With culture playing a key role in shaping consumption and building brands, Wunderman Thompson (WT) carried out a study of the new ‘financial culture’ developing in India. Titled, ‘WT Culture Muscle Finance Study’, WT South Asia’s strategic planning team conducted a syndicated study across genders in the 25-54 year age group across 10 cities in Indian, namely Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Kolkata, Surat, Jaipur, Kochi, and Amritsar. Financial culture affects not just financial categories, such as banking, insurance, and investments, but also purchase decisions across categories which has relevance for clients and brands. The findings revealed some big culture shifts in modern Indian homes that included joint responsibility in the household on financial aspects, reliance on technology, and importance of financial education for girls. 

By Shaziya Khan

Traditionally, financial decision-making is regarded as the responsibility of the ‘chief wage earner’. Interestingly, our study reveals a significant cultural shift in this regard. Managing finance is no longer the preserve or responsibility of one individual, instead more than one member of the household is needed to participate in financial decision-making and contribute to the process meaningfully.

Understanding the Shift

‘Chief Wage Earner’ has been a timeless phrase used to describe the traditional financial head of the household. However, it may not be an accurate one any more. A big shift towards joint financial responsibility in the household has been the single-biggest attitudinal shift in financial culture among modern Indian consumers. 

The shift is revelatory — that either one income or one decision-making authority is no longer regarded as enough for a household to feel financially secure. So, more than one member of the household needs to shoulder financial responsibility. 

This shift towards joint financial responsibility is supported by the three of the top five shifts across the entire study. What is significant is that it was equally strong among men and women, both young and old.

The supporting shift statements include the following:

One income is generally not enough anymore; these days many people need multiple sources of income to have a secure financial life.” This, in fact, is the single most powerful financial culture muscle score across the entire study.

To lead a better life today, more than one member of the household needs to shoulder financial responsibility and contribute towards the savings and investment needs of the household.” 

Implications for Brands:

We believe that this attitudinal shift in the financial culture of our times has one significant implication for financial brands, in particular. Though of course it ripples across categories, given that financial decision-making directly impacts most purchase decisions.

Financial thinking is undergoing several fascinating shifts and it is important that brands understand and address them. One of them that intrigued me the most was that when the Indian family was more of a joint family, financial decision making was concentrated or nuclear, now when the Indian family
is more of a nuclear family,
financial decision-making
is joint.

New and Multiple Target Audiences in the Same Household

So, brands could embrace joint targeting or multiple targeting of family members:

  • Chief wage earner has been a significant description of the target audience. However, it may not be enough anymore. Earning, budgeting, decision-making, influencing, and investing could be the domain of more than one member of the family.
  • Brands can acknowledge and celebrate the complementary roles in the same household among members of the family in fulfilling their joint financial responsibility. The roles could be ‘Chief Budgeter’, ‘Chief Spender’, ‘Chief Investor’, ‘Chief Saver’,  ‘Chief Deal Maker’ and so on.

The writer is National Planning Director, Wunderman Thomson