Is being rude the new cool?

Last week I was attending a launch conference where the MC was introducing the key people present with fanfare and gusto, and the crowd was just sitting and not clapping for anything. It looked a very rude gesture, because the audience would have applauded the guests anywhere else in the world. In fact an overseas guest even wondered as to why people were so indifferent, because in his culture, not applauding at such an event is a surefire indicator of being rude Reader’s Digest has just announced that Mumbai is the rudest city in the world. I think the magazine has done grave injustice to Delhi or Chennai and many other cities. We seem to be thriving in being rude. We take it as our right to be rude. Sample this; we don’t believe that pedestrians have a way of right on roads. We don’t believe that we should stop on red lights.

We don’t believe that we should wish someone when we meet them. We don’t believe that we should thank someone for doing something for us. Please and thank you have gone out of our vocabulary. Look around at forums that exist on many news websites.

Trawl around them and see what people are commenting about. Almost every comment is rude, full of expletives and using cuss words seems to be the trendiest thing to do. And to think that forums are moderated and many comments are never published, tells a very compelling story of being rude! Look around at news channels and reality shows. I had the misfortune of catching one of the episodes of “Desi Girl” Now I am no fan of that genre of programming, but reality shows are a good indicator of pop culture and real social behaviour. After all people put out their best behaviour when the camera is trained at them. It was shocking to see the behaviour and the language used by some of the hosts and village elders against the very guests they were hosting in their house. One particular lady of the house literally pushed her guests around, the village sarpanch used foul language, and surprisingly they didn’t think that they were doing anything wrong.

Pity, we are land where our culture teaches us to be polite and be nice to guests!

Also look around how the news channels are playing out news. They were never sensitive, their coverage always has been marked by being insensitive. From Arushi murder case to Mangalore air crash to Jhariagram train crash, they have never displayed sensitivity. They have always thrust their mike at survivors and asked some really silly and insensitive questions. Despite constant debates and possibly pressure, they have chosen to remain rude in their tone of voice, because they believe that by being rude, they gain greater acceptance. So is being rude now becoming mainstream culture? Almost every available indicator seems to suggest that being nice and polite to fellow human being is not our culture. We need to be brash, loutish and crass.

So what are the implications that it can have on brands? Brand communication is all about context and content. Marketers spend endless hours researching the context and figure out the content. It is the context that helps us to define the insight and allows us to add multiple layers of benefits and resultant effects on brand communication. Now let’s add the environment to it and see what happens. These may be the new rules of engagement as I see them

The brands need to believe that only they have the right to exist in market place. Every competing brand has no right to exist, and if consumers buy the competing brands they shall be abused

All brands need to believe that the consumers need to be forced into listening to their messages. Which means all communication needs to be loud, screaming and threatening

All brands should deliberately demean every other brand even if they are not directly competing with them. The consumers do this all the time, and by implication they would love to see this It is a surprise that the brands haven’t caught up to this rude trend and have remained at their best behaviour despite the indicators from channels that carry their message.

Now the real issue: are the channels destroying the equity of the brands that they carry by being rude and insensitive? Will the consumers perceive the brand in good light when they see the brands placed in wrong channels? In this day and age of consumer power where the rules of communication are being rewritten because of crowd sourcing will the consumers force the change? Or being rude has become so much a part of lives that being nice is like being an oxymoron? It’s time to relook at ourselves and really change the environment. If media has the power to shape opinions, than it needs to display that and really change behaviour.

Being rude should never be cool

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5 thoughts on “Is being rude the new cool?

  1. Well put, Naresh. And here’s my addition to your list:

    1. It’s also rude to barge into another person’s private space. maybe its a cultural thing, but culture should also evolve.
    2. Lack of cellphone etiquettes. How many times have we faced a situation when the person we are having a conversation with, suddenly picks up a ringing cell and starts talking.


    • Hi Andy
      There is a saying in Rajasthan that loosely translated means “camel came visiting a loony village”, that is what has happened to us all totting cell phones. We have no clue what to do with this camel in our hand!


  2. My personal observation has been that being rude is actually popular. I would say it started with Rakhi Sawant being downright rude to fellow house mates in Big Boss season 1; and from then on all versions of the show had one or the other member being rude and thinking they are actually being “straight forward”, “popular” “individualistic” etc. There is a very thin line between being straightforward /honest and being rude. The channels that have portrayed a tendency to be rude and insensitive, might have made great leaps and bounds initially, but have now become more of laughing stocks along with the over enthusiastic hosts who are actually have now become a (negative) brand ambassadors or faces of the channels. (We literally have comedians mimicking them in every stand-up comedy show!). I would not be sure how much the brands associating themselves with these channels will profit or suffer, in the long run, but I do feel being rude, for these channels, their hosts and shows, is in their opinion a powerful marketing tool and they are as of now not making any effort to curb it! Only time will show if we as consumers still continue to “buy” these gimmicks and let rude become cool and popular in the long run. For starters…we are scoring real bad in the basic manners domain and might want to touch base with our Ps and Qs ASAP!


    • Hi Rabia
      You have raised a very pertinent issue. The problem is that media brushes everything aside saying we are getting the TRPs. The only thing that will make them introspect is if they realize that they are losing market share. I personally think its time the media buyers looked beyond mere GRP delivery and also factor in quality of GRP. Its tough as you cant measure it, and media guys are hostage to measurement.


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