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Industry Speak

Karthi Marshan

Chief Marketing Officer
Kotak Mahindra Group

OOH preference will change from arterial to residential, from malls to local

"Role of OOH has always been spreading quick awareness with impact, however I think in times like this "
August, 2020

In a chat with Allaboutoutdoor.com, Karthi Marshan, President & Chief Marketing Officer, Kotak Mahindra Group shares how is he handling the ongoing crisis? Here are edited excerpts from a conversation with him.

How is the fallout of Covid-19 pandemic across the world and in India impacting your industry and your company in particular?

Luckily for us, Kotak has been a pioneer in digitizing its products and services. On the savings accounts front, new customer acquisition has not flagged even a bit, while cost of acquisition has come down dramatically.  Further, we have innovated even while under lockdown, to deliver a service where customers can safely and quickly complete their KYC process sitting at home, without meeting anyone from the bank, a first of its kind. On the spending side, on credit and debit cards as well as the wide array of payment options like UPI etc, we have seen some categories grow significantly, like ecommerce, health and pharma, etc while the usual suspects like travel, hotels etc have shrunk a lot.

How have you changed your marketing approach after this outbreak?

We have done a number of things. We have produced and shared widely a lot of content about transacting safely in a zero contact mode. We have sourced and delivered deals and offers in the spaces and categories most relevant to our customers at this time. We have chosen to support many brave Corona Warriors through a variety of initiatives, touching medical, municipal and police personnel. We have a program running even now called Protecting the Protectors, where we are supplying masks, shields, PPEs as well as desk shields to police departments across the country. We have repurposed our sales force, preparing ourselves for the inevitably approaching zero contact culture going forward. We have looked ruthlessly at our spends to see where the wastages are most likely and pruned aggressively, while also choosing to increase investments where we saw opportunities. On brand led messaging for Covid times, we took a different approach with a light hearted, animation based song nudging people to proceed with caution, as they return to action. Sung by National Awardee Swanand Kirkire and set to music by the famous Ram Sampath, the video has been so popular that people have translated it of their own accord and shared it back with us, in Tamil and Bengali, for instance.

But perhaps the most magical moment for us was when we responded to COVID and the whole Work From Home movement, with an offering that helped people open a full-fledged bank account from home, with KYC being done via video, for which we produced a campaign fully from home as well. The video piece was done by Ranveer Singh shooting himself at home. There was also a companion piece of outdoor which we launched when the first phase of Unlock began, again with a still image of Ranveer shot at home. This was probably the first campaign for a product that could be bought at home, that was shot at home, and needless to say, conceived, managed, approved and executed at various homes along the way. A proud moment for all of us.  

What is the biggest challenge you face right now and Do you think that the coronavirus pandemic will have a larger impact on your advertising spend?

We are witnessing history in the making right now, and new patterns of behavior are quite likely to emerge. We are seeing a huge uptick for OTT, shrinkage in print and television consumption, but all this is while we are in the eye of the storm. Its early to tell which new behaviours will persist and which will perish with the virus, letting us go back to our old habits. We are watching very carefully, and not committing either way for now. We have no doubt that advertising in some form or fashion will persist, as the need to communicate will always be there.

How will Covid'19 impact your upfront plans for 2020 and 2021?

As I’ve said before, in many segments, our markets are behaving way better than they were before. But we are not letting that make us complacent. We are also busy brainstorming what the pivot for a large firm like ours could be, what emerging new demands we could choose to serve by repurposing our resources. It is also fair to say all bets are off, so while we plan for different scenarios, there is very little that’s cast in stone any more, even for a short term horizon like 20-21.

 For instance, we are seeing a lot of interest and activity for our AT HOME offering, the bank account that can be fully opened from home now. On the back of that, we have also recently launched a zero contact credit card product that you apply for within our app, which has none of the usual constraints credit card products have, like having to produce income proof, etc. We at Kotak have always been hungry and agile to leverage digital to respond to opportunities as well as challenges thrown by the environment, like we did with 811, India’s first downloadable bank account after demonetisation. Similarly, we are seeing the post-COVID world as one which will digitally transform most, if not all of our products, services and processes.

What are the changes you would like to see in the Indian OOH space, which could persuade you to consider a higher outdoor spend post lockdown?

Our media selection has always been from campaign requirement perspective. If a campaign deserves OOH media, and it can offer similar efficiencies or reach like its competitor media, we would certainly continue to include it in our plans. However, we will be watchful of the situation and take tactical decisions basis city or states dynamics. Even after lockdown, it would take time to normalize and we want to be sensitive.

What role does outdoor advertising have in your scheme of things after this outbreak?

Role of OOH has always been spreading quick awareness  with impact, however I think in times like this "key , relevant and sensitive" messaging would play a larger role for selection of outdoor.

Anything else you would like to add?

Going forward, I think outdoor preference will change from arterial to residential, from malls to local. Also, digital OOH may have to replace the static inventory quickly to respond to emerging market needs. And finally, I really wish we can move to more environmentally sustainable materials for outdoor, so as an industry we can become really green.


Interview by: Aarti Pahwa

Tags :  OOH Karthi Marshan Kotak Mahindra Group Covid-19


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