give advice to their children. “Study hard and prepare for MBA. Even if you do not get through, I can always pay to get you the degree or send you abroad” is the reassurance a large number of today’s parents are guilty of giving. Some parents are even guilty of discouraging their children from working long hours at their jobs and even requesting the employers to display some

And if things don’t work out with one employer, there are always others who would be more than willing to accommodate. After all, choices exist only because they must be exercised.

Even we as marketers are guilty of having done precious little to recognize this approach and respect it as the millennial consumer’s way of thinking. Instead we slot them as flirts and churners and do nothing for them in the name of loyalty.

We too have been casual in our efforts. The fact of the matter is that flirts and churners are the new loyals. We are again guilty of using an old context for a new changing cohort. When long term loyalty is not what a customer seeks, why belabour it?

Leverage, not lament
It is a well researched fact that while internet has made us become more informed consumers, we have also at the same time become more impulsive shoppers. And that impulsiveness has pervaded our thinking and behavior as well. Call it impulsive, unplanned, casual or non chalant, the fact of the matter is this behavior is here to stay. As marketers, we may lament the good old days or leverage this behavior for our brand and marketing strategies. The bad news is that the old concept of Brand Loyalty is being redefined by today’s consumers as Extempore Engagement. It behoves brands to celebrate the engagement with the brand, however short. The brand must treat the customer as though it is on its first date with the customer. Woo her with all you have for you know not if and when she will come back. The wait could be endless.

Take the casual seriously
The good news is that not many marketers have started thinking in this direction. It requires a change in mindset. Study this behavior thoroughly to understand how it impacts life in all its dimensions and how you could adapt to this changing social behavior – as an employer, as a client, as a marketer, as a parent, as a colleague, as a partner.

5 things you could start immediately:

  1. drop your cynicism and recognise that casual is not necessarily bad
  2. challenge your existing customer engagement strategy
  3. make each engagement with customer memorable and extempore – assume it is going to be short
  4. keep a keen and watchful eye on technology as it is the adaptive response to technology which is reshaping our social behavior and
  5. re-engineer your customer engagement budget – think of it as a lot of money in the wrong places for the wrong people.

And then see how this casual virus starts to take you seriously.

The views expressed here are of the author alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Pitch

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