Marketers must learn to re-purpose their spare resources: Karthi Marshan, Kotak Mahindra

As part of exchange4media's 'Pitch Brand Talk Virtual Series', Karthi Marshan, President & Chief Marketing Officer, Kotak Mahindra Group, spoke on 'Steering brand voice in a time of social distancing'

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Published: Apr 22, 2020 8:53 AM  | 5 min read
Pitch Brand Talk Virtual Series

Some brands have been going out of their way to do stellar work in these unprecedented times. Brands like Diageo are repurposing their assembly line to produce sanitizers instead of alcohol and fashion brands have redirected their purpose to the production of protection equipment.

Asked about the brand that has inspired him, other than his own, Karthi Marshan, the President & Chief Marketing Officer, Kotak Mahindra Group, named the Tata Group, which has always been an excellent contributor to the society, leading up to the current scenario.

Marshan said this during an interaction with Naziya Alvi Rahman, Editor, exchange4media, on 'Steering brand voice in a time of social distancing' as part of exchange4media's 'Pitch Brand Talk Virtual Series'.

Speaking on what marketers could do to stay relevant to consumers and also contribute to the society at this point, Marshan said, "Since marketers have some resources that are not being consumed, they must learn to repurpose that and come up with ideas based on that." Marshan said he and his colleagues were constantly on the lookout for the same.

When asked about what the Kotak Mahindra Group has done to keep its employees motivated in these times, Marshan shared a few examples of his own colleagues and how they have been a major source of motivation to him. "My colleagues in the branches as well as in the back office are as important as all the people in the frontline," he added.

The company first used the demonetization scenario to get people used to the new ways of banking, although large sections of the society were still keen on using the traditional means. Kotak digitalized all its operations and got technical experts to test its products. "People from remote places in the country, who didn’t even have Kotak branches near them were downloading our app and opening accounts with us," said Marshan, adding that the current situation is quite similar to that of demonetization, although for a different set of reasons.

At a time where social distancing has taken the centre stage, the brand believes that it has to continue offering more enhanced digital services and is continuing with advertising due to some of its valuable services which are still growing, though slowly. However, it has cut down on marketing activities which require interfacing physically with customers. "Our branches are certainly open, but we have aggressively put out a lot of video communication on educating customers about how they can use all our digital tools, right from day one of the lockdown."

The company has seen a significant uptick on all its services, even after it has gone all-digital. It has not been airing any campaigns at this point, although coincidentally this has never been the time of the year for it to go aggressive on campaigns, except for the one time it went on air with the start of the IPL.

When asked about the group’s advertising plans, Marshan stated that the brand or its profit motive is not priority at this point. This is visible in Kotak's social media messaging, which has been revolving around health issues. The brand has also driven a lot of its customers to use its online banking facilities to contribute to the PM cash fund and has raised around Rs 10 crore from its customers alone.

"We will certainly be launching a new campaign but not as a mega television production, since it is not feasible right now,” Marshan said, speaking on new campaign launches.

The Kotak Group has services for customers with no access to even smartphones, and welcomes people into its branches, in times of dire need.

The pandemic has caused a great negative impact, with the increase in the decline of consumer purchasing power. Emphasizing on the kind of messaging that brands should focus their attention on, Marshan said: "We should not be the ones spending more on what consumers can't, but should be looking for low-cost solutions to meet their needs in a meaningful way and also manage making money from that."

Marshan believes that the spare time consumers have in their hands can be used by brands to connect with them and give them a good virtual experience, which might prompt them to pick the brand instead of competitors.

He is certain that the change in consumer behaviour towards financial service providers will be positive, since most consumers would go aggressively digital and tune down their physical presences, adding that Kotak as a brand is already one of the leanest.

Speaking of competition, Marshan is of the view that the BFSI sector will consider long-lasting FinTech companies no different than competitor brands.

Habits, when practised for long, are very hard to undo. Similarly, since e-commerce has been the only resort at this point, it is likely to have a more concrete future even post the lockdown. Marshan sees functional behaviour moving online, with digital being key and physical activities being more of a resort for relaxation in the future.

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