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Chandramohan Mehra

Vice President and Head | 03 Sep 2010

“The competitive advantage emanating from the trust and strength of the brand insulates brands like SBI Life from a slow down. On the contrary, customers find greater comfort and reliability with such brands... Primarily due to leveraging of SBI’ strong brand equity, our branding initiatives have the best capital-efficiency in the industry. The ratio of our awareness scores v/s advertising investment; and business performance v/s ad spends- is the best, not only in the life insurance and but also perhaps in entire financial services industry.”

At SBI Life, Chandramohan Mehra leads the strategic branding, marketing communications, media planning, PR, and internal communication initiatives. Prior to SBI Life, he led brand management at Kotak Life Insurance. Also, at FCB Ulka advertising he played a significant role in developing the largest automobile CRM program for TATA Motors and was part of the team that introduced e-age banking products for HDFC Bank.

SBI Life Insurance is a joint venture between State Bank of India and BNP Paribas Assurance SBI owns 74% of the total capital and BNP Paribas Assurance the remaining 26%. SBI Life Insurance has an authorized capital of Rs. 2,000 crore and a paid up capital of Rs 1,000 crores. State Bank of India enjoys the largest banking franchise in India. Along with its 6 Associate Banks, State Bank Group has the unrivalled strength of over 16,000 branches across the country, arguably the largest in the world. BNP Paribas is the 1st largest French company and ranks 5th in the banking industry worldwide, 1st bank in Euro Zone as per Global 2000 Forbes’ 2008. It is 6th most valuable international banking brand as per Brand Finance 2008.

Q. What are the various marketing initiatives that have been undertaken by SBI Life Insurance?

Given the industry stage and high inertia of customers towards understanding financial-services products including life insurance, our branding has been anchored on simplicity and focused on connecting with the audience emotionally. Over the last few years, our initiatives single mindedly integrated the most important messages of how life insurance solutions can help customer live life to the fullest – we express this as ‘Celebrate Life’.

To be able to do so, we have relied on simple-yet- powerfull emotions-driven creatives, been consistent, and leveraged relevant conventional and emerging mediums. One of the key dimensions of a strategy is to select what not to do. And our do nots have been on the use of celebrities for advertising and over-reliance on functional attributes.

Popular ‘Diamond Ring’, ‘Old Boy – Pension’, ‘Couple Car – Corporate’ ad campaigns, CSR campaigns, including Read India Pledge, our association with R K Laxman – whose exclusive creative- depicting common man celebrating life; music-based campaigns for a low-ticket product targeted at mass audience are some of the initiatives that reflect strategic approach.

Q. How has been the feedback so far?

Primarily due to leveraging of SBI’ strong brand equity, our branding initiatives have the best capital-efficiency in the industry. The ratio of our awareness scores v/s advertising investment; and business performance v/s ad spends- is the best, not only in the life insurance and but also perhaps in entire financial services industry. Also, the initiatives have received wide accolades in several domestic and international branding forums for their innovativeness and effectiveness.

Q. Which media vehicles would you use to send across your message to your target audience?

Other than the traditional considerations including the target group’s demographic and psychographic profile, there is an equal weightage to other parameters, like- time spent on media, credibility of the medium and qualitative objectives of the campaign. On one hand we have been using conventional mediums, like TV as it continues to offer the best CPT reach and, more importantly, for its ability to strike powerful emotional connect, on the other hand we are exploring digital mediums including cell phones, social networking platforms to build customer engagement. Further, the intermediaries are equipped with relevant tools to connect with local audience through our ground initiatives.

Q. Please tell us how has the brand dealt with in the economic slow down?

The competitive advantage emanating from the trust and strength of the brand insulates brands like SBI Life from a slow down. On the contrary, customers find greater comfort and reliability with such brands.

Q. What were your revenues and profits for 2010?

During FY 2010, SBI Life moved to number one position among private life insurers. We have crossed the Rs.10, 000 Crore total premium mark and had a net profit of Rs.276 Cr.

Q. What comes first – creative or media – when deciding on your brand communication?

Strategy based on business objective, environment, customers, organizational resources and capabilities, and sustainable competitive advantage always comes first. Followed by creative and media which are enablers or subsets of the strategy.

Q. Which is your next campaign?

Currently, we have an intensive corporate campaign running on air which represents a strong sense of celebrating life. Depending on the rapidly changing industry environment, in context of the new regulations, we will be making relevant decisions for new campaigns.

Q. What are your long term plans?

The prevailing business environmental dynamism has reduced the long term span to three months and shorter. As mentioned, we will make relevant decisions, as the environment unfolds. But we will be definitely looking at enhancing our ways and means to connect with our customers more and more.

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