Brand Saga: Kotak Mahindra Bank, Nurturing India’s ‘Khwabon Ka Khaata’ since 2003

Kotak Mahindra Bank advertising journey.

In a category often termed as ‘dull’, Kotak Mahindra Bank decided to seize the deal with ‘out-of-the-box’ campaign ideas. We take a trip down the memory lane to explore the Kotak Mahindra Bank advertising journey.

In 1985, Uday Kotak laid the foundation for Kotak Mahindra Group kickstarting the bill discounting business. Thereafter in February 2003, Kotak Mahindra Finance Ltd (KMFL), the Group’s flagship company, received a banking license from the Reserve Bank of India. With an aim to not follow the herd-advertising model belonging to a category with low differentiation – the connoisseurs went onto carve their own niche and thus the seeds for Kotak Mahindra Bank advertising journey were sown.

Kotak Mahindra Bank- Not your Typical Bank

In 2003, when Kotak Mahindra was licensed to operate as a commercial bank, it was entering a lion’s den where already existed behemoth’s like HDFC and ICICI. The need of the hour was to create a place for itself in the cluttered segment.  BFSI as a category is often termed ‘dry’ with banking campaigns often associated with the happy family posters & fast speaking notices, recited at the end of the ad.

The challenge lied in providing the ‘unusual’ as everyone was hard selling similar benefits to the potential consumer. Kotak decided to skip the normal and chase the non-traditional way of delivering its message to a mass audience.

In the initial years, the bank concentrated on advertising its services and product benefits following the direct-sale approach supported by OOH  and print. It also leveraged the financial institution’s legacy in the investment sector and promoted its tagline – ‘Think Investments, Think Kotak’.

“Steadily, we gained consumer trust & confidence in various markets and were perceived as a brand that was ‘just the right age’. In 2010, our first major marketing campaign helped us garner eyeballs we hoped for as we celebrated our 25th birthday; we announced ‘It’s great to be 25’,” shares Elizabeth Venkataraman, Joint President – Consumer, Commercial & Wealth Marketing, Kotak Mahindra Bank. And thus kickstarted the Kotak Mahindra Bank advertising journey.

All about KMB’s ‘Its grt 2b 25′

In November 2010, KMB’s silver jubilee celebrations were followed by announcement of print, OOH a and television campaigns undergoing a 360-degree promotion activity.

While Primesite, part of the Mudra Max Group back then, looked after the outdoor advertising echoing the slogan ‘Its grt 2b 25’ , Cartwheel Creatives was roped in specifically for the TV commercials and Starcom MediaVest managed media for the campaign. It should be noted that McCann Erickson and JWT were already on board as the creative agencies of KMB working on other creatives.


Leveraging OOH extensively, the teams worked on creating banners, hoardings, billboards, bus wraps showcasing young people against the backdrop of bright red creative reading out loud the 25th-anniversary logo along with the slogan – ‘Its grt 2b 25’.  The bank targeted metro cities including  Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune, Kolkata, and Delhi. Major airports, bus shelters, and mobile vans were carrying the brand message.


The outdoor and print promotions were later supported by the launch of 10 second TV commercials conceptualized and executed by Cartwheel  Creatives. The primary objective of the campaign was to position KMB as a youthful brand.

Also Read: Inside: An ad created at home for a bank account that can be opened from home


Reportedly, the 25th-anniversary campaign to enhance the brand visibility and awareness – unaided recall went up 900 bps, trustworthiness went up 500 bps and branded recall went up 2000 bps.

The campaign saw a second phase in September 2011 titled ‘Money Ka Matlab’ which was aimed at developing better banking products by discerning consumers’ insights about money. As a part of the campaign,  two renowned bikers – Vir Nakai and Leon Dawson were roped in to embark on a two-week-long road trip from Chandigarh to Bangalore asking people to understand the meaning of money.

Nakai and Dawson also tweeted and blogged about their experiences while capturing how ‘Money Ka Matlab’ changes from one city to another.

Their expedition was supported by the launch of TV ads which depicted various personalities narrating their understanding of money and the bank also launched an online contest to amplify the campaign further.

In 2011, RBI de-regularised interest rates on savings account. India was still a market that appreciated the importance of steady interest rates on fixed deposits.

“We launched our next campaign ‘6 is bigger than 4’; when the market was offering a 4% interest rate on savings account, we decided to offer 6% — a 50% increase. We took this message to the masses through an exalted marketing vehicle, the Indian Premier League (IPL),” informs Venkataraman.

