Rashmi Menon

Kotak Mahindra Bank: Busting inertia

In its latest campaign, the bank tackles consumers' inertia and focuses on people who are yet to make up their minds about opting for the bank's higher interest savings account.

Tackling competition is easier than changing human behaviour, and that's the challenge Kotak Mahindra Bank seems to be up against. The bank's latest campaign, which is an extension of its previous 'Subbu sab jaanta hai' (Subbu knows it all) campaign, continues to urge people with the higher, more attractive interest rate on savings account on balance above Rs 1 lakh. Besides giving the brand's live mascot 'Subbu' (played by Vinay Pathak) a miss, the current campaign addresses so called "fence sitters" with the message "Why are you stuck on four per cent, when six per cent is greater?"

Kotak Mahindra Bank: Busting inertia
Kotak Mahindra Bank: Busting inertia
Kotak Mahindra Bank: Busting inertia
Kotak Mahindra Bank: Busting inertia
While the earlier campaigns had Subbu dispensing expert advice to people, the current campaign has switched to inanimate, everyday-use objects such as elevators, GPS monitors and token display machines.

The three-film campaign is conceptualised and executed by Cartwheel Creative Consultancy. While one film shows a man in an elevator stuck on the 4th floor, another shows a man waiting for his token number to be called. In the third film, a woman in a car hears her GPS monitor telling her that six is greater than four. The films reiterate that those stuck on 'four' may be the only ones left, who haven't yet opened an account with Kotak Mahindra despite knowing the that the bank offers 6 per cent rate of interest per annum.

While the campaign is largely led by television, it is supported by targeted outdoor, cinema and digital media. In outdoor, the bank says it has an "impactful property" in T3 of Delhi airport where it has 168 sites. In fact, the bank has invested extensively in outdoor properties in the Mumbai-Delhi corridor since people commuting between the two cities form an important target group for the bank.

'Subbu' worked well for the brand in its earlier campaigns. Why then the decision to do away with it this time? Karthi Marshan, executive vice-president and head, group marketing, Kotak Mahindra Bank, clarifies that Subbu has been put on "pause" and the brand has not decided to do away with him. "Our internal research showed that Subbu was becoming 'wall-paperish'. People tuned out when they saw him as they thought they knew what Subbu was going to say," says Marshan, adding that while the character has high retention value, it looked like people had stopped grasping the message.

The brand, therefore, felt the need to try a different tactic by opting for inanimate objects. "Indians by nature are touchy. We had to be more subtle in our message rather than rub people's face in it," Marshan states. While brands have carried out dry humour ad campaigns abroad, it wouldn't be taken that well here, he opines.

In fact, the campaigns launched since 2011, when the bank started the 6 per cent value proposition, have worked well for the brand. In mere three years, the bank has growth three times in terms of the money parked in its savings accounts, and has registered double the number of new customers, as compared to pre-2011. Having said that, there is still plenty of growth room and continuous reminders seem essential, Marshan feels.

While the initial campaign began on a rational note, the later films experimented with all the possible ways of connecting with the customers. "Aristotle spoke about how you need to persuade an audience by three appeals - ethos, pathos and logos. Our communication has been on similar lines," Marshan believes.

The current campaign's focus is on breaking people's inertia in switching over to Kotak Mahindra Bank. "So, inertia is our biggest enemy. My target customers are fully aware of the product proposition but many are not doing anything about it," he says. The reason for this could be that till 2011, when the regulation on savings account interest rates were lifted, people never gave much thought to savings account as the perception was that the interest rates were next to nothing.

Marshan, therefore, felt that he was creating a new market and more participants (read: competitor banks) offering similar or competing interest rates would only result in creating more noise for this value-proposition and lead to a win-win situation for everyone.

"Besides, I am taking share from larger, older entities, which don't seem to mind. Else, they haven't done anything in the last three years," Marshan notes.

Six of one?

Kotak Mahindra Bank: Busting inertia
Aditya Kanthy, national strategic planning head, DDB Mudra, feels that while campaign's message is relevant and in line with its earlier avatar, it falls short on how it talks to us. "Kotak Mahindra Bank's campaign is consistent with their recent thinking and message - that 6 is better than 4. It's a fair argument designed to appeal to our sense of reason. But I wonder if the execution misses a trick. While it's campaign is dramatic and the message is hard to miss, does it bring alive the personality or character of the brand? Does it move us or entertain us?" he says.

The more compelling work in the category, Kanthy believes, acknowledges the fears, anxieties and emotions inherent in how people feel about money and the institutions that deal with it. "At the very least Subbu made the brand accessible with its attempt at the oddly likeable know-it-all. Perhaps, Subbu just ran out of interesting ways of saying the same thing," he opines.