Campaign India Team
Mar 13, 2013

Campaign India Live Issue Forum: Role of marketing in loosening purse strings

Excerpts from the forum that featured Ajay Kakar, T Gangadhar, Karthi Marshan and Devendra Chawla

Campaign India Live Issue Forum: Role of marketing in loosening purse strings

The second Campaign India Live Issue Forum, in association with Open Magazine, was hosted at The Comedy Store, Mumbai, on 12 March 2013.

The theme for the knowledge forum involving senior marketers and marketing communication professionals was 'Role of marketing in loosening purse strings'. The content curated by Campaign India saw marketers being invited to present cases relevant to the topic.

Proceedings kicked off with Ajay Kakar, chief marketing officer, financial services, Aditya Birla Group, presenting the case of Birla Sun Life Insurance and its much talked about use of brand ambassador, cricketer Yuvraj Singh.

Explaining the context, he described the world of financial services as one that held relevance ‘24 x 7, 365 days a year’, but also one laden with a unique set of challenges including that of perceived value. 

"The financial services market is a 1.2 billion market. The BFSI sector is the second largest in advertising spends. The challenge for us is the penetration, which is as low as 15 per cent. Compare this to the mobile telecom industry; in 15 years, 15 operators have got a penetration of 70 per cent," said Kakar.

He noted that in insurance alone, there were 24 players in the fray, and traced the route Birla Sun Life Insurance took, as it grew from number 7 to number 5.

Citing the five commandments generally followed by brands using celebrities, he explained how these were re-written by Birla Sun Life, as:

  1. Thou shall first look for the idea, the star (celeb endorser) follows
  2. Thou shall not ensure he endorses the product
  3. Thou shall not show a celeb as a celeb
  4. Thou shall not stay with the flavour of the season
  5. Thou shall not steer clear of controversies

These, Kakar explained, led to the brand's campaign featuring Yuvraj Singh. He showed the several TVCs which featured Singh at different stages of his career. He said such associations help connect with the hearts and the wallets, and underlined that the lines ‘Jab thak balla chaltha hai, thaat hai. Jab balla nahin chaltha hai...’ came from Yuvraj himself.



Next up was, T Gangadhar, managing director, India, MEC India. The hearts and the wallets connection laid out by Kakar was explained further by Gangadhar as he spoke about Citibank's pre-Diwali campaign in 2012, 'Dil vs Bill'.

"The challenge for Citibank was to face the rising inflation, increasing interest rates and the banking industry was going through a low. Diwali 2012 was almost a do or die situation for banks last year," he said. "We addressed this challenge by targetting stakeholders in Mumbai, Delhi and Banglore (the cities contribute to 60-65 per cent of Citibank's customers). The cash-rich, time-strapped generation owns multiple credit cards. We addressed them and targetted them by launching a zero interest EMI plan for either three or six months for purchases made during the period. Publicis created a great commercial for it."

The process started with awareness creation, but with ‘not so generous’ budgets. So the brand targeted high ticket category ads, and placed smaller Citibank EMI offer ads alongside. This was done through print, outdoor and digital media, and the brand didn’t stop there.

In Phase two, Citibank focused on the ‘Versus’ in Dil Vs Bill, addressing the conflict within – the urge to spend, versus the hesitance. Gangadhar added, "We integrated Dil vs Bill on Twitter and Skyvertising. Activations in shopping malls were also launched before Diwali."

According to the MEC India head, this made a big difference to Citibank's sales during Diwali – it resulted in an 80 per cent increase in sales from 2011. Sales on Dhanteras increased by 196 per cent from the year before.

(Read more on the Dil Vs Bill campaign here.)


The next invited presenter was Kotak Mahindra Bank's, EVP and head group - marketing, Karthi Marshan. His talk was on Kotak Mahindra Bank seizing the first mover advantage when interest rates hikes were allowed for savings accounts.

He started off explaining the immense challenges in banking as a category and the global issues that cropped up circa 2008 adding to its woes. "That's when we got a gift from ‘God’. The deregulation of saving rates by the Government. We started with our ad campaign within days after the deregulation was announced. Our campaign showed how our offering (six per cent) is higher than four by fifty per cent. Instead of using brand ambassadors, we started by introducing our very own go-to-guy, Subbu."

"Then came the IPL. We used the fours category in the tournament to show our six per cent offering for savings. Everytime a four was hit, our banner appeared on television. We got 2,000 opportunities to show up during the IPL," added Marshan, taking the position that the RoI was better than buying ad spots during the tournament.

The bank built on the 6 per cent proposition further, roping in corporate clients such as Facebook, Airtel and Pepsi who had bought into the salary account offering from Kotak Mahindra Bank. The result according to the bank’s CMO, was a doubling of savings accounts it had in 18 months.

The fourth speaker on the panel was Devendra Chawla, president, Food Bazaar, Future Group. Probed on the consumer sentiment based on reports of lower volume growth reported by FMCG companies, rate cuts in categories like soaps, and higher ad spends to boost consumption, Chawla responded saying that the situation was far from what could be described as ‘gloom’.

Chawla added, "There's stress in the market for sure, but I don't think there's gloom. If you say that there is slowdown in volume growth, that’s a fact, but we can still make a statement that value hasn't come down since 2008. People are buying better mobiles, growth rate of premium oil and soaps has increased."

The forum was moderated by Gokul Krishnamurthy, editor, Campaign India.

(Read more on the Campaign India Live Issue Forum in the issue of Campaign India magazine dated 22 March 2013)

Campaign India

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