Monday, May 26, 2014

Marketing Wisdom from My Mother

My mother fits nicely into society’s template of a strong, independent woman. At 50-something, she is an engineer with the country’s oldest telecommunication services provider. A heavily left-brained and calculative person, she can transform almost instantly into the overly-caring Indian mother with her ‘traditional’ values all intact. Over the last year of my marketing education, I have observed her purchase behaviour in the brief and scattered semester vacations and picked up her buying preferences over phone conversations when she tells me about her day. Here is a short summary of the things she does which when adopted on a larger scale might upset business models and render many ad people jobless.


Stay away from purchasing products that use celebrity brand ambassadors.

Reasoning: “If they invested the celebrity’s paycheck into improving the product, we’d either have a better product or more quantity. They pay these one-hit-wonders a bomb, complain about bad economy and pack only 70 ml shampoo in the bottle these days.”


Always buy fresh produce from the street-side carts at the supermarket’s steps.

Reasoning: “Fresh produce is never fresh in an air-conditioned environment. Moreover, these vendors need to make a living too.”


What shower gel?

Reasoning: “Contains Sodium Laureth Sulphate – a detergent used in various strengths of cleaners from floor to the face. Is there a Johnson’s Baby shower gel? Surely they know a fair deal about soap.”


Even well-marketed “health foods” don’t test her resolve.

Reaction: Picks up a pack of real green tea leaves from the shelf below Lipton Green Tea bags. I could not tell the difference from the brewed tea.


On trying to lure her with the newest Lay’s flavour-

Reply: “Come home for Diwali, I’ll make you sun-dried chips with garam masala which will keep you warm in that Gujarat winter. I’ll make enough for your friends as well..there will be no air in the pack.”


At the end of a shopping session, my mother’s necessity-driven shopping cart almost always looks like she is close enough to giving big brands a run for their money. True, most of her choices are not necessarily convenient (the chips take three days to bake in the sun) but she has mastered the knack of choosing products that fit perfectly with her lifestyle, almost eliminating the concept of marketing-induced aspirational lifestyle. Some call it being close-minded, I call it power over marketing.

It’s not like my mum doesn’t experiment: between Dove and Himalaya’s new SLS-free shampoo, the switch was a no-brainer. She exhibits undying brand loyalty to Lakmé that goes over her anti-celebrity endorsement stand. Just yesterday, three Lakmé products were picked up after a disapproving look at Kareena Kapoor’s orange lipstick in the store display. Somewhere, somehow, this woman has found balance between being a marketing victim and not dismissing novelty altogether.


One of my goals this year is to bring back some of the aforementioned aspirational value into my mother’s lifestyle. Let’s see how that works out.