The 20-20 extravaganza was leveraged by sponsoring fours, and the message was ‘Why take 4 when 6 is more’.

As per a case study, Cartwheel Creatives and KMB joined hands yet again. Research showed the unharnessed potential of savings rate following deregulation, and that people were not adequately informed. The agency created a marketing campaign across outdoor, electronic, print, and digital mediums educating people on the merits of 6% interest on savings balances.

Enter Subbu

The company changed its approach and brought to surface the KMB benefit of getting 6%, instead of merely creating awareness about 6%.

The case study further mentions that the company subsequently organized a ‘Public Interest Competition’ in the form of an advertisement across national print media. As part of the contest, KMB invited individuals to send in their public interest ideas to the bank.

The prize for the top 10 entries: Kotak Mahindra Bank would make a donation Rs. 25,000 (Rupees twenty-five thousand only) to a charitable organization of the winner’s choice.

In 2013, the KMB knew it needed the right carrier for its well-tested positioning. Venkataraman adds, “Enter, Subbu, our wisdom speak portrayed by Vinay Pathak. The relatable character of Subbu intrigued the audience”.

After days of research, the concluding insight was that word-of-mouth is one of the biggest influencers on an average consumer’s financial decisions. “People usually have that one person who they look up to in such matters, who is well versed with the subject and who has your trust. Building on this premise, KMB introduced ‘Subbu’, via television, print and outdoor. Subbu personified that “go-to person” in our lives.”

Amidst the rising competition, KMB also introduced kids account opening options and safer savings accounts for adults and simultaneously promoted the offerings with TVCs ‘Aaj ke chillar, kal ke note’ and others.

Hashtag Banking

In the same year, KMB and Cartwheel Creative Consultancy came up with a Jifi Zero Balance Hashtag Banking campaign promoting its first social media account service ‘Jifi Saver’. The newly launched product was managed via customers’ Twitter and Facebook pages. Customers could sign up for a Jifi Saver account on the website using their Facebook or Twitter credentials.

Kona Kona Kotak

Times were changing and ING Vysya Bank’s merger with Kotak Mahindra Bank presented more opportunities with a wider distribution network. In early 2015, this synergy was translated to the ‘Kona Kona Kotak’ campaign.

Venkataraman tells Social Samosa, “The campaign highlighted the vast geographical presence of the branch network as ING was present in many remote corners of India. This alliterated positioning was able to strike a chord with the masses.”

Phone Phone Pe Kotak

After the success of the ‘Kona Kona Kotak’, in December 2015 KMB launched its mobile banking services followed by the roll-out of a campaign, ‘Phone Phone Pe Kotak.

The films aimed at driving home the message that as time changes, the means of banking evolve, but emotions are just the same.

Kotak 811- A marketing Case Study

In 2016, one date changed the way Indians looked at the money. On 8th November 2016 the Government of India announced the demonization of specific banknotes. ‘Digital’ had been the buzz word for some time and KMB acted on this by launching India’s first downloadable accountKotak 811.

“During IPL 2017, we collaborated with its youthful presenters Gaurav Kapoor, Sameer Kochhar & Archana Vijay who were the carriers of our baseline ‘Shop. Pay. Bank. Live.’ Their lifestyle seamlessly complemented the features of Kotak 811 through a realistic set of ads addressing the needs of a digital India,” highlights Venkataraman.

#IndiaInvited and #DreamsInvited ft.Ranveer Singh

Then came the big breakout #IndiaInvited in 2018 starring powerhouse Ranveer Singh along with people from all walks of life celebrating diversity and championed inclusive banking.. Through the campaign, KMB aimed at communicating that Kotak 811 does not discriminate against anyone. Digital is a great equalizer and 811 provides equal access to everybody.

The campaign was built on the foundation of inclusion as research showed that consumers are looking for a financial partner that does not judge them and welcomes everyone. The idea was brought to life through a TVC where Ranveer Singh acting as the Sutradhaar (narrator) pointed out the similarities between the 811 Account and a railway bench as everyone is welcome to rest on it.

During the brainstorming session for the campaign, when KMB & Cartwheel locked-in the script, they realized that the essence of the film will come out best when shot at a real location.

“Since the railway bench was so integral to our story, we decided to shoot at the CST Station with actual trains & people as part of the background instead of building a set. This would add to the authenticity as CST station receives people from all walks of life,” exclaims Venkataraman.

