By Navonil Chatterjee
What’s up people? Apart from an unprecedented global pandemic that has changed the way we work, play, think and live, that is! Well, one of the many things that this corona crisis has precipitated is the bombardment of forwards, messages, memes, gifs, videos and photos on Whatsapp. Fear is in circulation and advice is in abundance, though optimism is still not on overdrive. All of which led us to think, are there different types of Whatsapp users? Can we classify Whatsapp users into different personality buckets?
Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist of collective unconsciousness fame, was perhaps the first to identify ‘archetypes’ or ‘primordial images’ – which, if you don’t want to get psyched – means ‘a very typical example of a certain person or thing’. Consequently in marketing too, we often slot brands into the different archetypes, saying that brand A belongs to the Innocence archetype, while brand B has a bit of the Hero and the Sage in it. Educated and inspired by these Jungian archetypes, we at Rediffusion went about identifying and classifying the various types of Whatsapp users, profiles and personas.
In Photos | Decoding the WhatsApp user
The Broad And Short Of It
Every good thing in marketing needs to start with a framework. And after some initial brainstorming on the different Whatsapp species, we realized that most of these specimen can be broadly bucketed under the following 5 archetypes:
1. Time Servers
2. Knowledge Mongers
3. Flaunters (outer directed, for all Heylens lovers)
4. Believers (internally driven, you see)
5. New ‘Media’ Users
Let’s get straight into each of these archetypes and explore the characteristics of the sub-species thereof …
1. THE TIME SERVERS:
First things first. We know that the above classification is a bit of a misnomer. Unless of course you take it quite literally. What’s common to all the inhabitants of this group, is that they are all serving time, in one way or the other. Some of them become active on certain times of the day or night, some take all the time in the world to respond, while some others don’t waste any time in going about their business. And then there are those who remember or forget time, as is their wont.
The Good Morning Goonda: This is probably the species which most of us dread the most. Especially early on in the morning. He or she has taken up the self-anointed task of wishing good morning to every person in his or her contact list, that too every morning! It’s usually accompanied by an image of some corny flowers or scenery that is clearly of a 1970s Doordarshan vintage! The flowers change almost every other day, but their unmatched exuberance and sheer diligence never wavers. There may have been a major mishap in your family just the night before, but such minor hiccups never dampen their spirit – as the sun rises in the east, with the same certitude, they go about their daily morning ‘feast’!
The Night Owl: If morning comes, can night be far behind? This crowd usually hibernates throughout the day and comes alive only late into the night, mostly checking on the probability of hooking up. They are birds of prey, with cheesy one-liners and cheap pick-up lines being their forte. The less damaging of these species are not the preying type, but definitely suffer from some form of insomnia!
The Birthday Wisher: If it’s that time of the year when it’s your birthday (or anniversary for that matter), then be rest assured that you will not be able to escape this breed. These guys are the first to wish you in the group and equally quick to ask for a treat. They can be put to good use as a walking-talking reminder service!
The Fast Forwarding Agent: You can also call them Quickgun Murugan or the Hit n Run guys, because they truly are all about being fastest fingers first. This is the personality type that sends or forwards messages without thinking, without blinking an eyelid and needless to add, without even verifying anything. They are content spreading malcontent, and waste no time to do it. And there’s no way they will ever hire a car from Avis (remember ‘We are number 2. That’s why we try harder’?). Speed is of essence and that’s why winning silver is not for them, because that means losing gold!
Yaadon ka Curator: This is a group of people who just love to go back in time. Nostalgia is their weapon of choice, and they periodically knock on your emotions with an old group photograph or a long-forgotten personal incident. Some of these species even profess to have a photographic memory and love to recount old stories and anecdotes with such telling detail that you may even be tempted to believe every aspect of it – till it strikes you that you don’t even have the faintest remembrance of anything and he might as well be concocting everything. And what’s better, getting away with it too!
The Sleeper Cell: No, they are not as dangerous as their terrorist brethren. But perhaps equally elusive. This is a person who suddenly surfaces after a really long, long time, sends you a message or replies to a very old message of yours, and then vanishes again for almost an eternity. A chance encounter with this type can lead to a scenario like this: You get a reply to the message about your first break-up today. You show it to your wife and two kids to have fun. You get the drift, right?
