Guest Column: "Brands should focus on marketing for women, not to them"

According to Karthi Marshan, Head Marketing, Kotak Mahindra Group, this begins with attempting to understand women's problems and developing products and services that address those problems

by Karthi Marshan
Published - Mar 12, 2014 10:11 AM Updated: Mar 12, 2014 10:11 AM
Guest Column: "Brands should focus on marketing for women, not to them"

By now, we all know women are the world’s third largest economy and that empowering women to contribute as equals at work will give emerging economies like ours an enormous GDP booster. Booz & Co had told us in 2012 that India’s record in this regard is only marginally better than those of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria. Even the likes of Kuwait and Egypt do better than us.

Ergo, what we should focus on, in my view, is marketing for women, not to them. This begins with attempting to understand their problems and developing products and services that address those problems.

At Kotak, we began this journey a few years back. Our research revealed that women are not one homogenous market; there are many micro-segments within. Clearly, working women and homemakers differ on some dimensions, and in developing our first foray into women’s products, we took the insights around this dynamic into account.

Working women tend to be relativelymore emancipated because they have their own money, and are confident because they receive feedback and appreciation at office.

On the other hand, husbands and children tend to take the homemaker for granted. The typical homemaker strives to save some money from the budgets allocated to her by her partner, which she salts away to pay for things for her kids.

Based on these insights, we developed a bank account called Kotak Silk targeted at the homemaker, which also rewards her for using this account with the kind of things she seeks, to pamper her kids guilt free and to indulge herself occasionally as well.

While in research the key benefit women voted for unanimously was cash back, we launched the product with the option they had rejected as well…free movie tickets. Today, Silk is one of our bestsellers in the branches.

As the product grew over the last three years, we discovered something curious. Whenever a mother opened a minor account associated with her Silk account, the savings in both were much higher than when the average father opened a minor account for his child. The derived insight was that mothers are far more diligent, disciplined and focused on planning and investing for their children’s futures than fathers are.

Out of this insight was born the Kotak Junior Programme. The Programme is designed as a three-way partnership between bank, mother and child. The child’s account is called Kotak Junior, the parent is also required to open an account that links to the child’s account, and both are encouraged to open a recurring deposit account for an ideal 10-year horizon.

What we have learnt from these steps that we are taking in designing financial products based on psychographic insights is that when we seek to respect a person’s position, understand her situation and design something that helps them improve their lives in some way or the other, everybody wins.

Needless to say, this is not just relevant to women as a segment, it is relevant to all audiences out there. We are learning that marketing is not about making people want what you make, but rather about making what people need. And this learning, we owe to our work in the arena of women’s products.

Going forward, we will be slicing and dicing the women market into further micro-segments based on attributes beyond whether they work or not, to develop even more nuanced products and services.

And through these efforts, we hope we will make a difference to the way women are treated in the world at large.

The author is Head of Marketing at Kotak Mahindra Group.

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