Mumbai: In the first 98 years of its existence, the Mumbai-headquartered Bank of Baroda built up a customer base of 26 million. Then, in the following two years, 2005 and 2006, the bank added 3 million.
Dipankar Mookherjee, a deputy general manager with the bank, attributes some part of that growth to an advertising campaign featuring Indian cricket team captain Rahul Dravid. “Cricket being the single largest craze in the country, we roped in Rahul Dravid as our ambassador,” he said.
Most Indian banks prefer celebrity endorsers and brand ambassadors. ICICI Bank, which once used Amitabh Bachchan, now has Shah Rukh Khan endorsing it. Bank of Rajasthan uses Bollywood veteran and parliamentarian Hema Malini. And Dena Bank has another Bollywood actress, Juhi Chawla, as its ambassador.
The benefits of using a brand ambassador haven’t been lost on foreign banks that have hitherto stuck to their global advertising and communication strategies in the local market, too. Deutsche Bank, a new entrant in the retail banking market in India, has two brand ambassadors: tennis player Sania Mirza to attract the younger audience and Sunil Gavaskar, the former captain of the Indian cricket team, to bring in the older audience. “It was a conscious decision to have two ambassadors to reach out to a wider audience,” said a spokesperson for the bank.
This is in sharp contrast to the communications strategies adopted by other foreign banks such as Citibank and HSBC. “We call ourselves the world’s local bank and do bring in local flavours in all the countries we are present in across the world,” says Sanjiv Patel, the head of marketing at HSBC India.
Both have retained their global positioning, although HSBC has had to induce a heavy Indian flavour in the execution, especially for a new offering targeted at small entrepreneurs. “We had to work hard on the advertising campaign for Pragati (a product aimed at small entrepreneurs),” said Nicholas Winsor, the head of HSBC India’s personal finance business. “We used a lot of bright colours and the copy was in Hindi.”
Banking major Barclays, a relative new entrant in India, hasn’t gone the brand ambassador route, although it is using prime hoarding space in Mumbai to familiarize potential customers with its blue-eagle logo.
In 2006, two Indian banks, State Bank of India and ICICI Bank, figured in the list of the 100 most valuable bank brands in the world, according to a study by Brand Finance, a UK-based brand valuation firm. SBI was ranked at 61, and ICICI Bank, at 66.
“Retail banking is the order of the day and bank products must be sold the way any other product is in the market,” said Unni Krishnan, the country manager of Brand Finance India.
According to a study by media-buying firm Starcomm, in 2005-06, the advertising spend of 28 public-sector banks grew 35%.
The industry expects the retail banking business to grow at 18% in the next five years.