This article was inspired by a recent post on Pluggd.in which said that in India, only 27% of users are female. This interested me so much, that for the last week I’ve put all my regular jobs on hold (don’t tell my boss!), locked myself at home and set about analysing the demographics of nearly 150 brand pages for the biggest companies in India.
Facebook has said that India is one of the primary markets for business growth in the coming years. After completing my research, I can see what they mean. The surprising thing is not that there are not many Indians on Facebook, (India has the 3rd most Facebook users, which is still only 57% of the online population), it’s that the demographic is so massively skewed towards young, single males. If aliens started studying Facebook to get population insights of each country, ET would come to the conclusion that India is a country full of very rich boys.
For the Indian population, women, married people and pretty much anyone over the age of 30 seem to be entirely missing from the platform – all key demographics that Facebook needs if it wants to attract big advertisers. It is these people with money to spend on the big ticket items like cars, travel, electronics and home care – not to mention the credit cards and loans they’ll need to pay for it all.
Any brand that is currently spending money on their Indian Facebook presence probably needs to be taking a long term approach if they believe that their efforts are going to translate in to new customers. BMW, for example, will need to wait 5-10 years before their current fan demographic profile moves in to their Indian target demographic of an upwardly mobile, business owner/director, 35+ year old, married man.
It’s often said that being on social media is not a sales platform but a customer feedback and engagement channel. Simply having a page with 400,000 Likes and 2.5% of people talking about it isn’t going to boost sales. However, since your customers are going to be talking about you anyway it makes sense for them to do it in an environment where the message is as controlled as possible. After reviewing all these Indian pages and talking to young Indian men below the age of 25, I’m beginning to wonder whether we need to re-think that idea. It’s not that they want to particularly engage with a brand, but rather, they want their friends to know what brands they like. In some ways it’s like: the brands you like, is who you are to your friends.
Analysis of Bayerische Motoren Werke – That’s BMW To You and Me
BMW is a manufacturer that has done a successful job of positioning itself as an aspirational brand for middle classes around the world. Priced at the upper end of the market, it’s far from being the affordable family car the likes of Ford and Tata make. According to CarWale, the entry level price for a 3-Series in India is around 24 lakhs – or approximately 5 years salary for the average IT worker.
The graph below shows that around the world, BMW clearly appeals to the male taste buds, probably one of the contributing reasons why BMW drivers also have a reputation of being a bit arrogant (particularly in England!). However, India men lead the way with their love for BMW, while American females are not shy about showing their appreciation for BMW’s fine German engineering.
BMW is positioned as an aspirational brand, like the iPhone of the car world. It’s not so far out of reach like a Ferrari, but to own a BMW is a statement to the world that you have a bit of cash to flash. However, in India, it’s highly unlikely (celebrities and cricketers aside) that the 70% of fans under the age of 30 are going to fall in to BMW’s target market! Perhaps what we are seeing here is that young Indian males want to associate themselves with a premium brand because it helps with their own personal branding amongst their circle of friends.
Out of all the Indian pages that I analysed, BMW has one of the highest percentages of 31-50 year olds liking the brand, an indication of how much of an impact they have made in this age range. The number one brand in India for this age range is Smirnoff, but it’s probably best left unanalyzed as to why! Smirnoff aside, of every brand with an Indian focused Facebook page, the brand that 31-50 year olds most want to associate themselves with is BMW.
The fan relationship status for BMW is quite revealing. In India, nearly 1 in 2 fans is single while elsewhere in the world that is more like 1 in 3. Since 38% of fans haven’t given their relationship status, chances are that this ratio is far higher. Around the rest of the world, we see that BMW’s fans are more likely to be in some form of relationship rather than single. Combined with the age range in the chart above, and given BMW’s target market, this suggests that these fans are more likely to be BMW owners than fans in India.
So what is BMW’s motivation to dedicate marketing budgets to their Indian Facebook page when the people they are talking to are overwhelmingly young, single men?
My gut feeling is that with India’s vast population, even if only 1% of the fans fall in to segment where they can afford a BMW, that’s going to be a significant number of people still. It’s possible, that by appealing to so many youngsters, the aspirational values go up and eventually, in 5-10 years time, perhaps a significant minority will be in the enviable position to choose between a BMW, Porsche, Mercedes or Audi.