Kotak Mahindra Bank: Going Places

By Sohini Sen , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | April 20, 2015
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Kotak's recent campaign is an announcement of its merger with ING, which makes it the fourth biggest private sector bank. Does the campaign communicate what it needs to?

A merger of two banks is not likely to make much news outside the financial sector. But, thanks to some powerful campaigning from Kotak Mahindra Bank, the merger between Kotak and ING has become the talk of the town.

In November 2014, Kotak announced that it will be acquiring Bengaluru-based ING Vysya Bank in an all-stock deal. While the merger was announced in November, it was only in March 2015 that the Reserve Bank of India approved the merger. This makes Kotak the fourth largest private bank in the country in terms of total business.

Kotak Mahindra Bank TVC

"The RBI approval was the last big milestone for the merger. After that, we had to plan very carefully for our announcement. Now, you may say we had time from November, but in truth we only got around a week's time to properly plan it out. A lot of last moment, overnight, magical planning had to be done as well," explains Karthi Marshan, head of marketing, Kotak Mahindra Bank.

Kotak Mahindra Bank OOH ad

Kotak Mahindra Bank OOH ad

By April 6, 2015, the bank had put up several hoardings across cities - both metros and tier I and II towns talking about the merger. The OOH part of the campaign simply declared 'Proud to be in Bhilai, or Jhansi or Pehowa'. This signified the reach of the bank - coupled with the strength of ING. Post the merger, Kotak's number of branches increased to a total of 1,214, spread across the country. This meant an addition of 260 plus cities and a 50 per cent increase in network.

Kotak Mahindra Bank corporate print ad

"The merger was of an unprecedented size. We needed to communicate the relevance of it not just to the new customers, but also to stakeholders and existing customers. The average customer would not care that after this merger the market cap gets added up. They needed to see what was in it for them," adds Marshan.

Karthi Marshan

D Ramakrishna

Alok Nanda

It is common knowledge that whenever mergers happen, customers become insecure about the future. The existing ING customers likewise were given 725 Kotak Bank shares for every 1,000 shares they held. They also had the benefit of receiving Kotak's market rate of interest. Again, for the Kotak customers it was important to see the increased number of branches for their bank. Kotak, which had a strong presence in North and West India, can now use ING's stronghold of the Southern markets to become a truly national bank with a balanced presence across the country.

"This growing network of branches for Kotak represents trust. From Dhulia to Chaibasa, from Asansol to Jhansi - Kotak is now present everywhere. It is also now at par with any of the large private banks, like an ICICI or HDFC Bank. We tried to convey that to the people," explains D Ramakrishna, aka Ramki, founder and creative director, Cartwheel Creative Consultancy.

Cartwheel launched 15-20 different designs for hoardings across the nation, along with a TVC and a 30-seconder for radio. While this would be considered a pan-India approach in itself, Kotak also worked with Alok Nanda & Company for a corporate campaign which also explained the merger.

"The message of the merger was already known. But we had to talk about the 'why'. Kotak is part of India's growth story, its prosperity. We announced that now you could take your rightful place in the growth of the country - so we spoke about the merger with a 'value' for consumers," shares Alok Nanda, managing director, Alok Nanda & Company Communications.

The corporate communication, therefore, is more informative and talks about the merger with India's developmental stance.

The campaigns will be spread out over the country. While the metro resident would know that Kotak now has enough banks no matter where he travels, it also makes sense for tier I and II residents, especially those who work in the metros, while their families live in the towns or smaller cities. Kotak's TG, which was erstwhile just the affluent mass, or the middle class, has now increased to include many more. According to Marshan, while demographically it may not change a lot, psychographically, Kotak will now try to speak to aspiring Indians.

"If you notice, now a lot of people want to start something of their own. Be it a huge business, or even a bakery. This is the growing India that we will speak to. We are the bank for an ambitious India," Marshan states.

But, is the bank doing enough and making the right moves?

ND Badrinath

Sharda Agarwal

ND Badrinath, founding partner, Aquamena - a Mumbai-based marketing consultancy, says that there is no right or wrong way to communicate something after a take-over. But, he does feel that there is more to come.

"This seems like a work in progress. All they are speaking about is the huge network - that is a simple message. But see, in this age of net banking and hashtag banking, how big a deal is it to be a nationwide bank?," questions Badrinath.

According to Marketgate's co-founder, Sharda Agarwal, the hoardings seen in different cities do not speak about the merger at all, and that is fine because the average customer would not care about it.

"The general public will see it as a big, omnipresent brand. When a bank starts operations, it sets up branches in the metros. So, showing smaller cities in the campaign is actually counter-intuitive. Here, the small cities connote big," explains Agarwal.

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