Brand Summit: Government brands seek to woo the youth

By , agencyfaqs!, Mumbai | In Others | June 18, 2007
At the Reader's Digest Trusted Brand Marketing Summit 2007, Dr. Anil Khandelwal, CMD, Bank of Baroda, spoke of the mammoth task before the marketing departments of government-owned companies

Think of the & #BANNER1 & # government sector and the mind conjures up images of dowdy looking buildings, indifferent employees, slow procedures and unmemorable advertising. In fact, government brands of late have been constantly battling their own former images, as they try and adopt a newer, more contemporary avatar. SBI, Bank of Baroda, MTDC and Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL) are all cases in point.

At the Reader's Digest Trusted Brand Marketing Summit 2007, Dr. Anil Khandelwal, CMD, Bank of Baroda, spoke of the mammoth task before the marketing departments of such government-owned companies these days. "Two years ago, no one associated marketing and branding with the public sector," he began. But things clearly seem to have changed for some such brands, particularly those which have looked within themselves for any kind of change.

Traditionally, a government brand is known for its high familiarity, high reliability and trust associated with it. But its weaknesses tend to overshadow these qualities. The service sector is marked by dowdiness, slow procedures, corrupt, indifferent and arrogant employees, irregularities and sloth, and of course, corruption and bureaucracy. Further, regulatory procedures make it a bit difficult to erase the existing imagery and adopt a new one.

Bank of Baroda's brand
ambassador, Rahul Dravid
"For a government brand to change perceptions, things have to go beyond logo changes and brand building," said Khandelwal. "There needs to be an organisational reconstructing that needs to happen." In Bank of Baroda's own experience, the youth were shunning it two years ago, and most saw it as a 'sarkari' bank. This, despite its many branches abroad, and 2,800 branches in India alone.

The first thing the bank did was revamp its own functioning: internet and mobile banking was introduced, the concept of 24-hour human banking was brought about (something unheard of in PSU banks), among other things. To ensure the bank lured in the young crowd, small steps such as bean bags in the bank, were thrown in for good measure.

Post this, Bank of Baroda adopted a new symbol (the Baroda Sun, signifying light, energy, diversity and dynamism), which stood more so for the bank's value system, than simply a cosmetic change. "But the vermillion colour faced some opposition from the Parliament, as it belongs to a political party," revealed Khandelwal. "So you see, rebranding isn't so easy for a PSU!" But somehow, Bank of Baroda managed to get its plans approved.

"We also broke out of the 'family bank' positioning adopted by many of our competitors at that point," asserted Khandelwal. This made way for the bank's new avatar: 'India's International Bank'.

Next, cricketer Rahul Dravid was roped in as a brand ambassador, mirroring the brand values of reliability and dependability. All of this led to an image change for the bank. "Some people asked me, why did we zero in on Rahul Dravid and not Sushmita Sen? I told them, 'banking is a serious business'," concluded Khandelwal, on a rather controversial note. Somehow, women in the audience didn't look too happy with his parting thoughts.

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