Exclusive | Betting big on 6%, color palette of red and Subbu: Karthi Marshan

The rhythmic jingle of the nursery rhyme has long remained with us even after our early days of childhood. We might not remember what we read in a book yesterday but the music and the jingles that we heard on television remains with us for a long time. Research in the neurosciences tells that rhymes work in very subtle ways to embed the messaging into the listener’s subconscious, the metre that rhymes offer enables easy memorability of the keywords in the messaging. We all know this to be true when we recall how we can still recall easily all the words of poems we learnt in school, so long as they were set to tune.

Thus putting this research in perspective, Kotak has tried this strategy of approaching potential customers through an ad that .has a very catchy jingle with lyrics ‘Life main khushi ka khaata khol le. Since a jingle has a greater re-call value amongst viewers Kotak Mahindra created an advertisement that features ‘Subbu’, (played by versatile Bollywood actor Vinay Pathak) an easy to relate, next door character, who epitomizes smart money management, which is at the heart of Kotak Mahindra Bank’s customer value proposition. In the entire ad, Subbu is shown speaking with different types of people encouraging them to open an account in Kotak Mahindra Bank, all in a song & dance form.

The concept behind the campaign is to inform, educate and invite prospects to earn more from their idle money without much effort.  It is to inform, educate and invite prospects to earn more from their idle money without much effort.

Karthi Marshan, Executive Vice-President & Head, Group Marketing, Kotak Mahindra, while discussing the new ad campaign said that  “Our target audience for the latest rendition of the campaign that talks about our 6% offering continues to be 4 key segments; viz the salaried class, the retired value seekers, the affluent price shoppers and entities like societies, trusts, etc. This is because these are the key segments that stand to benefit most from our offering with this one of its kind product where a simple savings account helps you get significantly higher returns than what most other banks give, with no effort on your part at all,” revealed Marshan.

The concept behind the campaign is largely the same, since Kotak took the initiative to disrupt the Indian savings bank category by offering an interest rate that is 50% higher than what most banks pay. The goal of the campaign is quite simply, to nudge the fence sitters who have been rationally persuaded about the product offering, but have not acted largely due to inertia. Hence, the goal of the current campaign was to nudge people out of their inertia and into action. In fine, the campaign is essentially a straightforward call to action.

The brief to the media and creative agency was very simple. “We asked the agency to package the rational message into a rhyme with a hummable tune to boot as our research told us that comprehension and awareness of our message was complete, and consideration was very high. Conversions, while excellent from our base benchmarks, were still lower than the opportunity present in the marketplace. Thus we did a fair amount of brainstorming and this included people from across functions within the firm and across disciplines among our partner agencies. Cartwheel for creative, Starcom for media, Genesis for PR, IBS for social…”

“One of the key ideas that emerged was that if we wanted a hummable jingle, we should eschew mention of the brand. Now this is a radical idea, and one that any responsible marketer would shudder to deploy, because in categories like BFSI, one of the gravest risks in communication is mis-attribution, meaning I spend the money but my competitor’s brand name is the one that is recalled and associated with the ad. Despite that, we chose to proceed and did something probably no brand has ever done before, viz run a TV campaign with no mention of the brand to begin with. 

Our conviction was based on the belief that the core offering viz 6%, the color palette of a strong red and the consistent use of our protagonist Subbu were excellent proxies for the brand’s logo and identity,” informed Marshan.

Swanand Kirkire has composed the lyrics of the jingle to convey the core message to the audience. Neil Mukherjee, a young and talented musician was roped in to set the jingle to tune and sing it in his inimitable voice. They planned the ad very meticulously and executed the whole shoot in one night. To keep things simple, director Shumon Bhattacharya shot it fully in limbo and then worked in a lot of background via computer graphics. Marshan appeared to be extremely pleased with the results.

Kotak Mahindra has very unusually put digital first to promote the new campaign. The reason behind it was that they wanted to leverage on the digital video consumption which has grown exponentially in the country. They are using TV as a top-up, turning topsy turvy the conventional wisdom in this space. They also are using the medium of cinema very aggressively due to the entertainment quotient available in the ad. Also, since the ad is jingle based, they are leveraging a wide range of audio media like radio, caller tunes, in –cab audio playouts, et al.

The bank will continue to segment and target the audience based on relevance of the appeal of this offering, as well as relative strength of the brand in particular geographies and segments. Marshan added that on other media, our messaging is further nuanced to reflect the specific triggers that are relevant and appropriate for different sub-segments, so that everyone is addressed with a specific benefit of the product that she is most interested in. Hence, for some it is tax saving, while for others it is lazy savings and so on

The government has recently announced the giving out of new licenses for banks. It will definitely affect the competition and banks will require reconsidering their strategies. However Marshan had a very different view on this. He said that, “In a nation that is still grossly under-banked, competition is the least of any bank’s worries. Nobody is really eating each other’s lunch in the context of raising deposits; there is plenty to go around. What is likely to emerge certainly is less generic and more nuanced offerings and messaging that attempt to differentiate brands based on the segments they wish to pursue. I By Rabab Rupawala [rabab(at)adgully.com]  


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