Ananya Pathak

"Payments are usually seen as cold and transactional": Sapna Chadha, Google

“We forget about the humanity in something like a payment at times. But money serves a bigger purpose than we might imagine. Especially when the impact of its use is much bigger than the value of the transaction,” wrote Sapna Chadha, director of marketing, Southeast Asia and India, Google sharing the latest film - 'Celebrating India's Biggest Payments' - by Google Pay, the payments offering from technology giant Google.

The close to two-minute video narrates the story of how a simple payment played a major role in the lives of Chhavi Rajawat - youngest person to hold the office of sarpanch, visually-challenged Satender Singh cleared his UPSC exam, 13-year-old Malavath Poorna, who scaled the highest peak of Mount Everest and that of coach Ramakant Achrekar's and his student, Sachin Tendulkar.

Chadha tells afaqs! that the inspiration for the film comes from the idea that a payment is not just a sum of money that changes hands, but rather, a powerful means to create impact or forward a movement in their daily lives. She says, “The brand film illustrates the idea through real-life stories of inspiring people whose journeys of impact started with a simple payment.”

Sapna Chadha
Sapna Chadha

The film, directed by Vishal Bhardwaj and narrated by Gulzar, builds on the earlier campaign by the brand, #MoneyMadeSimple. It has been conceptualised by Mumbai-based agency, Lowe Lintas.

However, unlike the previous ads, the film takes the brand, formerly known as Android Pay, away from highlighting the functional benefits of the digital wallet in its communication, including luring the customers with cashback and offers, ease of use, convenience and security of money transfer.

Commenting on the change in the communication ideology of the brand, Chadha says, “Till date, our biggest driver of user growth continues to be user referrals as loyalty cannot be built on the back of cashbacks. We have used scratch cards/incentives more as a tool to drive discovery and trials for a new form of payment like UPI but beyond that, consumer choice and habit formation has grown on the back of an intuitive, secure and fast user experience and the sheer convenience of bank-to-bank transfers.”

The digital wallet that launched in India in 2017 as Google Tez and was in 2018 rebranded as Google Pay, sees competition from PhonePe, Paytm, FreeCharge, BHIM, MobiKwik, Amazon Pay and others from the category.

Talking about the challenges that the brand sees in the market space, Chadha shares, “While the space is competitive, the real differentiating opportunity, in this case, came from within the category. Payments are usually seen as cold and transactional. Our consumers use the app for a variety of needs in their daily lives, for example - sending money home, paying bills, shopping offline or online - as it fundamentally makes their lives hassle-free and more efficient. However, their association with money and payments is deep and quite personal.

She further adds that the product’s journey since the launch has been very encouraging, with millions of new users adopting Google Pay each month.

Also Read: "Want to build a relationship with shop owners": CMO, BharatPe

The film reminds us of the recent campaign by the rival, QR code-based payment app, BharatPe that took the emotional route to woo shopkeepers by focusing on their pain-points instead of talking about the functional-benefits of the UPI-based app.

We reached out to industry experts to get their opinion on the shift from offers and cashback-backed communications to piggybacking on the emotional quotient by brands in the category. Shashank Lanjekar, head- strategic planning, Taproot Dentsu opines that while emotions are always great brand builders, it is imperative to identify and back the accurate emotion.

Shashank Lanjekar
Shashank Lanjekar

Citing an example of Paytm's attempt at personifying and moving the brand from just a verb (Paytm karo) to a noun (Kisika Paytm bano), he says, “This sets the tone for the argument that an emotional conversation goes a long way in salience and affinity because of the sheer opportunity to have a fresh and differentiated dialogue compared to offers and cashback messaging.”

“Unfortunately, the category often defines the brand conversations out of long standing codes and standard operating procedures. The mobile payments offering has now become a category in itself and broken away from the typical BFSI mould,” he adds.

Lanjekar further states that Google Pay has been very vague, if not entirely diffused, in its attempt to create strong emotional affinity for the brand and its offering. "If one wanted to celebrate payments, there were surely better ways to place those payments credibly in the lives of people and build an emotion from that springboard rather than force-fit and retro-fit success stories to payments therein," he observes.

He finds this story cheeky-disguised-as-inspirational attempt to associate the brand with these underdog stories. He puts it as, “When Google did the Reunion film, I was glad. A contemporary brand found sense in telling an emotional story through the use of its offering, which was all-pervasive to the extent that the brand name is now a verb. This ad I believe is on the other end of the “brand and offering linkage” line. Far-fetched, weakly linked with the product and seeking to bask in the glory of achievements that have nothing (or very little at best) to do with what Google Pay does.”

“To clarify further, be it Chhavi, Satender or Poorna, the payment they made had little, almost nothing to do with their achievements. In the case of the Achrekar story, the money was an incidental symbol, in fact at times, coaches have used bottle tops and promised drinks at the end of the game if a batsman remains undefeated,” he explains.

Neeraj Bassi
Neeraj Bassi

We connected with Neeraj Bassi, chief strategy officer and managing partner, Publicis India to get his comments on the idea and execution of the film. He finds the idea of the ad interesting – greater good that comes out of small payments, but failed to get its connect with Google Pay.

"It is a category leader kind of stance and to the best of my knowledge, Google Pay has not reached that status yet. Usually, the category leader would benefit from category generic communication like this. It is a good move for a brand to move forward from tactical aspects like offer, cashback and to stand for an emotional benefit in life. But that benefit should have a clear brand linkage in order to tie the communication back to the brand,” he says.

Rakesh Menon
Rakesh Menon

Rakesh Menon, ECD, FCB Interface says it’s a nicely executed film. The narrative is wonderful. With Vishal Bharadwaj and Gulzar, you wouldn’t expect any less.

“But when you have such a dominant player like Paytm reigning over the e-wallet market, you really, really have to communicate something phenomenal to get people to even consider you. And I’m not sure this ad does that. Sure, there is a lovely philosophy here. But is it insightful enough and, more importantly, relatable enough? Does it challenge behaviour? These are some of the questions I would ask," he comments.