With Richa Sharma from PhonePe, we attempt to decode the PhonePe marketing strategy that seemed to bring the cashless transaction to the center of the map for India.
As the second wave takes a grip over the country with an impending Lockdown 2.0, cashless transactions become all the more important in line with the digital India vision. This brings some of the leading digital payment platforms to the forefront, including PhonePe.
The brand saw significant growth in the last year and attributed this to the platform adoption across Tier 4,5,6 towns and ‘Talukas’ along with a deep focus on driving merchant acceptance in these geographies.
We speak with Richa Sharma, Director – Brand Marketing, PhonePe to understand the brand’s marketing strategy, latest initiative, the role of digital in the current context, and more.
Behind ‘Har Phone Pe PhonePe’ Initiative
The growth of P2M (person-to-merchant) payments was accelerated by the pandemic last year post lockdown. With the fear of virus transmission through cash, P2M transactions for essential services (including QR-based payments) saw an increase. What started as a medium to send and receive based on Unified Payments Interface (UPI) is on its journey to becoming synonymous with ‘Har phone pe, PhonePe Hai’ in recent times for the platform.
In an industry that thrives around functional benefits or incentives, the brand released this campaign to drive narratives that get them closer to the users and their stories of progress.
Conceptualized by Leo Burnett India, the campaign’s inspiration is the role that PhonePe plays for users all over the country. In the period, which calls for inspiration from all the nooks and crannies of the world, this film aims to give voice to the little moments of ‘forward motion’ that people recognize as progress while attempting to unlock the meaning of ‘Aatmanirbhar.’ “We decided to break away from conventional storytelling formats to infuse this piece with the quirk we hope our audiences will enjoy,” said, Sharma.
Rajdeepak Das, CEO & Chief Creative Officer – South Asia, Leo Burnett, said, “The Har phone pe PhonePe’ film is layered with multiple messages and pays an ode to both the Indian spirit of resilience and celebrates the PhonePe users and the digital enhanced lives that we are living. It captures India’s journey over the years as we accept and adopt digital solutions as part of our everyday lives.”
PhonePe is accepted across many Kiranas in the country and has put together a 50,000 strong field force to drive the company’s merchant acceptance network. According to the brand, there is still tremendous potential for expanding digital payments at offline retail stores.
Marketing Strategy and IPL 2021
PhonePe marketing strategy follows cashless transactions and revolves around the safety, ease, and convenience of making digital payments as part of the online world.
Sharma highlights, “PhonePe is partnering with India’s progress by liberating when, how, and where a billion Indians access money and services to fulfill their aspirations at the speed of 412 transactions a second on its platform.”
As the category leader, the brand’s mission is to bring digital payments to every Indian household and set them on the path to their progress.
“All our multichannel marketing efforts are focused on expanding our base to 500 Mn users by next year”, she adds.
Last year PhonePe advertising campaigns had appealed to the non-users to adopt safe, quick, and comfortable digital payments through their engaging plots with brand growth. This year the brand aims to be quintessential to being a default part of everyday life for most Indians. “Through our stories, we aim to invite non-users to embrace this new way of life and build stronger affinity and preference among category users,” explains Sharma.
With digital platforms playing a critical role in the brand’s marketing mix, TV viewership also falls vital for PhonePe’s visibility and driving awareness. As brands look forward with a glimmer of hope at IPL 2021 on Star Sports Network amidst the second COVID-19 wave, PhonePe is the official co-presenting sponsor for the television broadcast. It is also sponsoring 4 IPL franchises – Mumbai Indians, Chennai Super Kings, Royal Challengers Bangalore & Delhi Capitals. Further, the brand will also partner with Disney+Hotstar as an Associate Sponsor of IPL Season 14.
Speaking about the upcoming season of IPL, Sharma concedes that the campaigns will run aggressively across multiple platforms, including TV, digital and social media equally, for the brand. “Besides, we have ample OOH visibility through our QR codes and POS elements across the length and breadth of our merchant acceptance network all year round,” she says.
