Fashion accessory brand Fastrack is known for its cheeky communication in India. Over the years, the brand has made sure its conversations with its audience have been relevant, relatable and contemporary. With the launch of its latest brand campaign focusing on celebrating the aptly titled “You Do You”, Fastrack’s Head of Marketing, Ajay Maurya, tells WARC how it has consistently been able to deliver the right message to youth and understand them better while being inclusive and woke.

This article is part of a Spotlight series on diversity and inclusion in Indian advertising. Read more

Key insights

  • Digital and social platforms have the power to allow a two-way conversation with Gen Z and its micro-cohorts.
  • To promote inclusivity, Fastrack engages the LGBTQIA community and youngsters who have diverse perspectives.
  • All of Fastrack’s conversations have been edgy and witty, with a clear message that doesn’t hurt anyone’s feelings.
Define diversity and inclusion in the way Fastrack looks at it.

I’ll take you a step back. Fastrack has always been speaking to the youth who over time has evolved from the tensions bothering them. Today, these people want to try new things, they want to maybe experiment with their choices, with their bodies, careers, sexual orientation. There are so many things they want to do.

As a result, there are micro-cohorts that are getting created within Gen Z as a platform. Compared to what single-minded tension that was bothering them maybe 10 years back, look at the tensions for each of these micro-cohorts specifically when they’re so fluid in their choices; they have completely changed. Hence, to address these micro-cohorts or even look at the kind of choices that these guys make is very important for a brand like Fastrack.

If we are committed to the space of speaking to the youth, we'll have to speak their language. Therefore, if we are really inclusive, we have to serve each of these micro-cohorts and be their voice. And always stand by their choices, be their partner in saying, “Hey! Whatever you guys are planning to do with whatever you guys think, it’s the right way forward for you. And until the time you are clear about your choices, this is the brand that will always be beside you.”

We are not going to teach them anything because this is not a generation that needs to be taught. We will support and give them the platform and confidence. And if there’s anything wrong happening, we will be the guiding light. That’s the role that the brand has to play in making sure that we are talking to people who have multiple choices and are multidimensional in approach. That’s the inclusivity that we are looking at.

You’re talking about being a guiding light to your audience. How are you ensuring that the conversation is two-sided? How are you driving the engagement?

It’s a long path to tread. We have to start this maybe after the repositioning that we are doing with the You Do You campaign as a platform. There’s a sequence of activities that we have planned, so we actually do what we mean to do for these youngsters, starting with a series of films that we are launching, which will be talking about body positivity as the important lever to begin with. After that will be the time for them to engage with us through digital interventions.

Digital and social platforms give you the power to allow a two-way conversation to go on. Most of our conversations related to body positivity have already started on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube, which are the lead digital platform media for us.

The influencer content we are pushing has people talking. People are admitting to having gone through similar problems.

As and how we progress, we are also looking to set up a mental health helpline for youngsters, where the brand tells people to come and share their experiences. It will be an open platform where people get to speak their mind.

There are also plans to be on Clubhouse for conversations to continue.

These are certain examples about how we plan to walk the talk to help the youngsters of our country to express themselves freely.

What’s your influencer strategy? How are you choosing and working with them?

Digital as a media has become a cliché. What we are trying to do is use digital as a platform for conversation. Most of the brands end up using digital for business. Of course, business is important but we as a brand also strongly believe in being the conversational leader.

In generating this conversation, influencer strategy is a very integral part. These influencers or the micro-cohorts I mentioned earlier are definitely opinion leaders. There are multiple choices and facets these youngsters are experimenting with.

There are multiple cohorts and to address specific ones, you need to have an opinion leader. The idea is to form a framework where we have some macro influencers, micro influencers, and then at the base of the pyramid, you have some nano influencers. The nano influencers are of emerging prominence who are talking of newer things. Macro is something that has already become a fad. It is these nano influencers who will bring forth the upcoming trends. If Fastrack as a brand has to keep up with Gen Z, it is very important to work with the nano influencers, macro influencers and micro influencers.

Clearly, you have your ear to the ground. You want to talk about issues. What was important to the youth a decade back may not be right now, so if I have to talk about inclusivity, about being woke, it is what probably is on people’s minds these days. That’s why you find so many brands talking about it. But shouldn’t this have come a lot earlier? Surely there were people who were being bullied for the way they looked. Should brands have waited this long to be enlightened?

Fair question. There’s a gradual trend that happens when consumer psychology changes. As I said, this is an understanding we had maybe 18 months back when we started to work on the You Do You campaign. It’s just that because of the COVID circumstances and the way things turned out in the last 18 months, it was very difficult to get out with any kind of conversations at that point of time.

As we speak, the space of this fluidity that I’m talking about is only getting heightened. So the timing was apt. We find people experimenting more and voicing their concerns on social platforms. And with the new campaign, more people will definitely connect with the brand. So it’s a good time to go forward. Could it have been a little earlier? Of course!

How does Fastrack approach the concept of inclusivity, gender and diversity at the workplace? Because I believe you can’t possibly be talking about something that you don’t practise yourself.

As an organisation like Titan (the owner company), we respect individuals when it comes to inclusivity. There are people who are differently abled in our organisation, who are given equal respect and dignity to work as peers among us. We respect people from the LGBTQIA community who also work with us, free of any discrimination. They are given the confidence and environment to feel that they belong.

And coming to brand Fastrack, we are completely immersed in this, the kind of people that we support and the kind of people that we really encourage to be lifted on our platform. We are committed to the cause of the LGBTQIA community. In June, we did an important event called The Pride Along. We got some key influencers from the LGBTQIA community and we did a fashion flea market with them. They were given the platform to showcase their best work in fashion. That’s encouragement without any kind of business intent.

Similarly, at our workplace, we engage with many youngsters who give us diverse perspectives on building a strategised way forward and as you rightly said, we keep our ear to the ground. This is because of the people that we interact with, who are behind the show. Right now, there are hundreds of kids speaking to us and offering their opinions. This further helps us curate our strategies better.

Fastrack has been known for “edgy advertising”. Like you said, you keep it fun and quirky at the same time. But isn’t there a difference between being edgy and being inclusive, being woke?

All our conversations have been edgy. We always want to have a witty approach to a tension. For example, when we came up with the Fastrack Reflex ads, the message was clear but it was a very, very witty take. It wasn’t hurting anybody’s sentiments. The entire tension was that it is difficult for a guy and a girl to talk about this (sex), that’s the tension that gets broken. But it gets broken in an edgy manner. So when I say edgy, it is only about the way of bringing it forward in a communication.

So how do you sail through the current cancel culture? It’s interesting because a few brands have been taken to task for issues that Fastrack has touched on in its communication previously. Maybe not as blatantly but it didn’t bother anyone.

We have a very robust mechanism of taking our creative ads through a series of experts. We spend a lot of time making sure that our ads do not hurt any sentiments or any kind of belief that people in the country have. It should not leave somebody in any kind of disgust or anger. The witty conversation ensures it brings a smile to your face. So that’s a very important integral programme and it helps brand Fastrack to navigate this fine line cautiously.

At the same time, we are also mindful that we should not be hurting any sentiments and show what the reality of Gen Z is. If we do that, we should not have any concerns.