To be the CMO of a challenger brand in a regulated category like banking, is quite a tall order. Anil Ramachandran, the recently anointed IndusInd Bank marketing head, is a chartered accountant by profession with a self-confessed bias towards marketing. He has been with IndusInd Bank since 2010 and is also EVP and head – retail unsecured assets. Previously he has had stints at Citibank N.A, Standard Chartered Bank and Deutsche Bank.
From an impaired bank that was just about breaking even 10 years back to a profitable and buzzing brand, the bank has indeed come a long way, backed by a host of product and marketing-led innovations. A case in point being the branding of the Gurgaon Rapid Metro’s Cybercity station as IndusInd Bank Cybercity that the bank undertook in 2014. It was one of the first brands in the BFSI segment to not just own a branded metro station but even open a full service branch on location. There has been some buzz on the bank also evaluating the Mumbai Metro station branding opportunity, though Ramachandran offered no official comment on this. All he says is that, “In a highly commoditised space, we find innovation, package it in a context and roll it out.” Which could be in the shape of the above mentioned branding innovations or product-centric innovations like ‘Fingerprint Banking’, ‘My Account My Number’ and ‘check-on-check’.
Ramachandran is very clear that while bigger players can afford to play an emotional catchment route in their communication, banks like his can’t, being a lot smaller. For us all communication has to have a call to action strategy even as we continuously attract new customers and tell them why they should bank with us, he says.
Excerpts from an interview
As the newly appointed CMO at the bank, what is your core mandate?
To continue to grow the brand on its core value of responsive innovation. “Aapne chaha, hamne kiya” has been a key differentiator for us in terms of brand positioning and values. While we build out the brand and what it stands for as a trusted, innovative and responsible bank; we will remain focused on how technologies, processes and data can be used synergistically towards making our customers lives simpler and more convenient. A judicious use of media with an increasing focus on digital and social will be key to our communication strategy. We shall also look at leveraging new and innovative outdoor platforms in creating brand resonance and surround.
In a cluttered category like banking, what can a bank brand do to find relevance and preference among customers?
As you have said, banking is both a cluttered category as well as a much commoditised one. Banking is sometimes viewed as a space which leaves very little for marketers. We have always taken the route of differentiating ourselves as innovators with a stated goal of making banking easy and convenient for customers, driven by customer-centric innovations. These elements position us differently from the market.
What is the role of advertising in this journey?
As we innovate and bring new banking paradigms to our consumers, it is critical that we communicate the ways and means of doing day to day banking in a more simplified and convenient manner. The key will be to ensure that we keep listening, understanding customer needs and keeping the feedback channels open. Solutions develop only if you have a two-way channel.
IndusInd Bank over the years has been known to do very product-centric advertising as against campaigns that build a warm and fuzzy feeling for the brand, something being done by many other players in the BFSI space. Would that change?
Our focus so far has been on communicating products that provide simplification and bring convenience to people’s lives. We shall work on developing other core facets of our brand as the journey continues.
We have, for example, been providing support to some of India’s leading para-athletes through our association with Go Sports. The hard work, training and grit that is put in and demonstrated by them is no less than any other able-bodied athletes. Yet, so little attention has been paid to their victories! We hope to bring about a change in this and create a platform that will bring focus and recognition to these heroes. Our next communication would be across a multi-media framework, shall focus on celebrating the heroic performances of our para-champions in the past, and to create a movement and a platform for all of us to cheer and salute their upcoming sporting performances.