Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Blow-by-blow account: Kotak counts, HSBC talks account

While Kotak Mahindra Bank sticks to traditional advertising language, HSBC is trying to change the grammar of bank advertising. Which format will click?

Rajiv Singh
Published: Jun 7, 2023 12:58:00 PM IST
Updated: Jun 7, 2023 01:18:05 PM IST

Blow-by-blow account: Kotak counts, HSBC talks accountNot putting the limelight on product or features has another edge: It helps you stand out in a cluttered advertising world. You get noticed. And this is what a commercial has to do.  
The contrast is glaring. One talks about ‘bank’, the other talks about ‘banking’. One bank is using a top Bollywood celebrity with a distinct swag and signature style, the other bank has roped in one of the best batters in the world who scores prolifically. One brand talks business in its latest advertising campaign, and the other means business in its recent commercial. It’s HSBC’s ‘My account starts today’, versus Kotak Mahindra Bank’s ‘Fyn does all this with a single login’. It’s a tale of two banks, two products, and two styles of advertising.
Let’s start with ‘fyn’. A new digital business banking platform, fyn, claims Kotak Mahindra Bank in its commercial, takes care of daily business banking needs—trade, account services, collections and payments—with one single login. Endorsed by Ranveer Singh, fyn has an answer to four typical banking queries. From import-export regulation in three steps, to giving a holistic view of business, to approving payments on the go, and to moving from paper to digital, fyn talks about the solutions it offers. In short, Kotak Mahindra Bank highlights the features of its products and why should one switch to ‘business banking’.

In contrast, HSBC wants to ‘open a new world of opportunity’. And it does so by letting its endorser—Virat Kohli—underline why it’s critical to start afresh. The refreshing and bold content of the campaign is disruptive. Have a look. “Forget my statistics, centuries, strike rate, wins, losses…forget my man of the matches…forget my interviews, sledges…forget what I said, forget what I meant…,” reads the commercial which ends by pointing out a universal reality. “The past, no matter how satisfying it was, is just a past…what I am has no bearing on what am about to be…my account starts today,” it concludes.
HSBC, in short, has preferred not to highlight features of its banking products. There is just one plain message: ‘We choose to be the springboard of your story that is about to be written.” The commercial is about the bank, and about the bankable celeb that the bank has roped in.
Marketing and branding analysts find HSBC’s commercial disruptive in terms of content and messaging.
“The messaging is good. It's the power of ‘now’ and the power of ‘tomorrow’ advertising,” reckons Harish Bijoor, who runs an eponymous brand consulting firm. From the perspective of somebody who's actually entering the world of business, and starting up, it's a great startup kind of advertising. “It works,” he says, adding that HSBC has taken a very powerful persona and is underlining the message that even a great like Kohli must wipe his slate clean and start afresh. “It’s a powerful message because even a powerful name is nothing. You are only as good as your today and tomorrow,” he adds.
Not putting the limelight on product or features has another edge: It helps you stand out in a cluttered advertising world. You get noticed. And this is what a commercial has to do. There are brands, Bijoor underlines, which never talk about products or features but bank on the star power of the celebs that endorse them. Take, for instance, Lux soap. “The positioning is filmi sitaron ka saundarya saabun (the beauty soap of the film stars). Then there is Nike, which again never points out how the shoes or the technology that goes into its making are better than Puma or Adidas. “You can have a memorable and effective advertising even without talking about the product,” he says.  

Also read: Brand Purpose and Responsible Marketing walk into a bar. They meet common sense    

Kotak Mahindra Bank, on the other hand, banks on the traditional wisdom of advertising, and it is equally powerful. “If you don’t know why bank A is better than bank B, then what’s the point in opening an account,” asks Ashita Aggarwal, professor of marketing at SP Jain Institute of Management and Research. Banking is a service, and one has to talk and make consumers know why a set of services are superior or what are the features of its products that make life easy. In spite of the use of technology, Aggarwal underlines, banking can still be overwhelming for a majority of the population. “Kotak is simplifying the complex language,” she says. “It’s effective and needed.”
While the disruptive approach of HSBC is also needed, the big question that begs for an answer is: Can a bank afford to not talk about itself or its products? This is what HSBC has done. “And this is why it will take time to know whether such form of advertising clicks,” Bijoor signs off.
With every advertising update on ‘bank’ versus ‘banking’, Forbes India’s MAD section will keep the readers updated. Till then, keep banking.