2. THE KNOWLEDGE MONGERS:
It’s time we moved beyond time and turned the page of knowledge. The next big group of Whatsapp flora and fauna hold on to an almost Descartean principle of ‘I know, therefore I am’. But what’s fascinating about them is the vast gamut of subjects and things that they seem to have mastered. While this group predominantly consists of specialists, let’s start with the generalist …
The Sickening Sarvagyani: This is probably the most hated sub-species of the lot. There is no subject on earth that he or she does not know about – be it nuclear fission, clinical testing of corona vaccines, the state of the Indian economy or even Bollywood gossip! What is striking about this lot is the cosmic confidence with which they speak about anything and everything, a trait which comes with an annoying corollary of completely eroding your own confidence and sense of self-worth. Quite often these irritating, opinionated, know-it-all species inhabit in your school / college / MBA Whatsapp groups.
The ‘Report’-er: This ‘reporter’ is no journalist. But be it the Gartner report, the Accenture Market Survey, the MTV Youth report or the KPMG Consultancy report, he is the repository of everything from the profound to the profane. And he is also the first to share them for the greater good of the group, being the self-appointed knowledge sharer that he is.
The Conspiracy Theorist: Going through his messages and forwards will make you think that this person probably has access to secret CIA and KGB files! How else can you explain the fact that he has at least 7 conspiracy theories – one for each day of the week – from the whereabouts of corona virus to the origins of Sonia Gandhi? Needless to add that the conspiracy theorist takes his job of enlightening everyone very seriously.
The Neighbourhood Neru Da: Perhaps the most affable and loved sub-species of this lot, this is the guy who quotes Shakespeare and Blake, and keeps sharing Rumi poems and shayaris at the drop of a hat. As far as the shayaris go, the sadder they are and tougher to comprehend, the better! While this group’s nomenclature has a distinctive Bengali elder brother ring to it, the group itself is definitely far more than just a Bong connection.
3. THE FLAUNTERS:
‘Got it, flaunt it’ seems to be the mantra of this tribe of Whatsapp users. This is a group which quite shamelessly seeks approval, recognition and even fame for their trials and tribulations. They are undoubtedly a skilled lot, each having their distinct area and field of expertise, but they are all held together by their common and deep desire for their 5 minutes and 5 MB of fame …
The Photogenic Master Chef: If there is one thing that this lockdown has improved, it is the level of culinary exploration in the kitchen. From baked chicken to Chicken Humdardi to butter garlic prawn, the delicacies being served up are truly drool-worthy. At least going by the pictures, which their makers and creators are quick and happy to post on Whatsapp, that is! Ironically, this species has quite a few new entrants to the kitchen itself, which means that in ‘bai-friendly’ times, that’s a place they used to seldom enter!
The Promo Manager: There’s nothing wrong in being a proud parent, right? Unless of course you are obsessed with pimping your kids’ videos continuously on the whatsapp group, with the sole intent of announcing, displaying and reinforcing how supremely talented and gifted your progeny is! What this type often forgets, is that the world at large may not share that exact equal amount of enthusiasm about your child, as you do.
The Compulsive Riddler: This show-off struts around wearing an intellectual hat, and goes into hyper-drive the moment a riddle is shared on the group. They have to be the first to crack it, and once they do, they promptly share the same riddle in some other group, secretly relishing the opportunity to enlighten inferior minds with an air of ‘elementary, my dear …’. And by the way, don’t always expect complete intellectual honesty from them – when stuck with a particularly knotty problem, they don’t hesitate to ‘google’ it out, and pass off the answer as the fruit of their own ingenuity!
Mein bhi Influencer: Numbers are what this group of people are chasing. Number of clicks, likes, shares and subscribers to be precise. Quite often they are wannabe singers, dancers or chefs who have just started a Youtube channel – and wants you to be ‘influenced’ by them, so that they can make a living being your ‘influencer’! Sounds confusing?
The Elusive Micro Celeb: Let’s get this straight. This group of people have nothing to flaunt apart from their silence. They believe in the adage that distance makes the heart grow fonder, so to get that affection or ‘bhav’ from the rest of the group, they choose to distance themselves from the group. How? By being part of the group but choosing to comment only once every two months. Their flaunt strategy? ‘Oh we are too evolved or busy to involve ourselves any more often than that’. Note: This type is not to be confused with the sleeper cell guys. For this group, distancing is a well-deliberated status-building strategy, while for the sleeper cel, it is at best an idiosyncrasy.
