We still love TV and OOH for their emotional impact: Karthi Marshan, Kotak Mahindra

CMO, Kotak Mahindra said, brand ambassador responsibility is to espouse the brand’s values, bring them alive and guarantee attention of the prospective consumers

e4m by Dolly Mahayan
Updated: Dec 4, 2018 9:18 AM
Karthi Marshan

BFSI sector brand Kotak Mahindra is rapidly increasing its focus on digital media in the last few years. The brand hired actor Ranveer Singh as the face of the brand and is also the crowd puller for the #IndiaInvited campaign.

The brand was recently in the news for its latest campaign ‘Card Mila Kya’ amidst the wedding of Singh and actor Deepika Padukone. The campaign was applauded for its humour and creative idea.

In an interview with exchange4media, Karthi Marshan, Chief Marketing Officer, Kotak Mahindra Group, spoke about the role of brand ambassador in communication, idea behind the ‘Card Mila kya’, overall marketing strategy and more.

Hiring a brand ambassador in banking sector is very difficult because it's all about ‘Trust and Faith’. Do you think Ranveer Singh fits the bill here? 

Banking is about trust and faith, this much is absolutely true. But that is not a task we can abdicate to a brand ambassador, the brand itself must answer for that, by its conduct, and the conduct of its leadership as well as its foot soldiers, in every single interaction it has with its stakeholders. A brand ambassador for us has a very different responsibility. It is his job to espouse the brand’s values, bring them alive and guarantee attention of the prospective consumers. If the ambassador’s public persona and the brand’s values are in sync, that’s a huge bonus for the brand, as every sighting of the ambassador will be tantamount to a sighting of the brand. For instance, we recently launched a teaser campaign for our Ranveer Singh Debit card which has no Kotak logo on it, and yet social media was abuzz with talk about Kotak’s coup.

When you incorporate humour and creativity in marketing, the results are definitely going to grab eyeballs and the same happened with the recent campaign ‘Card Mila Kya’. How did the idea come about?

There’s a cliché about good luck happening when opportunity meets preparation. I think in this case it was definitely so. We were on track and fully prepared to launch a Debit Card with images of Ranveer Singh on it, when news came of his wedding. Social media was already in hyper drive discussing all aspects of the imminent nuptials. When we saw the couple publish their wedding announcement card on Twitter, and then share pictures with the select invitees receiving their invitation card, we thought it was too good an opportunity to miss. We quickly (practically overnight) revised the creatives to reflect the idea of a humorous take on the Wedding Card that was in reality the announcer for our Debit Card, and it really grabbed the imagination of the viewing public.

Being a financial brand, how you define your target audience on digital and how do you strategize to reach out to them?

Everybody has a relationship with money, and in that sense everybody is a target customer for us. However, everybody’s money needs are somewhat different, and that is where customisation and segmenting comes in. On digital, it is possible to precise target consumers not only based on their demographics but also their interests, needs and burning questions. This is what we use effectively to target multiple micro-segments on digital.

What is your media mix? What has been the role of digital medium in communicating with the consumers? What part of your marketing spends are allocated to the digital medium?

We still love traditional media like TV and OOH for the emotional impact they have. We use digital selectively for buzz and engagement, and we also use digital dominantly for performance campaigns. We communicate on digital with prospects, to persuade them to consider our products, and we also communicate with customers already banking with us, persuading them to consider other products that are relevant and appropriate for them at various points in time.

 What role does outdoor medium play in the overall marketing strategy?

Traditionally, outdoor has been approached as a reminder medium, one that encapsulates a brand campaign’s message into one visual, one line and the brand’s logo. At Kotak, we have never limited its utility to that. We have very often used outdoor for its unique ability to be topical, hyper local, impactful etc. We have done bold things like run ads on hoardings minus the brand logo, confident that the message would reflect the brand on its own. We have gone hyper local with messages on bus shelters and hoardings in the vicinity of our branches, inviting customers of neighbouring banks to cross the road to get more for their money. During our Kona Kona Kotak campaign, we deliberately switched around visuals, celebrating the Guntur customers in Mumbai, Bangalore customers in Ranchi, Goa customers in Cuddapah and so on. This seeming incongruity got people’s attention, and we got a lot of messages about how we must have made mistakes in dispatching the wrong artworks to various cities. But slowly, the penny dropped, and Mumbaikars appreciated that if we had branches in places like Guntur, we probably had branches in many places of India.

Do you see greater reason to drive OOH advertising for deepening your brands consumer connects?

Absolutely. OOH has enormous flexibility because we can change messaging based on location, as well as based on topical relevance. So sites near our branches can have one kind of message, while sites near the competitors can have another. Sites relevant to my category like malls and cinemas can have a specific type of message. Outdoor is a lot like finely targeted digital advertising. We also believe good outdoor design is a nuanced craft. David Ogilvy prescribed ‘12 words or less’. Most billboards tend to have a lot more clutter. Kotak actually operate with the maxim of 6 words or less.

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