Through the IPL season last year, the brand had also created an episodic video series, F.A.Kyun with Shinde, a character from the TVC films, where he would take on and shed light on some common users’ concerns around security with a warm, engaging style of delivery.
Role of Digital and Social Media Play
Digital being a dynamic platform allows for a lot more contextualization and curation of experiences to drive the PhonePe story in a rich, relevant, and engaging manner, shares the brand.
With an increasing number of frauds happening everywhere, the PhonePe social media marketing strategy focuses on simple communications and impactful ways through which people can safeguard themselves against any malicious attacks on the Internet.
Sharma highlights, “Safety and security are one of the core, always-on content buckets in our social media strategy, across all social platforms.
The brand’s social media strategy is to educate people about the safety of UPI and overcome any doubts about it
PhonePe prudently utilizes social media channels. It garners maximum followers on Facebook with 188.5K followers, followed by Twitter with 115.5K followers, 108K subscribers on YouTube, and 28.4K followers on Instagram.
The primary hashtags used across platforms include- #HarphonepePhonePeHai, #Bills, #BillPayments, #PayYourBills, #Scan, #Pay, #Wallet, #Payments, #ProtectYourself, amongst others.
From leveraging topicals to combining influencer strategy and moments, PhonePe leverages Facebook for dynamic posts and showcasing campaigns with a message such as #FoolNahiFoolProofBano on 1st April 2021.
The brand also leverages the platform to promote the app features through relatable pop culture elements and imageries.
CSR activities, Facebook ads such as carousel ads with offers and discounts while partnering with an e-commerce platform is another tactic that is leveraged through the social platform.
PhonePe social media marketing strategy involves Twitter for official announcement posts, the behind-the-scenes of the PhonePe team efforts and initiatives, and customer help and support with seemingly robust CRM and ORM services
Twitter is also utilized by the brand to redirect users for webinars, events, and interactions by the brand leaders.
PhonePe YouTube page presents an assortment of all the initiatives by the brand including the campaigns and even Shorts as the concise videos.
The brand also has a YouTube community page for conversations and promotions.
Memes, Testimonials, and leveraging the visual appeal and Instagram filters for engagement, are some of the major tactics adopted on Instagram with relatable posts for the target audience, as a part of PhonePe advertising strategy.
The Instagram posts involve many hues, majorly purple, green, and greys, as the brand colors. Almost 50% of them are dynamic.
Last year, the brand leveraged Dussehra to highlight the evils of fake and fraud activities in the category and how PhonePe strives to avoid those vices
Content and Communication Strategy
The content strategy of the brand is in line with its social media strategy with more dynamic content for the users.
Sharma shares, “We have found that video content works best for us across platforms when communicating an important message. This could either be a brand message or a general safety message.”
The brand also believes that an active conversation with people on social media always helps alleviate grievances and fears, because of which the brand’s social listening is always on. While the brand follows trending and topical content formats, they aren’t always the only focus as they aim to drive the meaningful conversation. The communication strategy is to put forth some serious messages. However, PhonePe leverages these moments if it makes it easier for the users to adopt the platform.
Further, the PhonePe communication strategy involves breaking away from conventional storytelling formats to infuse meaning with quirk to make it a mix of entertainment, engagement, and relevance.
As the way forward, Phonepe is set to expand its merchant network from 18 million currently to 25 million by December 2021. The merchants increasingly prefer to accept digital payments across India, which includes Kiranas and other offline stores.
As the category leader, it is our vision as well as our ambition to bring digital payments to every Indian household. Our aggressive marketing efforts are in line with this strategic priority, which shares the brand.
In the upcoming months, the brand will work on a national marketing campaign, starting with IPL 2021.
The marketing interventions will continue to run through the year with a focus on the upcoming IPL 2021. “The focus of the marketing activities will largely be on expanding the user base from 280 Mn currently to 500 Mn by December 2022 and driving preference for PhonePe among millions of new-to-digital users”, concludes Sharma.