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Ambareesh Murty

VP,Marketing | 07 Mar 2003

"In this segment there is a skew in the Indian market. Here investment is done predominantly by males. Also, a person seriously starts looking into investment at an approximate age of thirty, when he has investable surplus"

In Brand Speak this time we speak to Ambareesh Murty, Vice President - Marketing, Prudential ICICI, Asset Management. Murty has spent six years in FMCG marketing before he moved to his current assignment. His previous job was with Cadbury's, where he handled 'Temptations.' In his present role at Prudential ICICI Asset Management, he talks to exchange4media about the dimensions of a finance brand, the market psyche, its positioning and the challange of creating a 'state of need' for investment.

Q. What major differences have you noticed in FMCG marketing, and marketing of a financial product?

FMCG is a low outlay area. FMCG products, specially chocolates come in impulse purchase category. Usually 15 to 20 rupees is the maximum outlay that you would want from a consumer in one go. In gifting yes, it is higher, but only to the extent of 100 to 150 rupees. In case of a financial product, it is a totally different ball game. Minimum outlay is 3000 - 3500 rupees. While you would be making million - two million transactions in FMCGs, here you would need to make only 10,000 transactions. And hence, the probability of holding on to your target group through direct contact is fairly high. The need to use the other mediums beyond TV is fantastic here.

Q. How has the journey been for Prudential ICICI so far?

Prudential joined hands with ICICI in 1997-98. It started small with an asset base of about 100 crores. Today we have crossed the 10,000 crore mark and we have the customer base of about ten lacs, so the numbers have grown substantially. If you ask me, one of the fundamental reason being the focus Prudential ICICI has put on building its brand. If you look at financial services category, you realise that advertising outlays in general don't tend to be very high. In Prudential ICICI, there is definite focus on advertising to build the brand.

Q. How important is it to be a well-known brand in this sector?

Very important. Most important thing that people see is longevity of the company's offerings. Secondly, it is very important to have good brand name to develop trust in people's minds. You are actually going to invest your money into it, so the brand becomes very important. The brand, more so in financial sector, stands for trust and care. And it is extremely important to get people to invest with you. If you look at the standard pyramid, at the first level you build brand awareness, we have already attained that, we have been in India for five years now. And one of the things right at the top is getting the consumer to invest in your brand. As Prudential ICICI was new, we started off with building basic awareness. Has the brand been able to build realistic expectations? Has it performed up to the expectations? How many have considered it? It is like an education program.

Q. Are you happy with what communication done for your brand?

Today, we are fairly high on awareness, among our target segment we are well entrenched. Let me explain the thought behind our advertising. There is a skew in India and investment is predominantly done by males. Also, a person seriously starts to look into investment at an approximate age of thirty, when you have investable surplus. We have a 70% brand recall today. Recently, we conducted a research among the investing public. About 11% of the investing public knew Prudential ICICI top of mind. It is a fair indicator of the share that the brand enjoys in the market. On spontaneous level we are at 30%. I do believe that we have grown to a fair degree on various parameters. From here we will grow further.

Q. Is push not very important in the financial sector?

It definitely is! It is always a mix of both. In any industry push is important. Today, India is in a scenario where intermediaries play a massive role. Be that in retail, be that in financial sector products or any other category. But what brand building does is, to make the customer open to the idea of investing in a particular brand and a particular category. Mutual funds category in India has been through a lot of ups and downs. People have come on thinking that mutual fund was an option to make a quick buck, rather than looking at it as a long-term investment proposition. And it has had a negative rub off.

Q. How is your message different from other players in the market? Does it help you in positioning your brand differently?

For a couple of big players in the mutual fund area like us, who do not sell on the basis of short term returns, it was very important to understand what should our advertising be like. We might be doing 42% returns or 50% dividends, we never advertise on that basis. Prudential does not do that. We try to talk about two things - what is the main stamp of our brand, that is trust. And what is the main proposition of the brand - it is taking care of your investments, this year we modified the campaign to make it more relevant to the customer. Another thing we needed to convey to the consumer was the long-term benefits. If I fulfill your need over a long period of time, it does not matter whether my returns are great or not so great in short term. You should not invest because I am giving 30% and the other guy is giving 28%. 2%, at the end of the day, is not going to be such a big amount. Our recent campaign, 'aap hi ka paisa hae' has been very well accepted. It is about how to get the maximum value out of your money. The campaign was actually taken across the board. We ran a restaurant promotion, which was actually a database building exercise. In top 15 restaurants in the six metros, we did tent card on each table. People were supposed to fill in the details and answer some simple questions, and we had draws every hour, and when a person won, the desserts for the entire table were on us. We took the proposition of more value for your money and that you would get something extra, on to the restaurants. It was a fairly successful campaign and we got a good response. Our brand track also showed tremendous increase after the promotion.