4. THE BELIEVERS:
You will find the most passionate Whatsapp users in this group. Quite naturally, since they all have their own religion and seem to worship their own gods. Quite often, this lot is also the most vitriolic, because they cannot accept or tolerate anything that challenges their belief system.
The Gulli(ble) Boys: Perhaps the most benign of these species. They just believe everything they see, hear or read in Whatsapp. And take grave offence to those who do not. Again, a part of the name is a misnomer, so let’s quickly clarify that like all Whatsapp species, this is also a gender-neutral lot. However, if there is one thing these Whatsapp University Graduates have oodles of, it is naivety!
The Political Correctness Police: They are the police without the uniform. And the primary task of this moral police is to make sure that any word or phrase or content that can offend any group or sect of people is not used. They are the first to call out any kind of sexist, class-ist or caste-ist content. God forbid if you breach any of these codes in their presence, because their wrath and vengeance knows no limits.
The PETA-tioner: This is another fierce tribe known for their diehard support of all kinds of animal rights. Any transgression towards the animal kingdom is severely frowned upon by this group of crusaders. They will normally bombard you with the sweetest and cutest pictures of their dogs or their neighbour’s cats, but will in an instant be quite catty to you if they get to hear that you were not very kind to a roadside stray. Their magnanimous hearts make them adopt animals one after another, with their homes beginning to resemble zoos. They are also most likely to harass you in the group to sign a petition supporting animal rights.
The Hopeless Healer: This guy is a true descendant of Susrut. What else can explain his eternal optimism about all kinds of healing practices, which he hopes to make all his contacts try out? So first it could be yoga followed by Vipassana and then after a few months reiki or even acupuncture! If you happen to be on his Whatsapp contact list unfortunately, then resign yourself to the fate that you have no option left but to try out all those healing practices that he has himself tried out! What is even more annoying is the frequency with which he jumps from one mode of well-being to another, while being equally passionate and convinced about the supreme efficacy of each of those practices. Get ready to be flooded with videos, infographics, testimonials etc of all things that have something to do with hope and healing, if you happen to know any of these species.
The Modi-fier: This person doesn’t just think that Narendra Modi is god. He knows. Blessed with that certitude, he goes about ‘Modi-fying’ the minds of everyone in his contact list with gospels from the Divine One himself, thereby attempting to convert everyone to his religion. In this over-zealous mission, he first extends the lotus flower. And if that doesn’t seem to work, then the iron rod or the stick (read written or verbal jibes, pictures, videos, posts and memes against anyone who is a non-believer). Everything good happening in this country is quickly and invariably attributed to his God; anything remotely negative to God’s eternal enemy, a certain Satanic Rahul! Hail the saffron. Hail the ‘Eternal Bhakt’.
5. THE NEW ‘MEDIA’ USERS:
Their critics often accuse them of not being good with words. But that’s perhaps only because they are jealous of this group of people’s amazing ability to adopt new tools and techniques in their bid to express themselves. Be it memes, gifs or emojis, they are the first to master it and take it upon themselves to both educate and befuddle the laggards …
Meme-sahib: There is nothing remotely western or feminine about these species. Instead, this is a person who is well versed with meme-culture, and shares the perfect meme for every occasion. They are also resourceful enough to sometimes create new memes if the situation demands or their stock is not replenished.
The OCG User: In other words, this person is an Obsessive Compulsive Gif User, who only talks in gifs. When you bring this to their attention, they reply to you in a jiffy. With another gif of course!
The Emoji Expressionist: They are a group of people who start every conversation and reply to everything, with an emoji. They have evolved beyond smileys and use the entire emoji gallery to make whole conversations. They have taken the use of emojis to an expressionist art form – and like some forms of art, they too mostly make no sense. So much so, that the lesser initiated recipients of their benevolence, often end up confused and asking what that emoji means in the first place. Only to be further bamboozled by another return emoji.
The DP Changer: They are restless souls who just can’t stand status quo. Monotony is clearly not for them. So they end up changing their DP every day if they are very busy, else every hour! A polar opposite of these species also exist – those who still have the same DP as when they first logged in to Whatsapp.
