How Kotak Mahindra is ‘banking’ on its advertising to attract customers

From riding the topical route to leveraging their brand ambassador Ranveer Singh, Kotak Mahindra’s marketing playbook seems to be ticking all the right boxes

e4m by Misbaah Mansuri
Updated: Jan 15, 2020 3:14 PM

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Ranveer Singh for Kotak Mahindra

For a brand like Kotak Mahindra operating in an aggressive market that comprises not just banks but also NBFCs and wallets, it becomes imperative to ensure that your advertising has the pull to attract customers. From riding the topical route to leveraging their brand ambassador- Ranveer Singh, Kotak Mahindra’s marketing playbook seems to be ticking all the right boxes.

“The way we have looked at marketing is really to complement business. And therefore we’ve looked at a big shift in the business strategy and how consumers will need to interpret that and present it in the form of advertising and marketing,” said Elizabeth Venkataraman, Senior Executive Vice President & Head of Marketing, Kotak Mahindra Bank in conversation with exchange4media.

Elizabeth Venkataraman, Senior Executive Vice President & Head of Marketing, Kotak Mahindra Bank

After acquiring ING Vysya Bank for an estimated Rs 15,000 crore in November 2014, Kotak Mahindra Bank became India’s fourth-largest private bank. To communicate this to its consumers the bank released a campaign- 'Kona Kona Kotak'.

According to Venkatraman, the ING Vysya merger helped the brand to drive inclusion with an increased geographical presence across the kona kona of India. “When the interest-rates were deregulated, the business made a shift by being the early movers for giving higher interest rates on savings bank accounts. We took that differentiator and communicated that which is a very rational parameter,” she explained.

Interestingly, Kotak has always hinged its communication on inclusivity and progress.

Similarly, for the #IndiaInvited campaign by Kotak 811, the brand’s messaging was around inclusivity. “We said that consumers often feel judged when they go to a retail institution. The nature of the very product in itself is non-judgmental as it allows customers to open an account on the 811 banking app with zero balance with just two documents—Aadhaar card and PAN card. We decided to use an emotional route and communicated an egalitarian society a higher-order message which I think is always relevant in a diverse country like India. Ranveer was a sutradhar and I believe that he delivered the message very well. So if you look at the path we have taken the big shift in business and found consumer relevance which is always the basis of the big shift in the business and we found a way to communicate that in the most effective and powerful way,” Venkataraman remarked.

For the first time in 34 years, the brand decided to rope in a celebrity in June 2018 by signing Ranveer Singh as brand ambassador and the face of the bank’s #IndiaInvited campaign. Venkataraman, however, warns that brands have to be wary of the challenges and opportunities while onboarding a celebrity. “Honestly, I see it as a big responsibility when you take on a celebrity and you have to do justice to his talent and also deliver the brand message effectively. It all needs to come together for the brand and the celebrity,” she opined.

One of the best marketing initiatives pulled off by the company was when the buzz around the Deepika-Ranveer wedding refused to die down and Kotak kicked off an outdoor campaign that had an image of Ranveer and a text reading 'Card mila kya?'. The punchline hinted at both the debit card and an invitation card to DeepVeer’s eagerly-anticipated wedding. After a solid build-up, the teaser was followed by the main ad that let people know about the limited edition card.

Moreover, the bank branches too were decked up like a wedding venue and customers were treated to sweets when they entered the premises. The initiative was interestingly captioned ‘ladki wale bhi muh meetha kijiye’, subtly addressing competitors, as Deepika Padukone is the face of Axis Bank.

Along the way, digital became very important for the brand. “Our digital offering became very top-of-line. Our app became very highly rated and has over 100 features. Some of the communication did lead with this shift that consumers were making,” she pointed out.

Television occupies the lion’s share in terms of the company’s marketing mix. When asked why legacy brands are still opting for traditional media channels in the age of digital, Venkataraman said “I think overall, the media-mix definitely has digital. And how much is going into digital is changing for categories and brands. That mix will evolve as marketers find their comfort and see results but the change will take a while because when you look at actual reach numbers on a media plan, television still has the answers. “

A year after the launch of the 2018 blockbuster 811 #IndiaInvited campaign, Kotak has recently announced the release of the sequel - #DreamsInvited, starring Ranveer Singh, on 8/11 – the date India changed. #DreamsInvited also features Indian track and field legend, PT Usha, in a pivotal role as well as a host of other ‘dreamers’ wherein the central plot revolves around #KhwaabonKaKhaata – the all-in-one 811 digital bank account.

Venkataraman revealed that the brand initially launched the #Dreamsinvited campaignas a digital-first campaign but then added television. “This is how we keep experimenting to see how it changes various metrics for us,” she contended.

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