Interview: More than 30% of our marketing spends is on digital: Nipun Kaushal, PNB MetLife

Nipun Kaushal

Nipun Kaushal, Chief Marketing Officer, PNB MetLife talks about PNB MetLife’s association with badminton champ PV Sindhu and India’s BFSI sector as a whole.

PNB MetLife recently announced PV Sindhu as it’s brand ambassador to bring alive the brand promise of being the right life insurance partner to every Indian. This tie-up complements the assertive tag-line – ‘Milkar Life Aage Badhayein’ of PNB MetLife, which promises to partner with its stakeholders in every stage of life.

This brand promise was launched through a campaign called ‘#ShedTheWait’ featuring Sindhu, which illustrates that the individuals don’t have to wait to fulfil their responsibilities. Instead with a partner like PNB MetLife by their side to protect their family they can live their life to the fullest today and have a secured future.

In conversation with Social Samosa, Nipun Kaushal, Chief Marketing Officer, PNMMetLife sheds some light on its association with PV Sindhu, scope of sports marketing in the digital world, marketing tactics and much more.

The insight behind #ShedTheWait and the brief given to the agency?

A lot of insurance companies take the positioning that we are there to help you during not so times. While some say that we will give you a great bright future so you start investing now. What about today? This was the insight. We said we want to take this positioning and be your partners of today and tomorrow. So with this insight, we briefed the agency and there came the hashtag #ShedTheWait. If you see in the commercials it turns from weight to wait. So those weight of responsibilities needs to go off soon so that you can enjoy your today as well.

How relevant is sports marketing for BFSI brands? Now that you have a prominent badminton player on board will you be leveraging sports properties for marketing?

I would not say that I will be any particular genre or property, whether it is sports or entertainment. I would see where my audience is. What is the affinity of my audience towards a specific property which will be more of a decision taking rather than aligning? For eg you have these Indian badminton championships happening, but that does not mean that we have JBC so we will invest into everything badminton. Last year we sponsored the Satara Half Hill Marathon, the start of 2018 we even partnered for India Srilanka series. So I think it is a call we take which property whether it is sports or entertainment or social cause which will resonate with my target audience. I think I will be more of a customer’s brand.

In BFSI you may not have too many leeways in terms of spending money because every year we work on budgets and how do we get the best out of it. If the campaign objective is brand building then, of course, my properties will be different from a product promotion campaign.

Talking about PNB Metlife’s association with PV Sindhu, what is the idea behind roping her in and how are you leveraging her presence to create engagement on platforms.?

We thought of PV Sindhu because of certain attributes which my brand has. As a life insurance company and having partners such as PNB Bank,  both of these brands come together to form PNB Metlife. Insurance is a product which we use for protection, it is a financial product which requires discipline and as an organization, trust is the most important thing which we derive from both PNB and Metlife. So, if I look at these attributes of trust, being disciplined and hard-working for your future. When we were looking out, we were able to identify these and many more attributes with PV Sindhu. She is just 23-years old and what she has achieved is by sheer dedication, hard work.

When we started interacting with PV, we realized that she is diligent to her work and never misses her routine in terms of practice, no matter how many commitments, personal or sports-related. And, I think she has made us proud. When you see PV playing, there is a certain kind of trust element which she builds over a very short span. We saw all of these attributes matching ours and thought this is a great fit.

Now, apart from what the brand stands for, the other aspects were like, we have been running PNB Metlife Junior Badminton Championship since the last four years, it’s a BAI approved platform and the only platform in India. This is purely for the grassroot level and between the age group of 7 & 15. We have been doing this across India and we are going to continue doing that.

And the third part is our CSR initiative “Damini”, which is purely focussed on girl child and women empowerment. So when we saw these three pegs, as a brand what we’re doing apart from products, PV fits in brilliantly in all three of them. So for children she’s an aspirational role model when it comes to badminton and as a young 23-year old girl. She’s somebody young girls would look up to, when we’re doing our CSR initiative on Damini and empowerment on girl child education. So it is a brilliant mix and post discussions with PV, she also agreed and she was pretty excited about JBC. She is somebody who encourages the youngsters to come up and she came up a hard way through her training. So, we looked at these three aspects and she was also very convinced.

Are there any workshops or training sessions that are held for JBC and how is PV Sindhu contributing to them on ground and in real-time?