6. THE MISCELLANEOUS LOT
In marketing and advertising, there is a famous 4-letter word without which nothing really makes sense. Or sells for that matter! That word is FREE. So while we initially promised 5 broad archetypes of Whatsapp users, we had to give one free. So we have the sixth set comprising those specimen who really cannot be clubbed into any of the other 5 buckets and also have nothing in common between them …
The Joker: A large number of Whatsapp users belong to this group. And may their tribe increase because they really bring happiness, joy and moments of shared fun in all our lives by incessantly bombarding us with one joke after another. Some of their jokes are topical, others timeless and most even PJs, but they all do their bit to regale us with priceless laughter and blemish-less smiles. As Shakespeare said in Twelfth Knight, these ‘jokers’ are often ‘wise enough to play the fool’.
The Kinky Tharki: This is a lot whose minds have clearly moved below their navels, so they see everything in this world through the prism of sex and sex alone. Of all the Whatsapp species, if there is one which is over-represented by a particular gender, this is it. A predominantly testosterone-driven lot, this is an extremely voyeuristic set of people for whom every picture, video or forward must have the oomph factor. Or else it is an epic waste of time. So much so, that even if it is a forward of a yoga video, it’s got to be naked yoga. Members of this kink are notorious and have a reputation of their own – to the extent that whenever they whatsapp something, the recipients know that it will be laced with something ‘adultish’. One of the reasons why people eagerly await messages from these species!
The Serial Spoiler: This is usually someone of a low IQ who takes some sadistic pleasure in Whatsapp-bombing interesting conversation threads in your group by sending something random and completely unrelated in-between. Their sense of timing is particularly sickening – in other words, just when the chatter in your Whatsapp group has reached a certain interesting, meaningful or exciting point – that’s when they unleash their barrage of junk to completely fritter away the momentum. School groups are usually rife with such serial spoilers, and an introspection into these creatures often lead us to the conclusion that some things (or some people in this case) always remain the same!
The Utsuk Keeda: In simple words, he is the perennial enthu-cutlet in the group who keeps chiming in with his opinion on every discussion – however trivial the matter may be. Needless to say that his views are mostly unsought, but that never stifles his sense of self-importance. His dauntless spirit neither cares for, nor pays any heed to insignificant things like what day, time, hour or moment it is.
The Minimalist: The vocabulary of this person being restricted to ‘Hmm’, ‘Ok’, ‘K’, ‘Oh’ etc, he is also known as the Maestro of Monosyllables. Writing long sentences is too much of a waste of effort for him and he even resents using emojis. Let’s keep this one short and sweet at least!
The Desperate Devdas: Last but not the least, we have a creature who can be almost any of the above creatures, all rolled into one. If that helps him to woo his lover, that is! A hopeless romantic at heart, he can metamorphose into a Neighbourhood Neru-da spouting sonnets at one moment and transform into a master-chef the next moment. From gifs to emojis to memes to DPs, he will use every tool available to try and charm his beloved. He will gladly be her promo manager, or the riddler or the joker for her. The most poignant part of this species is that he constantly stalks his lover on Whatsapp, to see if she is ‘online’, and looks at her ‘Last seen’ time to be heart-warmingly reassured of his paramour’s pretty presence in this world…
6 broad classifications. 30 sub-species. And one fantastic fun ride. But before we end, a few necessary clarifications. At no point are we suggesting that this is an exhaustive list of all Whatsapp users. Neither are we saying that these are mutually exclusive species, by which we mean that human beings can display traits or symptoms of more than one of the above mentioned groups. However having said that, if your brand were to engage in some amount of Whatsapp Marketing, this just might be a handy reckoner to tailor your messages keeping the type of Whatsapp user in mind.
Written by: Navonil Chatterjee, Joint President & Chief Strategy Officer, Rediffusion
Inspired by: Dr Sandeep Goyal, Founder & Chairman, Mogae Group
Design & Illustration: Bappaditya Saha, Creative Director, Rediffusion
Contributions: Team Rediffusion (Rahul Jauhari, Kalyani Srivastava, Neeraj Sharma, Rujuta Singh, Nilesh Fatnaney, Vasudha Verma, Purvi Thakkar, Aneek Das)
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