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Digital now qualifies as a mainstream medium: Karthi Marshan

Digital now qualifies as a mainstream medium: Karthi Marshan

Author | Priyanka Mehra | Friday, Apr 18,2014 9:54 AM

Digital now qualifies as a mainstream medium: Karthi Marshan

Kotak Mahindra Group has been increasing its focus on digital media, increasing its share in the brand’s media mix.

In conversation with exchange4media, Karthi Marshan, Head - Marketing, Kotak Mahindra Group, speaks at length about the brand’s successes in digital, the brand’s journey, game changers and more…

What have been the brand successes in digital, including mobile?
In digital, our mobile banking app has been a great success. We are the top rated Indian banking app on both app stores. Over 30 per cent of our mobile banking users have come straight to mobile, never having used net banking.
The app is loaded with best-in-class features, the most notable one being able to transfer funds to a total stranger with just one piece of info, her bank account number. The user interface of the app is very simple and the number of customers who are using it actively is really encouraging.

Have you increased the share of digital this year in your media mix?
We have increased the share of digital this year in the media mix. It now qualifies as a mainstream medium. As consumers are moving more towards digital, we as a brand are suitably leveraging all social media platforms

Please take us through the brand journey of Kotak Mahindra.
The brand began way back in 1985, combining two highly respected family names – Kotak and Mahindra – to create a financial services firm that had instant acceptance. Over the next many years, the brand went from strength to strength on the back of being a pioneer with smart moves in various businesses, including car finance, investment banking, brokerage, et al.
When we received our banking license in 2003, completing our suite of offerings, the brand used the tagline ‘Think Investments, Think Kotak’ to present a differentiated offering in the commodity banking space.

However, as a challenger brand in a category dominated by PSUs, we were low on visibility due to a relatively lesser physical presence, and had to compete with the more established names for the customer’s attention span. So, while we had great acceptance and traction in the niche segments that were already aware of Kotak’s credentials, for the wider masses, we were still a newbie.

But when Kotak turned 25 in 2010, our first disruptive brand opportunity presented itself. And in true challenger style, instead of putting out hoary messages about our journey and achievements, we quietly stepped back and created a platform for customers to share what it felt like to be 25. The campaign made waves, not only anecdotally but also on our brand metrics, and our awareness grew substantially, as did our trust scores.

The next big opportunity came in October 2011, when Reserve Bank of India deregulated interest rates on savings accounts. While a typical marketer would see this as a price play, which is something sales people hanker for, we looked at it differently. We saw an opportunity to solidly triangulate our calling card, viz. the ability to deliver higher returns with our need to be seen as a traditional bank also, not just a bank for all the cool investment stuff and a great price led product. The icing on the cake was the opportunity to play with the two most iconic numbers in a cricket crazed nation. We were among the first banks to announce a higher savings rate of 6 per cent, which is 50 per cent more than the conventional interest rate that most banks offered, and still offer.

Again, just like in the case of our 25 year campaign, we chose not to speak in the voice of the bank, as we saw that that social media had already changed how consumers interacted with brands. We thus created a persona that exists in all our lives…a go-to guy who we all look to for advice of various kinds. We personified this character as Subbu, an affable, approachable, down to earth yet very money savvy guy. And everyone in his circles turned to him for advice at all times. Between October 2011 and March 2013, we created many variations of the message about 6 per cent. And grew dramatically. We doubled the savings account base of the bank (which has now tripled) and we grew the customer base by 50 per cent (100 per cent now).

Alongside, we also began our journey of segmenting the target audience by lifestage and lifestyle. We have launched four products on the savings side for four distinct segments so far. A woman’s product called Silk, which empowers women to indulge their families occasionally without guilt, a premium banking offering for our HNI customers called Privy League, which has a host of lifestyle and investment privileges, a long term fun-based savings product for children called Junior, and a fully digital social banking product called Jifi. Each has delivered rich dividends. Silk has been our best selling product in the branches by far. Junior has grown at a clip that is 5-10 times our traditional pace for minor accounts.

What have been the game changers for the brand in terms of marketing initiatives?
Our 25th anniversary, deregulation by the RBI as well as our lifestyle driven product design mindsets have been game changers for us. Evidence of success in all is stated above. It took us nearly nine years (from 2003-2011) to reach 1 million customers and Rs 3,000 crore in savings deposits. We have added another 1 million customers and Rs 6,000 crore in just under three years. So, the pace of growth has accelerated substantially on the back of our innovations.

What are the brand’s unique innovations towards fighting consumer attention drought?
People took notice of us when we aggressively promoted 6 per cent. To sweeten this proposition, we backed it up with a host of other features such as tab banking, cashback, home banking, doorstep banking, etc. We were the first bank to allow customers to open a savings account completely online as well as on the tablet (way back in 2012). Our mobile banking app is a huge success with customers. Additionally, we also have a Kotak Offers app, which provides deals in a host of categories like entertainment, dining, wellness, etc.

Your latest campaign, Kotak Junior, has seen the brand tap into a new segment, what was the insight behind this? How has the response been?
Research showed us that over 60 per cent parents were not aware that they could open an account for their child, and the intention to open an account was high. We launched Junior to enable parents to build a corpus to secure their child’s future, while teaching the child the basics about money, including learning to value savings as a habit, etc. Junior goes way beyond a vanilla savings account for children as we offer a 10-year Recurring Deposit with offers from brands like Dominos, Baskin & Robbins, etc. The account also comes with a Junior card for the child, which makes her feel connected to the brand. We regularly have instances where kids persuade their parents/grandparents to take them to our branches to open Junior accounts.

What more can we expect from the brand this year?
While our 6 per cent proposition was aimed at a much larger audience, we launched products like Silk and Junior, which were focused towards women and children, respectively. Both these products have done well for us and we would continue to segment the market and introduce products targeted to address specific audiences. We have just launched our first fully social, fully digital product, Jifi. We will be making many more forays in micro-segmenting the market by life stage and lifestyle, to offer people the services they need, the benefits they want and the delight we seek.

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