All the events conducted on ground span across 10 cities. Last year, we had more than  8,000 children participating, which is the largest badminton event conducted in India. Now, we also take care of the underprivileged kids. So nearly 64 children with the help of ‘Cry’, our NGO partner, we identify children who are interested in the sport. So, because of being financially deprived they are not able to afford kits and all. So, we provide training for 64 children and out of those, there are about 16 children, who come up in terms of winners or come off as promising. So the entire extent of training of 64 children and then those 16 children who are identified, their entire coaching for the next year i.e. coach, food, supplements is provided by PNB MetLife. So we nearly spend a lakh plus on each child for their training every year.

Also Read: OOH-digital combination works well for us: Abhik Sanyal, DSP Investment Managers

With IPL 12, World Cup, and General Elections how do you see the BFSI ad spends getting impacted?

BFSI generally spends maximum in JFM as we see the financial year closing and most of your activities are aligned to support your sale to get the numbers going. Now with IPL coming in, more than BFSI it’s the FMCG who generally come in but that’s not the factor. Most of us spend our huge amount of money in JFM but a few also keep some amount for the upcoming properties in the later year. Citibank did that some time back as they follow the calendar year.  

Yes, with elections coming in its an opportunity but I have not seen many BFSI brands getting over aggressive in such markets and seasons. In asset management, i will be extra careful to see how the markets are moving.

What kind of sentiments are seen in terms of digital ad spends by BFSI brands?

Back in 2004-05 when I used to handle Maruti, that time digital used to be you should have a website. Not that’s not even hygiene, not even a starting point. It has to be there. The point is how do you leverage digital. The advantage of digital is you can go very targeted, easy to calculate your ROI and easy to calculate your reach along with measuring the effectiveness- all real time. Plus I can do optimization on a real-time basis with all the tools available to me. So for me, a lot of focus is on digital right now along with ATL.

Digital is something which is a year-long focus. ATL an all is expensive but digital is something which will help you build your brand and generate business. Most of the focus will be on generating leads. We allot more than 30% of our marketing spends on digital.

JFM being the most important quarter for BFSI brands, what marketing tactics are you using to create maximum engagement and awareness?

Television and Above The Line(ATL) is something which we are already doing. Now with digital, it’s a bigger umbrella. Within that when we identify what is the audience set where the propensity to consume and to consider is high, then my focus is on digital, right from social media to SEO and SEM. We started off with resonating the brand and eventually moving towards directing the people from microsite towards the product because we have products where the customers can buy them online. End of the day when we are spending money and we have the right product and the audience we want to reach out to then it leads to results in terms of more business.

Generating leads is a very integral part of this phase, which marketing platforms yield the maximum results in this space? Have social networking platforms been effective for Lead Generation?

On the visibility side, all the channels in the social space help you. You have influencers, people who can further influence and have an opinion or you can create an opinion. Now from where will this person move from social after how many times I have tried to push my brand in terms of what is this brand stands where I am not doing a product per se push. Product ha to be purely need-based. So when I create that piece where the person actually moves is search about me or the product, create an affinity and there SEO and SEM are helping me. There he gets onto the microsite and does the research. To build that SEO, SEM you have to build and do social.

In the current multi-screen era, does it make sense to have a separate agency for every function/medium or having a consolidated agency for all mandates?  

Getting one consolidated agency which is good at everything is also a bit of a challenge. But more importantly how to get the skin in the game for the agency also. So there is a certain agency who might come back and say I can execute this, there will another who might play the advisory role. When there is a disconnect in advisory and execution, you land up into trouble. Sometimes you combine that, you do performance marketing.  Gone are the days when you would say the agency comes and tells us to do something or fix retainer and move on. I think it’s important for lots of agencies to shoulder that burden with you and take the commitments along.

When compared to global counterparts, our Indian BFSI brands leveraging digital marketing channels to an optimum level?

They are. I agree the western counterparts are acing the game but we are not far behind. If you go by the IAMAI data, in terms of internet usage India is number 2, in terms of e-commerce you have a CAGR of 32% plus growing. All these are very positive numbers. When you look from the BFSI angle, the parameters are not the penetration of internet or usage, data or surfing. The parameter is financial education.

There is no dearth of talent, no dearth of dollars being spent by Indian companies or BFSI in terms of digital, I think parallelly the amount of efforts taken by the government and other places on digitization – financially savvy is something which is going to work out for India in a few years.

Any BFSI marketing trends you foresee in 2019?

The focus is more on how do you connect and how effective is your content. I can plaster putting thousands of dollars saying I am available everywhere and see me whenever you download it but am I connecting. So how much effort is going to go on the content is something which we need to create as diffrentiator in the years to come. As a marketer, I would not only sell the product but also create affinity with my audience.