This was also the time when Singh was gearing up to tie the nuptial knot with Deepika Padukone. City’s streets were filled with hoarding featuring Ranveer Singh asking ‘Card Mila Kya?’ The timing was tapped on point not to sell Singh’s wedding cards but the moment was leveraged brilliantly to introduce the first of its kind celebrity image debit card which gave the bank’s customers and fans of the actor the option to choose from six images of the Bollywood star.

Last year, the inclusion thought was extended to dreams and the sequel of ‘#IndiaInvited’ campaign was announced, ‘#DreamsInvited’. The campaign was an ode to the big & audacious dreamers of India.

At the center of this campaign was Kotak #KhwaabonKaKhaata – an all-in-one 811 digital bank accoun. This campaign also featured Ranveer Singh, in a quirky avatar along with the legendary P. T. Usha.

“The #DreamsInvited shoot was momentous in many ways,” adds Venkataraman. “Bringing them (P. T. Usha & Ranveer Singh) together in one frame meant that we were able to represent the many dreamers of our country. They were seamlessly able to execute their roles in the film and we were done in a few minutes. Both the films were one-take films and the trick was to manage the sequence of everybody along with Ranveer Singh. Everybody had to give their best shot together.”

Leveraging the exponential growth of OTT platforms, #DreamsInvited took a digitally skewed approach. KMB kickstarted the campaign on platforms like YouTube, Hotstar & other high-reach OTT platforms.

Bank From Home

The unprecedented COVID-19 times also presented an opportunity to rise and deliver what the consumers need while they are restricted to their homes. KMB introduced zero-contact Video KYC 811 Savings Account urging users to #BankFromHome. The film for this was ideated, produced and shot from home and promoted via a digital campaign along with outdoor advertising in metros.

Also Read: [Video Interview] Karthi Marshan, Kotak Mahindra, on the Importance of Social Media for a Bank

“Our key marketing strategy has been to stay connected to our consumers. We bring a service standard to the consumer in such a way that they relate to it and are not intimidated by it.We package our services and campaigns from the lens of a customer and hence, we establish the nuances just as an FMCG brand would do,” sterns Venkataraman.

KMB & Cartwheel Creative- A Decade Long Bond

“This year, we complete ten years of being Kotak’s advertising partner. A journey that began with a series of quirky ten seconders featuring oddballs saying It’s grt 2b 25. As non-banking as bank advertising can get,” shares D. Ramakrishna (Ramki), CEO, Cartwheel Creative Consultancy.

Since then the KMB-Cartwheel journey can be best described as an ongoing process of blurring the lines between agency and client. Ramki stresses that they learned to step happily on each other’s turf without egos, attitude, and convention coming in the way.

Some BTS to Cherish

Sharing some behind the scene anecdotes while working on the ads and reliving the Kotak Mahindra Bank advertising journey, Ramki highlights the fun and joy of making memorable ad campaigns.

His most cherished memories include:

“Vinay Pathak ad-libbed some of the best lines in Subbu sab jaanta hai. “I may be a vegetarian, but you can’t put all your eggs in one basket’, ‘It’s amazing’…”

Telling Ranveer to do his next take in 57 seconds instead of 58, and he’s nailing it!

Seeing Ranveer get each one of his ‘bench mates’ in the red bench outdoor campaign comfortable with him during the still shoot. From a fisherwoman to a rapper to a transgender woman. He would play different music for each of them to make them relax and chat them up. He virtually directed himself and his bench mate as we watched in awe.

Editing and releasing live updates on social media, from Pankaj Trivedi’s Kona Kona Cashfree motorcycle trip across the country.”

Being Social Media Savvy

With a subscriber base of 221k on its official YouTube, KMB has not only been frequent about promoting its campaign on the platform but has been leveraging its reach to produce snippets about banking, secure accounts, and how-to tutorials.  

The above has been accompanied by informative videos on companies’ various policies, services, new launches, account opening details, and announcing various benefits and offers.

On #InternationalYouthDay, we're celebrating the vibrant spirit of young people across the country who know that they're #TooYoungForNothing!No matter what your unique dream is, #Kotak811 is here to support you as you conquer the world.

Posted by Kotak Mahindra Bank Ltd. on Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Moving on to Instagram, the bank has garnered about 76k followers on the app and accentuates the ‘red’ theme across all its posts and creatives. From capturing topical moments to spinning a creative workaround the talk of the town, KMB uses Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin to spread the message.

Commenting on the Kotak Mahindra Bank advertising journey so far, Venkataraman says, “Our communications approach has been to be perceived more as an FMCG brand than a bank. To make banking simple and finance fun. This has worked well for the brand.”