Abid Hussain Barlaskar
Advertising

Kotak Mahindra Bank plays inclusion card

Why does a bank need to prove it does not discriminate? We spoke to Elizabeth Venkataraman, executive vice president - Marketing, Kotak Mahindra Bank, about this high decibel campaign.

When was the last time that you saw a bank equate itself with a bench? Well, Kotak Mahindra Bank's latest campaign #IndiaInvited for Kotak 811, does just that. Cartwheel Creative Consultancy, the agency that crafted the ad, pulled it off in a rather arresting manner. The brand has also roped in Ranveer Singh as its endorser.

Kotak Mahindra Bank plays inclusion card

Kotak 811's latest campaign #IndiaInvited with actor Ranveer Singh

The ad copy, as narrated by Ranveer, balances Kotak 811 with a lone bench on a busy railway platform for all the right reasons. Ranveer, as the protagonist in the ad film, talks about the bench and if only in life, we could all be like it. His dialogue goes on to describe the bench as something that doesn't discriminate against the people who sit on it. The 'bench' does not judge people over personal traits like origin, income, marital status, family background, language, colour or creed, just like Kotak 811.

Kotak Mahindra Bank plays inclusion card
Kotak Mahindra Bank plays inclusion card
Kotak Mahindra Bank plays inclusion card
Kotak Mahindra Bank plays inclusion card

Kotak 811 ads for print, OOH and digital platforms
Click on the images to enlarge

The 360-degree campaign - #IndiaInvited - which is centred around discrimination, is simple and tasteful yet it hits hard at the realities of the judgemental world we live in today. The single-shot ad very creatively showcases people from all walks of life in a rather seamless effort shot on a railway platform; a space where it would be quite easy to find all kinds of individuals. The ad film starts out with a spinster looking for a place on rent and follows up with an acid attack victim looking for a job, an obese man, etc. till Ranveer reaches the 'bench' and explains how the inanimate object passes no judgment on those who use it, just like the Kotak 811.

Kotak Mahindra Bank plays inclusion card
Kotak Mahindra Bank plays inclusion card
Kotak Mahindra Bank plays inclusion card

Kotak 811 ads for print, OOH and digital platforms
Click on the images to enlarge

We spoke to the brand marketers to better understand why they chose this route of communication.

In a conversation with afaqs!, Elizabeth Venkataraman, executive vice president - Marketing, Kotak Mahindra Bank states that Kotak 811, the brand, is as inclusive as the bench.

Kotak Mahindra Bank plays inclusion card

Elizabeth Venkataraman

"Anyone can open an account with Kotak 811. The product leaves no room for judgment of a customer. The person only has to be an Indian and has to have a PAN and Adhaar card. The product itself is operated from an app, that way you're not even exposing yourself to a judgment. One can sit at their house and just open an account; in that very form, the product supports inclusiveness. That's where the idea of inclusiveness was born," Venkataraman says.

But this still doesn't quite answer the questions of why go with this narrative of inclusiveness and now and if there's discrimination in the banking sector too.

Venkataraman responds, "We cannot say if discrimination really happens in the banking sector, but customers in multiple pieces in our research have raised the point that sometimes they feel intimidated while stepping into an establishment like a mall or a bank branch for fear of being judged. It is entirely from a consumer point of view. We responded with a product that just wipes that away. You can enjoy banking services right from the comfort of your house without having to physically visit a bank. You only have to be an Indian with a PAN and an Adhaar card. That's where BFSI and social inclusiveness got together."

"The narrative also goes back to the collaborative efforts of the regulators, the government and the banks who have contributed toward improving financial inclusion from all parts of the country. But even today, that still requires attention as only 2 per cent of the population owns a mobile money account. It means that there is tremendous scope of increasing the engagement with the formal financial system." Venkataraman further adds.

D Ramakrishna aka Ramki, founder, creative director, Cartwheel Creative Consultancy, tells afaqs! that the ad was aimed at reinforcing the brand's leadership in the category.

Kotak Mahindra Bank plays inclusion card

D Ramakrishna

"The brand, Kotak 811, was launched last year and it is a pioneer in its category. Towards the end of the year, there were other competitors in the same space. We were making a statement with this ad," Ramki says.

Speaking about the selection of the discrimination storyline in the campaign, Ramki says, "While discussing this internally we found that everybody has had some sort of experience with discrimination or being judged or even differentiated and stereotyped. People size you up, judge you and hold impressions in ways which may or may not be correct and that does affect the way they treat you. Some of it can also be self-perceived. For example, someone might think he or she is too shabbily dressed to step into a big store, among others. There are many specific segments of people who get more than their fair share of being judged. The selected images are a sample for the ones who are discriminated against."

Speaking about the delivery of the brand message in the ad, Rami says, "In today's world, banking has become a closely knit part of our lives. It cannot be separated from day to day living. Instead of pushing a regular BFSI message, we took a different stand. In today's world, there are so many stories of discrimination that are coming up on a daily basis. Obviously, it was something that wanted to reflect, to show how much it is happening around us. Otherwise, the message is that 811 is for everyone."

We turned to industry experts for their take on the ad.

Kotak Mahindra Bank plays inclusion card

Nishant Jethi

Nishant Jethi, ECD, Publicis India is of the opinion that the ad does seem un-BFSI like. However, he maintains that it's because brands today are looking for new ways to deliver their message. "The way brands communicate today is changing and people are looking at newer ways of storytelling. In my view, this work is well Art directed; simple and straight with a perfect brand connect. And, a celebrity like Ranveer Singh is hard to miss. It is a perfect balance of a good idea, use of celebrity and execution." Jethi says

Kotak had earlier launched the Kona Kona Kotak campaign which was about the bank's reach in various corners of the country.

Kotak Mahindra Bank plays inclusion card

Kotak Mahindra Bank's ad from the Kona Kona Kotak campaign from 2015

Jethi opines that #IndiaInvited is a smooth transition from the Kona Kona Kotak campaign. "After Kona Kona Kotak, #IndiaInvited is a perfect thought and has been released at the right time. I'm sure this communication will connect well with the whole nation," he says.

Kotak Mahindra Bank plays inclusion card

Anusheela Saha

Anusheela Saha, group creative director, FCB Ulka, points out that choosing a railway platform as the stage was a clever move. "I think the use of a railway station is an interesting device as it shows people from different walks of life in one junction," she says.

Commenting on the brand's inclusive stand in the ad film, Saha adds, "Consumers expect brands to have a purpose. Plenty of businesses have serious aspirations to do good and be seen doing good and I feel Kotak 811 had something similar in mind when they did this ad. I am interested to see how they take this forward."

"Brands embracing universal citizenship seem to be the norm of the day. Though it's difficult for me to comment on how much do consumers commit to brands that show good citizenship. But as a piece of communication from Kotak 811, it's certainly fresh," Saha concludes.