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BFSI's changing communication in the digital era

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MUMBAI: BFSI equals boring. That is usually what people think about anything to do with banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI). You may have witnessed how their ads tend to be dull and monotonous. But, lately, the BFSI companies have been the forerunners in the digital revolution and the drab tones have given way to smarter messaging.

The sector comprises of commercial banks, insurance companies, non-banking financial companies, cooperatives, pensions funds, mutual funds and other smaller financial entities. This industry's clear shift toward digitisation and virtualisation of communication, despite the highly regulated market, is transforming the banking experience for consumers and representatives. BFSI sector was one of the earliest entrants to leverage digital medium to connect with consumers by proving online banking and insurance facilities.

IDBI BANK true friendship ad:

The BFSI sector has seen a shift in behaviour and communication plays a part in both capturing and supporting the change. Over the years, as digital caught pace, BFSI companies have tried to leverage it differently from offline. At the forefront was building communication and conversations that speak to the attitudes and trends of online consumers. Moreover, digital also allows the sector to have direct contact with the consumer in a controlled and transparent way, which the traditional model limits.

BankBazaar #GoPaperless ad:

Lately, the sector has experimented with creative and innovative ads through good storytelling rather than just promoting the product, which was the case earlier. Businesses are opening their eyes to the value of using video for their marketing and communications. This involves breaking down information into easily digestible sound-bites and not having customers pour over hundreds of words to understand the technical aspects of the products/services they are purchasing. Kotak Mahindra Bank even came up with India’s first downloadable bank account - 811, which has made opening a fully functional bank account a matter of 5 minutes or less.

The tough task for BFSI is to make a low-involvement area a very attractive one for customers. Kotak Mahindra Bank executive vice president Elizabeth Venkatraman points out, “The effectiveness of the communication depends on the apt choice of media. Marketers have been closely observing the changing customer segments and their behaviour, and have been trying to create distinctive ideas, each time.

#LaterMaybeLate - Kotak Life Insurance ad:

With fin-tech startups like BankBazaar.com and paisabazaar.com trying to change the market, customers can get instant loan or policy online without having to step out of the house.

Today, banks and insurance companies are ardent social media users to communicate to customers about their offerings like credit card offers, life insurance policies or home loans. While Aegon Life Insurance spends more than 90 per cent of its brand money on digital media, Kotak Mahindra and IDBI Federal Life Insurance shell out 40-50 per cent of their advertising budget on digital platforms.

BFSI ads work best when the communication is two-way, which is restricted on TV. Unlike FMCG, where a brand can mass-target, BFSI needs to focus on individual needs. In-cinema advertising, a favourite spot to pick customers, may soon wither as the spends in this area are already being reallocated to other mediums.

Aegon Life Insurance chief digital officer Martijn De Jong says, “We tried using in-cinema couple of years back and the medium is not very cost effective compared to other forms. The only advantage is its localised reach.”

On a similar note, IDBI Federal Life Insurance CMO head product & strategy Karthik Raman believes that in-cinema advertising is not as effective as it was earlier because the cost of advertising has risen but the effect has reduced. Venkatraman points out that though the medium gives quick impact and is less cluttered, the effectiveness still depends on perception as there is no industry metric for measurement.

Print, a medium that has been around for centuries is starting to lose its sheen among the BFSI sector as the cost per ad is very high, forcing the industry to shift to cost-effective mediums such as OOH (Out Of Home), digital and BTL (Below The Line).

It is left to see whether BFSI can make it to the top of the memory rank of customers when recollecting their most memorable ads.

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