Money can buy everything or just about. Indeed, a liberating thought for any socially and economically ambitious individual. And to feed this thought and empower consumers to buy more, banks the world over came up with this clever little device called a credit card.
Clever it might be, but it hasn't quite worked out as planned, as far as the Indian consumer goes. Banks here have not been able to convert as many non-users as was expected. And prospective consumers still prefer paying in cash.
The problem has to do with fear, coupled with the Indian mindset that is programmed to think frugal. For with every promise of 'more power to buy' came the threat of overspending. And at another level, the Indian mind equates the promise of material comforts with 'sinful existence'.
So what is a bank that has recently entered this cluttered category - 'where one card is a clone of another' - supposed to do to break consumer inertia and make its presence felt? This was the question ABN AMRO was faced with when it plunged into the estimated 8-million-credit-card-users market in India. "Since we don't have the advantage of being an early entrant, the only way to get noticed and be relevant is to create powerful differentiation in our products," says Nitin Chopra, head, consumer banking India, ABN AMRO Bank. "Make the last credit card in this market the first in the mind."
To achieve this, the bank is pursuing a segmented product strategy. "Ours will perhaps be the first card company to enter the market with the simultaneous launch of two products," says Chopra. "One, an entry-level credit card targeted at the entry-level segment; second, a Gold card targeted at high-value Silver card customer of other credit card brands, looking for an upgrade."
Achieving the first is the real challenge, and little can be expected without busting the primary fear-of-spending factor. So the bank and its advertising agency, Contract Advertising, have come out with two television commercial highlighting both the 'fear', and how ABN AMRO assures card holders freedom from the fear of overspending.
The first film has a man (presumably a card holder) debating whether he should step into a shopping mall, lest he give in to temptation. He then gets a brainwave. Cut to the guy walking through the mall wearing blinkers, much to the amusement of other shoppers. 'Afraid that your credit card will make you spend too much?' the voiceover pops the question. The rest of the ad is about how ABN AMRO shows a way out in the form of its "Freedom credit card that regulates credit limit" and "active alerts, for regular alerts on spending". The second film has the husband desperately trying to keep his wife from setting her eyes on shop-windows… The brand promise in both ads: 'Live without fear.'
Market research had a hand in arriving at the brand strategy - though there really weren't any surprises here. "The two rounds of research conducted by ORG-Marg mostly threw up insights that any credit card marketing or advertising professional would already be aware of," says Mohit Hira, senior vice-president, Contract Advertising, Delhi. "The only difference being that here was a client, an advertising agency and a research agency team that started putting questions to themselves." One such question was can't the consumer's fear of overspending be addressed by doing something to the product?
From this brainstorming emerged the product's design and proposition. ABN AMRO gives consumers control over spending, so "the branding idea of 'Live Without Fear' was unanimously cheered by all member of the team," says Nandu Narasimhan, associate vice-president, creative, Contract Advertising, Delhi.
It's not an empty promise, the bank insists. "Flexilimit empowers you to regulate your credit limit, as and when you want, by simply making a phone call to the bank," explains Chopra. "It protects you from nightmarish bills and debt traps. And through Active Alerts the bank sends you alerts on your mobile or e-mail on spends, credit limit and bill date, so that you can shop and pay with responsibility. And our Yearend Spending Summary is an analysis of your spending patterns through the year. This helps you understand how you spend, and implement self-regulatory principles."
The multimedia campaign - which kicked off with two 10-second teasers, followed by the 35-second spots - was supplemented with a print and outdoor campaign to communicate a four-digit number that consumers can use to register. The company claims this exercise bore results. "A media innovation on the front page of Mid-Day in Mumbai and full-page ads thereafter set the ball rolling. The response has been beyond all expectations and enquiries crossed 20,000 in three days, with filled-in application forms exceeding 2,000 in five days," says Chopra.
The agency is mighty pleased too. "Few banks would dare to follow our route," smiles Narasimhan. "Contract has been actively involved at every step, from the conceptualisation to the launch, with a client team that has been both supportive and demanding," says Hira. And he is also looking forward to more action on the account. "With 25 million eligible Indians out there, and just 8 million credit cards floating around, there's a significant amount of wallet-share to be won."
Agency : Contract Advertising, Delhi
The Team :
Creative : Nandu Narasimhan, Amardeep Singh, Vandana Katoch, Ashish Poddar
Servicing : Virat Tandon, Prashant Ramachandran, Madhumita Chatterjee
Filmmaker : Shamin Desai
Production House : Highlight
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