MUMBAI: Marketers are failing to properly understand the diverse Indian youth market and need to move beyond traditional socio-economic classifications and the "illusory medium" of social media to engage them successfully, an industry figure has argued.

Samyak Chakrabarty, chief youth marketer at DDB Mudra Group, set up a panel of under-28s representative of backgrounds in four key cities – Mumbai, New Delhi, Bangalore and Kolkata – in order to establish what influences young Indians.

"Young people don't wake up thinking about brands," he told the Economic Times, adding that they had a lot more to worry about in their lives, "therefore a more strategic approach has to be adopted to acquire share of mind space".

Rather than attempting to create various characters to illustrate particular sub-groups, he instead developed five "fluid mindset archetypes", these being five different perspectives of the same consumer capable of being triggered by different product categories.

The mindsets ranged from "passionista", where decisions are driven by emotion rather than logic, to "kite", where young people follow others who, perhaps, know more about a particular product area.

This approach then informed Chakrabarty's understanding of how word of mouth could be successfully utilised to spread a relevant message.

"Social media is not the primary medium to engage youth even today," he declared.

"The power of 'offline social networks' is immense and untapped since today everyone is distracted by this illusory medium," he continued.

A further breakdown of the research identified six "entities" that had most impact on the actions, choices and aspirations of the urban young. These were beauty, money, sex, love, faith and substance.

Thus, for example, there had been "a great rise in the number of casual relationships and friends with benefits since sex is no longer the most important act to a relationship". Charkrabarty noted that films and advertisements had a particular influence on sexual behaviour.

Regarding "substance", the number of women smokers had risen dramatically as this was a way for them to signal gender equality. And in a shift away from traditional practices, alcohol and cigarettes were becoming the most important enabler of relationships.

Views on money had moved beyond a focus on the basics of food, clothing and shelter, with young people keen to know more about financial products that would help them. Banks needed to engage with them in a language they understood, suggested Chakrabarty.

Data sourced from Economic Times; additional content by Warc staff