ABCL pitches for a united front

Non-banking financial services company, Aditya Birla Capital (ABCL) has unified its 12 business lines under a single brand and through an ongoing campaign, #dearmoney, is looking to craft an identity that signals simple and informed engagement with financial services. By doing this ABCL hopes to encourage customers to engage with the category without getting overwhelmed by the multiple labels that define the business and thereby deepen its footprint into the business. However, brand experts say, generic campaigns are not always the best way to reach out to the investor community and the company may need to follow this up with product-specific and targeted advertising.

ABCL, like most financial services firms, operates under categories like insurance, broking and mutual funds, which were thus far run as independent entities. By setting up a unified brand umbrella it is trying to circumvent the challenges presented by the poor levels of awareness and understanding of financial products among Indian consumers, to expand into new communities and geographies.  

Money is the focal point of the brand’s new identity makeover and ABCL chief marketing officer Ajay Kakar explains, this is the best way to connect with potential investors. “No one wakes up thinking they want to buy a financial product. Each of us wakes up thinking that this is our dream and how do we achieve this dream. And to make these dreams come true, we need money,” said Kakar.

The alphabet soup of terms

While most investors are familiar with the terms used by the financial industry, these are understood only by a handful. A Deloitte report said that Indian consumers of banking have “significantly low awareness of wealth management products.” Of the total people surveyed, 78 per cent were unaware of ‘mutual funds’ and 51 per cent of ‘fixed deposits’. 

While India has a large ‘underbanked’ population, approximately 300 million as per a Deloitte report, the government’s push on financial inclusion is bringing these numbers into the banking fold. “As financial inclusion increases, there will more and more people with investible surplus who are not financially literate,” said Kalpesh Mehta, partner, Deloitte India.

ABCL associates the industry wide low penetration levels with how the industry is structured around categories and not customer needs.  It was this belief that drove the company into unifying all of its underlying business into one master brand. “If a customer wants to engage with our category or enrich his relationship, we confuse them with different companies, categories, logos, addresses, websites and phone numbers,” said Kakar talking about the lengths that financial service groups go to differentiate among their own business lines. “We have sought to create synergies where the world is trying to highlight differences,” he added. 

The names and logos of the subsidiary companies will no longer be seen even though the companies as legal entities exist. Customers will now have one common identification number throughout the group’s categories as well as a single website and phone number. The group has also rebranded its 1,400 independent branches across the various categories with the ABCL name and logo.

Banking on convenience

“Some years ago there was a belief among financial services companies and banks that the age of ‘universal banking’ is near, that one bank will satisfy all the financial needs of a customer, for life, said Ambi Parameswaran, brand strategist and founder Brand “But that did not pan out as well as they wanted. Consumers tend to cherry pick their options, going for a different insurance, home loan and  banking relationship”, he added. 

Financial experts say that customers lean towards an informed choice over brand loyalty due to exposure to numerous choices and digital tools at their disposal.  “Customers are going to make a wider choice and not get stuck to a particular financial institution for all their financial needs,” said Mehta. 

ABCL however believes that by offering customers the convenience of a one-stop shop and pitching itself as a singular entity, rather than a sum of its financial products can induce stickiness. Brand experts, however, said that such generic branding strategy was not always effective and stressed on the importance of a good call-to-action. “The campaign is very visible in outdoor and is eye-catching. If they want to extract full mileage out of this, they should roll out their product specific campaigns aimed at specific target segments,” added Parmeswaran.

The oversimplification trap

ABCL has clubbed its products and services under three key needs: protecting, investing and financing and aligned these with its advisory services. This is part of the group’s plan to bridge the language gap between the consumers and the industry’s jargon. Not everyone is convinced about the soundness of this strategy though. “While the use of common words in favour of industry terms works wonders in appealing to someone who is new to the sector, it might drive away seasoned users,” said a financial analyst.

ABCL counters this by saying that its experience indicates that customers do not go to certain categories because they don’t understand the language and are confused with the number of people who reach out to them with all of the similar sounding offers. Hence a simpler terminology is more appealing universally.

 Kakar says that companies need to wear their ‘customer hats’ to understand customer needs and the gaps that need to be filled, adding that the group has done extensive research to back the campaign.   

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