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Merger pangs: How Bank of Baroda media blitzkrieg addressed consumer anxiety

By Venkata Susmita Biswas

On April 1, when Bank of Baroda merged with Vijaya Bank and Dena Bank to become the second-largest public sector bank after State Bank of India, it set in motion a communications and branding project of mammoth proportions to inform consumers and employees about the amalgamation.

The bank worked with advertising agency Wunderman Thompson to craft communication that the whole is always bigger than the sum of its parts with the tagline, Ab saath hain teen, behtar se behtareen. The ad shows three children dressed in the colours of each bank creating a symphony on stage for an audience comprising parents and grandparents the bank s core target. Using children in the ad helps us break away from the myth that PSBs are for the elderly alone, explains OK Kaul, GM, chief coordination, marketing, PR and wealth management, Bank of Baroda.

Historically, brands, even those in the BFSI sector, have used children in ads to add a certain cuteness quotient to their communication. Whether one talks of ICICI Bank s ad for its rewards programme featuring two children running out of money to buy toffee, or the child who puts his piggy bank in a safe in an ad for Kotak Mahindra Bank, children are not an alien concept for BFSI brands. However, analysts opine that Bank of Baroda s treatment of casting children to personify each of the three banks is new.

In this case, the complexity of uniting three distinct entities is rather unique, says Dipika Narayan, VP and executive business director, Wunderman Thompson. There were two ways to approach the amalgamation. Either the scale and the game changing aspect could be the pivot, or the emotional route could be taken. Collectively, we felt that simple emotions made sense emotions that could go beyond making just a grand statement, to instilling a sense of pride and belonging.
The bank launched into a three-week media blitzkrieg, deploying innovative consumer and employee outreach programmes to create awareness and allay apprehensions about the merger. We organised a flash mob at the Andheri Metro Station in Mumbai where children and adults danced to our Power of 3 theme song, says VS Khichi, executive director, Bank of Baroda. The bank also held several nukkad nataks written and enacted entirely by the staff of the bank for consumers in several branches.

According to the bank s website, the synergy of the three banks is aimed at creating a contemporary banking entity that is Indian at heart and global in scale . Khichi says the core attributes that the bank wants to embody are: energetic, dynamic and futuristic. As the bank s merger progresses, it will develop and launch multiple fintech products and equip the website with a chatbot that will assist users.

To draw a comparison, the recent merger of Vodafone with Idea kept the two distinct telecom brands separate under a parent corporate brand. The communication from the parent company was straightforward Stronger Together. For You. It did not have the typical warm and fuzzy Vodafone tonality or the quirky Idea touch. Communication for such corporate decisions risk turning out to be very dry, points out Priti Nair, director, Curry Nation. Bank of Baroda has managed to make the ad endearing to viewers by using children.

The bank also put in place an amalgamation related escalation toll-free helpline to assist all stakeholders, but that service has been under-utilised, according to bank officials. While the branches of all the three banks are functioning as Bank of Baroda, their passbooks, cheque books, ATM cards, and even the signboards of the amalgamated entity is yet to adopt the mother brand s signature vermillion colouring. Initially we set a timeline of 18 months for the complete transition, but now we are looking at a 12-15 months timeline, says Khichi. For now, signboards of some branches of Vijaya and Dena Banks have vermillion banners that say Now Bank of Baroda