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Boosting Brand Positioning and Salience

Brand building at financial organizations get the digital and social boost:

In this digital age when commoditization of financial products is the norm, differentiation is the crucial aspect and financial services providers have to have new brand strategies, especially since brand portfolios have to be in line with the emerging market realities. Brand building and brand positioning, like in the case of any customer-oriented business, are long-term efforts for financial services institutions as well and consistency is the hallmark of any strategy in this regard.

Banking Frontiers queried 3 financial services organizations on how they created awareness about their brands and the strategies they devised to be brands in the reckoning. Singapore’s DBS Bank, which has a significant presence in India, has a brand promise – ‘Live More, Bank Less’, reflecting its belief that banking needs to be completely seamless, so that customers can spend time on what they really care about. Shoma Narayanan, Executive Director – Group Strategic Marketing & Communications at DBS Bank India, says the bank tries to bring this to life in everything it does, right from designing products and customer journeys to advertising. “For example, we were the first bank in India to launch a fully digital bank on a smartphone, Digibank by DBS.

She reminds: “Sachin Tendulkar is our brand ambassador, and he embodies our brand values perfectly, while helping us build a connect with customers across India. Our most recent brand campaign featuring Sachin was launched in January 2020 and highlighted our Singaporean heritage as well as the ease of banking with DBS and our expansion into new cities.”

She says being purpose-driven is part of the bank’s brand DNA, explaining that responsible banking, responsible practices and creating social impact are the 3 pillars of the bank. “Since the pandemic hit, we’ve focussed our communication on reassuring customers of our support, sharing useful content and encouraging customers to stay safe and bank digitally. We have also done our best to help those in need by partnering with organisations such as Akshaya Patra, Pratham, Goonj and UNICEF to provide the equivalent of 2 million meals to vulnerable communities and help strengthen healthcare infrastructure,” says she.

The Muthoot Group besides being a strong player in the financial services domain, has also interests in information technology, media, healthcare, education, power generation, infrastructure and plantations.  ART Housing Finance is a home finance company catering mainly to the interests of middle income and economically weaker sections of people in the country.


Abhinav Iyer, General Manager, Marketing and Strategy, the Muthoot Group, says the company as a brand has always remained active on digital and social media platforms and certainly there has been an increased focus over the last 3-4 years. “We are actively present across all social media platforms be it Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube or Instagram. Besides actively engaging with our digital audiences through our social assets, we also roll out extensive digital marketing campaigns periodically. On the product front, our digital services such as Muthoot Online and iMuthoot Mobile App have also been actively promoted across our brand communications and have been very well received,” he says.

Over the last 2 years, the company has undergone a major marketing transformation journey engaging super star Amitabh Bachchan as brand ambassador; partnering with one of IPL’s most successful teams Chennai Super Kings as their Principal Team Partner; taking up semi-naming rights of leading metro stations like Greater Kailash in Delhi and Nandanam in Chennai and carried out a major activation idea at Kumbh Mela in Prayaag in 2019 called ‘Muthoot Finance Vishwaas Ki Tijori’ which won many accolades. It has also launched a number of path-breaking integrated marketing campaigns to meet varied objectives such as driving advocacy, attitudinal transformation, testimonial-led and content-driven.

“All these and more have led to creating a strong brand positioning for the Muthoot Group and Muthoot Finance in the minds of our audiences. Furthermore, these have also garnered measurable business impact over the last 2 years thereby bearing testimony to our marketing initiatives. Our brand positioning has always been that of a category leader and as a very trusted financial services partner ever eager to serve the needs of people through our easy, quick and hassle-free products and services. Also, with over 250,000 customers being served every day by our network of 5000+ pan India branches, I feel this brand positioning needs no further testimony,” says he.


ART Housing Finance has divided the key task of leveraging social media and digital channels into two parts. The company’s Chief Marketing and Experience Officer Suneel Yadav describes these as reaching out to the customer and increasing the brand saliency. “Digital media and especially social media have made the process much more effective and efficient. Mapping the customer journey and using a mix of like and remarketing campaigns on Facebook and the Google Network, we have reached out to similar profile audiences on the digital landscape.”

In addition to that, the company uses SEO and SEM techniques to drive the customers to its website. Email marketing has also been an effective way of nurturing consumers and increasing saliency for the brand. “We create and serve content to our audiences which amplifies our positioning and our brand. The key is information and content. Examples are campaigns that we have done in the past using the native advertising model, which helped us to reach out our audience in an informative and non-intrusive manner. Using vernacular content and adding digital PR to this mix makes it all the more effective,” says he.


In terms of creating a brand, the company’s focus has been to create awareness as well as brand salience. Says Yadav: “We reach out to our consumers by mapping their customer journey and serving the brand in the simplest manner across all touchpoints. The messaging has been a mix of emotional as well as rational. This has been driven by direct customer contacts, through live, work and play consumer touchpoints and by using influencers as part of the marketing strategy. Digital marketing plays a key role for us in achieving both the objectives of awareness and saliency,” he explains the strategy.

For DBS Bank, one of its most impactful social media campaigns across markets has been its online mini-series DBS SPARKS. Themed ‘Everyday Heroes for a Better World’, the second season of SPARKS addresses pressing social and environmental issues such as food waste and social inequality. On International Women’s Day, the bank launched a new episode set in India that featured Sachin and told the story of a social enterprise supported by DBS that helped women become delivery agents. The episode clocked an impressive number of views as well as high engagement rates.

Shoma Narayanan says: “During the pandemic, we found that our campaigns around digital banking and purpose-driven communication around initiatives to help the community were particularly effective. We received a record response to a joint campaign with Akshaya Patra where we double-matched contributions from customers towards meals for vulnerable sections of society.”

Giving details about the use of digital channels, she says social media allows the bank to target specific audiences and start a conversation with customers while also giving it data on how users view, share and engage with the content. “These statistics provide actionable insights to fine-tune our digital strategy. Content marketing works in tandem with social media and has helped us establish DBS’ expertise as a banking partner, especially in new cities,” she adds.

The Muthoot Group engages a host of digital channels for meeting its business and brand building objectives. Iyer says social media marketing and advertising, content marketing and effective digital PR are some of the top digital channels that work well for the group.

The group has a strong in-house marketing team which works closely with media agencies like Mindshare, ABM Communications and AdGlobal360. Iyer says from a marketing automation perspective, the company has a robust CRM platform that enables it to assess the effectiveness of the investments in marketing investments and business contributions.


For ART Housing Finance most of the campaigns are done in-house by a digital team using capabilities of platforms such as Google and Facebook. It uses Google Analytics primarily for measurement and analysis. This data in turn is fed into the internal CRM system thereby mapping and comparing the ROAS and the ROI of these campaigns.

Yadav says home loan is the core product of the company and there are variants of this product. In fact, the company is helping its customers by providing them finance to own a home or carry out extensions or repairs or even help them through the LAP product. These products have benefited greatly from the brand building efforts the company undertakes. “We have been able to increase our share of direct to consumer business because of the branding and saliency campaigns,” says he.


Iyer in this regard points out that Muthoot Group is a financial services conglomerate with 20 diversified business divisions and offering a plethora of services through its network of physical branches and online channels. “Having said that, being the category leader in gold loans and India’s largest gold loan company among NBFCs, the largest beneficiary of all our brand building efforts is clearly the gold loans portfolio. However, we have also launched tailor-made campaigns for our other financial products such as home loans, personal loans, insurance, money transfer, foreign exchange, gold coins and travel services to name a few,” says he.

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