Even until 10 years ago, Bank of Baroda was seen as a fuddy-duddy public sector bank with a bureaucratic way of functioning. That’s when its management decided to give the bank a new identity altogether and position it as a marketing organisation. In this extract from the book Dare To Lead: The Transformation of Bank of Baroda, author Anil K Khandewal, former chairman and managing director of the bank, recounts the passionate and intensive rebranding exercise undertaken to transform the bank’s image and perception.
For several years now, organizations have been using celebrities to endorse their organization and their products. There was, however, no concept of brand ambassador in public sector banks in India, till I experimented by introducing a leading film actor Juhi Chawla as brand ambassador in Dena Bank.
Although Dena Bank is a small bank and experienced perhaps the worst crisis at that time, I was astounded to see the difference it made in terms of easy recognition and recall value of the brand. People started to recognize Dena Bank through the face of Juhi Chawla. People could relate to the brand spontaneously, which helped Dena Bank in its retail marketing efforts and the successful launch of public issues.
Encouraged by the experience of Dena Bank, I also toyed with the idea of bringing in a brand ambassador for Bank of Baroda (BOB). The timing was just right as it would coincide with the launch of new logo.
The Board enthusiastically welcomed the idea and many names were considered. Critical to selecting a brand ambassador was the perceived potential in the person’s personality to project the desired image for the organization. Keeping this criterion in view, we selected Rahul Dravid, the then vice-captain of the Indian cricket team (who later became captain) as the Bank’s brand ambassador.
With a track record of being the most dependable player in India’s cricket team —renowned of being the ‘wall’ in times of crisis —he was considered to be most appropriate to project the qualities we intended to project for the Bank — trustworthy, reliable and consistent in performance.
Rahul Dravid was also an international cricket star as was the BOB an international bank. Like him, who could play a one-day international and a test match with equal ease and aplomb, BOB was equally good in traditional as well as modern banking.
With a consistent record of growth and profit, the Bank could easily be associated with Dravid’s consistent performance, and like him, the Bank had never been tainted by any scam. Rahul’s personality also had a strong youth appeal in our cricket-crazy country. With the youth forming 55 per cent of the current Indian population, there was a lot of scope for the Bank to reach out to this segment.
There were other considerations, too, for selecting Dravid. BOB was present in most of the cricket playing countries and Rahul was the only test cricketer in the history of the game to have scored a century in all countries right from Bangladesh to England. His image could also be leveraged at the new centres of the Bank’s expansion like Canada, Trinidad & Tobago and Hong Kong, where cricket was becoming a popular sport. We could not have asked for a better fit.
To get full mileage out of Rahul’s association with the Bank, we engaged a well-known ad filmmaker, Prahlad Kakkar, for making TV commercials with Rahul endorsing our products. These commercials were aired on 19 TV channels.
On 11 April, we decided that both the new logo and the brand ambassador would be launched on 6 June 2005. I was aware of the risks of embarking on such a major change. The old logo, which was over four decades old, had latent emotional appeal among many employees and customers, and the possibility of some resentment against the proposed change could not be ruled out. I knew that it was a risky venture and unions could mobilize the sentiments of employees against this change.
However, I felt it was worth the risk. The dictum, ‘high risk, high gain; low risk, low gain; and no risk, no gain’ is not without substance.
The concept of marketing was of nascent origin in the entire banking industry. The Bank’s first marketing department was set up as a small section in the retail department only sometime back. The head of the marketing department had an especially tough challenge. However, we had Dipankar Mookerjee, DGM, who understood the concept of marketing well. Rebranding was going to be his major challenge and he decided to take it.
The Bank’s marketing department got just 53 days to deliver the whole project. The entire process of roll-out of the new logo across diverse locations required change of sign boards, other signages as well as change of letterheads, visiting cards, advertising templates, website, intranet, ATM, etc...
The brand team
A core team was appointed at the corporate office comprising Dipankar Mookerjee as the chief brand custodian and two other officials in the marketing department as brand champions. Brand champions were also appointed at each zonal and regional office to support the core team at the corporate office. Multi-disciplinary task teams were constituted to address inter-departmental dependency issues.
The entire signage programme was managed and administered from the corporate office under the marketing department, consisting of eight officers. This band of zealous brand champions worked 12-16 hours everyday — often into the wee hours of the morning...
Some members of this brave team often felt fatigued and experienced even minor health problems. Thanks to Pramod Gupta, AGM (HRM) the housekeeping and the canteen services supported the brand champions admirably in the grind over 53 days. Full credit must also go to the nearly 100 brand champions at the zones and the regions who worked tirelessly to meet the deadline. Overall, it was a team effort of 38,000 people who accomplished a formidable task.
Removing the old sign boards, designing and making the new sign boards, positioning and fixing the new sign boards at different branches/offices, reprinting the stationery and visiting cards and launching ad-campaigns to explain the meaning of the new logo — all this and more was executed with clinical perfection and clock-like precision.
The signage was implemented across all the 2,800 branches in India and abroad by the appointed day. This was truly a record of sorts. During this period, I personally had innumerable meetings with Dipankar Mookerjee and his team to ensure that things went as per schedule and the operational glitches were sorted out without any loss of time. Around the launch time, we also released a huge advertising campaign in press and on air.
Right from my MBA days, I had great interest in marketing. I always believed that marketing plays a strategic role at the time of transformation. At every stage of our rebranding exercise, I loved getting into the nuts and bolts of our advertising campaign, strategic placement of hoardings, quality of ad films, etc.
I wanted to know in advance our ad-campaigns and I did not want to be surprised seeing the next-day newspaper with something I did not like. In some ways, I micro-managed the entire re-branding exercise as we did not have experts in our team and our only asset was our collective gut feel.
On the D-day, the new logo was launched with much fanfare in a well-covered great event, attended by a galaxy of Bank’s customers from far and wide, distinguished citizens, leading figures in banking and financial fraternity, apart from the Bank’s Board members, senior executives and officers. The Bank’s brand ambassador, Rahul Dravid, who was also launched on the same day, participated in the event. The entire event was also webcast live for information of our customers, staff and well-wishers.
The launch event aroused immense interest in the media because it was perhaps the first initiative by any PSB to change its identity and engage a high profile personality as its brand ambassador. In some way, the Bank had become a pioneer in rebranding and logo change amongst PSBs.
Reprinted with permission. Copyright © Anil K Khandelwal, 2011
DARE TO LEAD: THE TRANSFORMATION OF BANK OF BARODA
AUTHOR: Anil K Khandelwal
PUBLISHER: SAGE Response
PRICE: Rs 795