“Identity Construction is a complex process by which we develop a clear and unique view of ourselves and our identity by discovering and addressing three core aspects,

– What is different/ unique about me

– Who / what all am I affiliated with – eg. groups like family, ethnicity, occupation

– What are my thoughts / points of view on various subjects as compared to others”

The reason for sharing is that having worked in the personal care and beauty space, we often reach a decision crossroad, between what is most important to the target consumer.

– Self perception Vs. Others opinion

– Standing out Vs. Fitting in

– Attraction Vs. Bonding

– Girls Vs. Group formation

This is one way for us to think, if we are ever grappling with a similar situation.​

From an identity formation lens, as part of growing up, each of us seem to work through a set of questions that we ask ourselves. Each question when answered and resolved helps a person move to the next question and develop a healthy sense of identity.

Typically, the Eight Questions and the corresponding age bands are as follows,

1. TRUST – Can i trust the people around me and the world – Infant stage (Under a year)

2. INDEPENDENCE – Is it ok to make decisions – is it ok to do things my way – Toddler Stage (1-2 yrs.)

3. INITIATIVE – Is it ok for me to do things, move, act, take initiative – Child (3-6 yrs.)

4. COMPETENCE – Can i make it amongst people around me, do i have what it takes – Late childhood (7-10 yrs.)

5. FIDELITY – Who am I, What can i become – what will be my role in the future – Teenage (11-19 yrs.)

6. RELATIONSHIPS – Can I form relationships with people, can I love – Early Adulthood (20-44 yrs.)

7. CARE / OTHERS – How can i make my life count – Middle Adulthood (45-60 yrs.)

8. REFLECTION – Did i do enough, was it ok to be me (60 + yrs.)

Two Critical thoughts

1. If we think deeply about each question asked, we begin to sense what could typically motivate or drive people in that age band.

– What would truly be important to them at a human level.

2. Because, if a question is not answered at the right time, it does not stop the next question. However, the person will be unfulfilled and the question will reappear as regret.

So, if we ever wondered why those college romances amongst friends ended so abruptly, we could look at what question was answered or remained unanswered.

For a teenager, who has not been able to answer ‘who am I’ or ‘what I choose to become’ (future role), a romantic relationship, even if it happens, may often not be fruitful.

“We all would know people who were in love, but broke up because one of them moved cities for education or work or chose a career path, that did not help them give the required time to the relationship.”

Now, imagine a brand for teenagers, a stage where the question occupying their mind is,

– Who am I, what can I be (What is my social and occupational identity going to be)

This requires them to consider various goals, values, roles (occupation, gender roles, politics, culture, religion), accepting some and rejecting others to determine where they are headed in life.

Because, failure to clear this stage, also leads to failure to form a shared identity with others around you.

So, for a 16-18 year old, is group fit more important or intimacy and why?.

If we apply the same thinking, we begin to realise that at that age, identity formation is still not complete.

Not only are young adults still trying to forge their path and blend their identities with those of their friends, but they are very fearful of rejection and being turned down since it challenges their choices so far.

The fact is, only after one’s identity is somewhat clear, is one ready to make any long term commitment.

“Finding true love requires one to ask – Given the kind of person I am, what kind of person do I wish to have as a partner through life?, this requires you to first know and understand yourself.”

Which is why youngsters will often speak of wanting romance, NOT relationships. Girlfriends chahiye, girlfriend nahi.

Which is why, POVs or ways of thinking shared by brands are so easily picked up

– Halke mein lo, take it easy, daar ke aage jeet hain, do nothing etc. etc.

Similarly, we could possibly use this way of thinking and begin to understand other consumer groups across life stages.

What must they be going through, what is their mind possibly grappling with, what is making them say or do things and what role could we play in his /her life.


Note – this small note does not even begin to scratch the surface of identity formation.

The goal here is not to suggest or recommend an approach or framework to be applied. The idea was to share different ways to build EMPATHY which may help us ask more pertinent questions about the consumer.

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