Squeezed Out

Despite the fact that India has one of the youngest populations in the world—with a median age of 24, and 207 million people in the age range of 15 to 24—there are no mainstream youth brands in India. This may be, in part, because in terms of sheer numbers and purchasing power, the 25- to 44-year-olds—the “youthful”—are a much larger (350 million) and thus more tempting segment. Focusing solely on youth always means sacrificing other segments, and sacrifices in business and marketing are not always easy to make. But more than that, even brands that want to speak effectively to youth often fall into the trap of speaking more to the “youthful” in personality than the “young” in fact. Youthfulness is a characteristic easily acquired, but being truly young entails a motivation that is not so easy to crack.

Most models and frameworks of building youth brands and mapping youth insights have a Western origin. In the Western context, youth is almost always a generation pitted against its elders. Rebellion is the key starting point. Adventure, music, and other symbols of “cool” have formed a perfect recipe for creating cult brands that rebel against the system. This model of tapping youth presupposes a larger microcosm of young versus old, so marketers are continually searching for what’s cool among the young. Because the behavioral distance between youth and other age ranges in these societies is ...

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