Q. What media vehicles would you use to send across your message to your target group?

We have a very synergistic view on media planning. We try and be there in all the mediums at the same time. We believe that it actually gives us synergies. If you feel that your target audience is male thirty plus, you get him wherever he is. You want to target him at home, you will use television and print, maybe he travels a lot during weekdays, so use outdoor and radio and maybe again print. And as research shows that 60% of all surfers check net from office, so you get him in office through the Web. On weekend, again you get him through television advertising, you get him through in-cinema advertising, and through magazines. Research shows that weekend reading of magazines is far higher than weekday reading of magazines. If you want to use one medium, sheer outlays that you need to put to create enough impact tends to be very high. So, if you say that I would have presence six months an year and be present in all the mediums vs I will have a presence all the twelve months, and half of that time I would not be present on other media, and measure the effect that you would have in terms of increased brand recall and other fronts, first option works far better. So media multiplier works.

Q. . How important a role does advertising message play in positioning a finance brand?

A very important aspect where an agency comes in is to move away from only obvious benefit to a benefit that addresses particular needs of a customer. For example if you plan to invest in equity, the obvious benefit would be I would take care of your investment you don't need to worry about taking calls on stocks etc. That is what we as a mutual fund are supposed to do anyway- so that is the obvious benefit. What is not so obvious is that a person from 25 to 35 age group is willing to take a high degree of risk. But he also wants a high degree of returns, because he is looking at a number of things, he is looking at building assets for himself, at taking a new house, maybe buying a second car and henceforth. Over a period of five years, equity outperforms all other investments, so he would get a far higher accumulation of wealth five or ten years later than he would by investing in any other financial tool. So this is a need state that 10 years later he will get a larger chunk of money. From the obvious reason for investing to a 'state of need' that leads to investment, is the jump an agency has to take.

Q. How do you decide on your brand communication strategy?

We present our annual plans in the beginning of the year. There we talk about the industry scenario, who is the customer, where is he, what do we need to communicate to him, when do we communicate to him. We follow it up with a basic activity plan and ballpark estimates on what we could be spending and activity plan, and then it is followed by monitoring the campaign, which is actually the brand track. Our brand track, SRM by NFO MBL helps us track on various factors, for instance, awareness levels of Prudential ICICI Vs competition, market share of Pru ICICI vs competition. It also helps us track levels of category involvement - financial category vs other categories. We set benchmarks on various parameters - how much social awareness do we desire, for communication we set benchmarks for execution cut throughs, branding cut throughs of communication and more. In this way, we know which communication is working and which is not, and what are the changes that need to be brought in the communication. We follow it up with calling the agency for the annual plan presentation.

Q. What comes first - Creative or media?

We decide both more or less simultaneously, and call both the agencies at the same time. We go into fairly large details as to what we want to do. What is more, creative and media both can give inputs in the other's area. Innovative ideas come out across the mediums, which then need to be fleshed out and further thrashed. This interaction is very important to us. It is this interaction that gives us the most. Our annual plans are synergistic. Everybody works together. Fine tuning of course, happens at a later stage. Last year before the football world cup we had taken an excellent property and because the property was so good, we tailored a creative around it. This kind of tweaking happens.

Q. Why did you not consider Cricket World Cup?

We don't promote ourselves only as a tax saving scheme, hence we are not advertising right now. Our new advertising cycle will start from somewhere in April, when there will be less clutter in the finance category advertising. Secondly, Cricket itself is a risky proposition, and for us to advertise, we have to be present both on print and television. As I said earlier, we recognise the importance of being present on both the mediums at the same time. If we are not present in one, we won't be present in the other.

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