It’s often tough to distinguish someone from his/her identical twin. Scouting for several sets of identical twins—from three-year-old toddlers to 60-year olds—and convincing them to shoot for an ad spot must be tougher, right? Yes, but it was also fun, says the team from ad agency Ogilvy & Mather India Ltd (O&M) that executed the campaign announcing a change of name for India’s fifth largest bank by market capitalization.
UTI Bank Ltd changed its name to Axis Bank Ltd earlier this month.
The agency used different sets of twins to underline the message that UTI Bank and Axis Bank are identical in every way except the name. “Finding twins is tough,” says Sumanto Chattopadhyay, group creative director, O&M. “But some of the twins, like the two little girls in the commercial, were so charming, that it was completely worth the effort. By the end of the shoot, we ourselves were getting confused about who’s who,” he adds. However, when their countrywide hunt for identical twins hit a roadblock, the agency had to settle for some special effects imaging to create some of the twins for the campaign.
The bank had to change the name before a January 2008 deadline; that’s till when it had the rights to use the brand name of its erstwhile parent, the Unit Trust of India. UTI Bank was hived off from UTI in 2002.
Identity change: An outdoor hoarding announcing the bank’s new name. Mint Photo by Ramesh Pathania
“The last time a bank actually changed its name in circumstances that did not involve a merger or a takeover was in 1955 when Imperial Bank was renamed State Bank of India,” says Hemant Kaul, head, retail banking, Axis Bank.
A senior executive from a media-buying firm estimates ad spends for the name-change campaign to be in the region of Rs10 crore. Then there’s the cost involved in changing signages at 580 branches and 2,157 ATMs.
The bank also had to address challenges related to communicating the name change to 6.5 million consumers in India and abroad.
“We used all major mass media—television, print, radio, as well as the outdoor medium, to communicate the change in name. But even before the campaign was launched, we communicated the change to the bank’s consumers through direct mailers, bank statements, mobile, the Internet and banners at all the branches, extension counters and ATMs in India,” says O&M’s Chattopadhyay.
The agency, along with Madison Media Infinity, an arm of Madison Communications Pvt. Ltd, which is the media buying agency for the bank, came up with the idea of having Mumbai tabloid Mid-Day change over to a broadsheet form for a day, to communicate the message that nothing had changed. “We found the idea extremely innovative and clutter-breaking apart from being in complete sync with our agenda for change,” says Anjan Bhattacharya, vice-president, Axis Bank.
The brand name, inspired by the mathematical definition of the axis—a line of reference around which everything revolves—was approved by the bank’s chairman, P.J. Nayak, who is a known mathematics buff. Historical references to Axis—the alliance of Germany and Italy in 1936, later including Japan and other nations that opposed the allies in World War II—and the more recent ‘Axis of Evil’ defined by US President George Bush have very negative connotations but the bank isn’t particularly worried. “World War II was a long time ago,” says a senior official from the Bank who does not wish to be named.
What the bank didn’t anticipate, however, was that a modern, international and edgy name such as Axis would come with its own set of challenges. “Try writing a western word like Axis in seventeen different Indian languages! It took a while for us to get all the maatras (accents) right,” says Kaul.
The new name, experts say, will help the bank shed its unintended association with public sector banks and also give it an modern, global feel that could appeal to younger consumers.