Devesh Gupta

"A customer's Twitter handle is like a fingerprint": Karthi Marshan, Kotak Mahindra Group

In its latest campaign titled Hashtag Banking, Kotak Mahindra Bank promotes 23 features that consumers can leverage via Twitter. We spoke to Karthi Marshan, the brand's marketing head, about the effort.

Look at recent banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI) ads; they're almost always about how one needn't physically visit the bank. Hence, banking through apps has been a common subject for advertisers in the segment. After all, smartphone usage is on an upward swing.

But smartphone usage brings with it social media usage, which is the very insight that Kotak Mahindra Bank's new ad campaign is based on. The multi-media effort titled Hashtag Banking is aimed at promoting banking via Twitter.

"A customer's Twitter handle is like a fingerprint": Karthi Marshan, Kotak Mahindra Group
The TV-led campaign is supported by outdoor, print, radio and digital communication.

Created by Cartwheel Communications and produced by Jamic Films, the TVC is set in an Indian metro and features a group of four young friends who share an apartment. One of them is avid Twitter user and is shown spending the better part of his day on the social networking site via his mobile. His friends mock his addiction by nicknaming him - wait for it - 'Twitter'.

But he is a resourceful character; in the film, he recharges their DTH connection, finds an ATM, and checks the transactions. All instantly. And all through Twitter.

"A customer's Twitter handle is like a fingerprint": Karthi Marshan, Kotak Mahindra Group
Karthi Marshan, head marketing, Kotak Mahindra Group, tells afaqs! that the "first layer" of this mass media effort is aimed at promoting the product. The objective of the ad film is to spread awareness about the brand's banking features - 23 of them - that can be used via Twitter.

"Compared to large private sector banks, we are young. Despite that, our consumers treat us like a large bank and expect similar products. We have a relatively smaller network of branches and ATMs. So we needed to compensate in some form. Which is why we chose the digital route. Over the last few years we have realised that in this category, there is very little physical delivery; the rest can be done digitally."

Marshan goes on to tell us about the genesis of this product: "We found that there is a segment of people unconcerned with the location of the branch or ATM, because they know now that a large part of their banking can be done online."

To Marshan, a customer's Twitter handle is like his or her "finger print, as everyone has a unique one."

Most people, he reasons, do not want to remember 16 digit-long account numbers. So once the consumer has shared his/her Twitter handle with the bank, "whenever he/she says anything to Kotak with the correct hashtag, it is almost like interacting with the bank on net banking or IVR (Interactive Voice Response). The bank then treats the input from the Twitter handle as one coming directly from the customer," he explains, adding, "So far Kotak has not enabled financial transactions for strangers" via Twitter. The only financial transactions possible are utility services such as DTH and mobile recharge. The other 21 features include day-to-day banking features such as those relating to lost cards, statements, cheque books, etc. The bank will add more features in the days ahead.

Though the ad tempts one to assume the brand is targeting youngsters, Marshan clarifies that the target group comprises people who prefer to do all bank related things on their own, "without involving a bank executive."

He asserts, "It is about an emerging segment that wants to do everything digitally."

Kotak recently launched Jifi Saver, a social savings bank account, which can be managed via Twitter and Facebook. It is developed for today's tech-savvy and socially connected consumers who lead an active digital life. The account helps people manage things like online shopping, on-the-go transactions and financial planning. It also offers the benefits and functionalities of a regular savings bank account as well as other benefits like mobile and DTH recharge via Twitter, reward and transaction points, unlimited free transactions at Kotak Mahindra Bank ATMs, etc.

Marshan insists that Kotak, through this campaign, is not asking people to change the way they work. Rather, the brand is "trying to forecast how people would like to behave."

"Today parents are tracking the activities of their children by scrutinising their Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp accounts," he shrugs, "So we decided to add banking as one of the other verticals to it."

If hashtag banking becomes popular, Kotak may be spared the trouble of adding more branches to its network; with less physical deliverables and overhead costs, there's a chance profits will increase. That's the hope, at least.

Marshan believes that going forward corporate brands will be forced to use social media to connect with people. "We observe how people behave digitally. They congregate there. And brands have to remain relevant to them," he signs off.

Recall that last year, Kotak launched a Twitter 'help desk' to service its customers.

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