Archive for October, 2013


Thumbprinting a Brand

Sunday, October 13th, 2013

Indian consumers tend to suffer guilt attacks whenever they ‘selfishly’ consume something individually all by themselves. There are three things that make them shell out big bucks. The product should be used or consumed not by the individual alone but by the whole family, it should be seen by a lot of people and it should endure. Cars, homes, jewelry are the obvious candidates for satisfying these criteria. Audi and BMW have been runaway successes in an otherwise depressed market and the relatively high ticket size hasn’t been a deterrent. All these things are up for public view and not for private individual consumption.


Family is prioritized over the self. The individual is submerged in the family collective. And even that collective is robbed of its specialness in the crowd of billions. Specialness of the individual must be reclaimed. And that’s what happens.  No two cars are of the same make remain the same after they have been driven out of the showroom. Each will be personalized in a hundred different ways. It will bear testimony to the owner’s spiritual leanings, his significant others and also his diagnosis of vulnerable points in the vehicle that need to be bolstered in the event of a collision. Tailored clothes continue to command a good market share even when ready to wear is a convenient and cost effective alternative. The neighbourhood tailor (who is very far in accomplishment from the finesse of the bespoke) can be instructed to stitch trousers with your particular preference of five pockets regardless of the fashion of the day.  Apparel brands are creeping in but are yet to establish that understanding relationship that the neighbourhood tailor has with the customer.

It may seem paradoxical but it is logical that the individual would want to extract himself when the force of the collective impinges so strongly on his identity. Individual stories have to be told. Some brands have been clever enough to leverage this desire to make our faces stick our stick out in the crowd. You as an individual featuring on a bag of crisps or having a shade of nail polish named after you is an ode like no other.


Even if it is a mass produced product, at level of consumption it does not have to be like all others of it’s kind, part of a uniformity. For a long lasting relationship with the Indian audience, it is important that there be room for the individual to imprint his particular signature on it. Brands who have inadvertently stumbled on this, have been happier for it.  Nestle’s Maggi instant noodles is a case in point. It was the first instant noodle brand and somehow it claimed so much heart space that there has never been a strong second competitor in the thirty odd years since it arrived. One key reason could be that consumers spontaneously detected space for making it their own via standard instructions kept to a basic minimum. A noodle dish could be made soup style, dry scrambled egg style or in any other creative way. This gave even the most challenged cook the confidence to conjure up his own recipe. Some person in every office is famed for ‘his’ Maggi. It has even been elevated enough to feature on the menu of some youth hangout cafes. There are roadside Maggi stalls with significant fan followings.

The ability of the Maggi brand to interweave itself with an individual’s identity and life space has been celebrated by the brand in a campaign that gave consumers a platform to share their Maggi stories from when this instant noodle was an integral part of their life events, usually when they were students or as young couples with limited culinary skills. When a brand succeeds in establishing a relationship at that life stage, it will always enjoy a powerful nostalgic connection.

© Sraboni Bhaduri 2013

Posted in Americas, Brand Worlds, Header Navigation, Lateral Navigation, Semiotics | No Comments »

Pretty in Scarlet

Sunday, October 6th, 2013

While having the reputation of a timeless classic in the Western world, red lipstick was considered outdated by Russian females for a long time.  But new generations grow and times change. According to street fashion pictures and cutting edge beauty blogs, red lipstick has been getting back in fashion. However, unlike the 1920s (the triumphal age of red lipstick) a woman with scarlet lips is not trying to convey the image of a femme fatale. Hip youngsters combine it with old-school eyeglasses and skinny jeans and manage to maintain the status quo of  infantile Millennials. What’s behind this emergent trend?

A kiss from the USSR

 Red is a well-recognized colour of communism and the Great Socialistic Revolution – it has a very strong cultural legacy

• The younger generation (18-24) tends to romanticize the Soviet period as an epoch of utopia that they’ve heard a lot about but never consciously witnessed

• Young people’s attraction to the the utopian ideals in Russia matches the Western vintage mania and this combination results in imaginative nostalgia

• Being a reference to the Soviet past, red lipstick has become a clear symbol of this artificially created nostalgic play


Reverse femininity

• The traditional idea of femininity is based on tender (in most cases pinkish) shades and is rooted in such image attributes as modesty and fragility. This is determined by the submissive character of a woman in patriarchal Russian society

• Red lipstick is connected with the active role of a woman and at the same time is a typical womanish attribute: unlike neutral make-up it doesn’t make women closer to men to demonstrate the gender equality. On the contrary, it becomes a manifesto of the female identity without connotations of submissive femininity

• Gradually and slowly the role of a woman in a modern society shifts, and red lipstick becomes a statement of emancipation and independence

Passive aggressive

• Spending their teenage years in a time of relative stability and booming consumption, younger urban females are the children of plentitude. Satisfied with their life opportunities, younger Millennial girls were never forced to become go-getters and are rather passive in their social communication

• Looking prominent and aggressive, red lipstick enables young females to beat their fear of going unnoticed and increases their self-confidence

• Red lipstick is a code of libertinism and sexuality. Consumers feel no longer obliged to act and to speak: red lipstick speaks for them and reveals their desire to participate in dialogue with the opposite sex


Opposing the dominant ‘natural’ trend

• The natural look is a dominant beauty trend, recalled by the vast majority of female consumers and socially approved due to its neutrality

• Unlike previous generations, for whom communal ideas (and social approval) were always much more important than personal preferences, young females see themselves as individuals and look for the instruments to communicate their unique choice to the public

• Young beauty trendsetters, who are especially driven by the idea of distinctiveness and WOW-factor potential, want to oppose the popular conventions of natural make-up and choose exactly the opposite

In  conclusion and in summary, the red lipstick trend is determined by relatively new need states relevant to leading edge female consumers, the younger representatives of Generation Y.  Though showing some similarities to their Western peers, Russian youngsters are special. The particular character of their consumption drivers is obviously rooted in Russian culture and local specifics. These include such phenomena as utopian imagination, the shift in gender roles, and an individualism which, in contrast with an earlier generation of go-getters, combines for Millennial girls with a new kind of passivity.

© Marina Simakova 2013

Posted in Consumer Culture, Culture, Emergence, Europe, Global Vectors, Making Sense, Uncategorized | 1 Comment »