A progression in Blue

Chitra Narayanan | Updated on July 13, 2018 Published on July 12, 2018

Vidya Balan is the unifying face behind the campaign

Muthoot Pappachan Group seeks to colour the ambitions of the common man

Four years ago, when Muthoot Pappachan Group (MPG) embarked on a branding exercise asking people to “believe in blue”, it was an effort to distinguish itself from the other Muthoot Group, whose identity is cloaked in red. Most customers fail to differentiate between the two concerns that are part of the same family — but had split in 1979.

Today, as MPG’s blue colour and its connotations (oceans of opportunity, limitless sky) have soaked in, the next phase of its brand transformation exercise has begun. The philosophy has changed from ‘Believe in Blue’ to ‘Blue is Belief’.

To the lay person it may sound just a play in semantics. But there is a nuanced difference, explains Sanjeev Shukla, CMO of the group. “The blue and space of belief remains the same, but there is a progression in thought — from asking the customer to believe in us, to a belief in self.” As Thomas George Muthoot, director and one of the core promoters of the MPG group, says, “We are saying the customer has all the talent and everything. All he or she lacks is a bit of funding. The belief they have is in their future.”

The key message that the ₹50-crore ‘Blue Soch’ campaign, featuring a series of slice-of-life films, seeks to put across is that MPG supports people who are trying to transform their lives.

Right now, four films have been released — two films for MSME loans and two films for gold loans. The scripts are based on true stories — a mother who takes a gold loan to educate her son and gets emotional when the now educated son gets her jewellery back; a small entrepreneur running a puncture shop that suffers from lack of customers until he takes a loan and adds a tea and snacks unit to the shop. Even as the films were launched, an interactive campaign ran on Twitter where the films were stopped a few seconds earlier, asking people to suggest what the ending should be. The engagement was unbelievable, says Shukla.

Crafted by L & K Saatchi & Saatchi, the films are understated and convincing.

“This was one client that kept telling us to tone it down, be real, make it look less like an ad. They didn’t want any exaggeration or hype,” exclaims Anil Nair, CEO and Managing Partner of L &K Saatchi & Saatchi.

Common man connect

Vidya Balan is the unifying face behind the campaign, making an appearance in the TVCs and other media. Her choice as brand ambassador, both Nair and Muthoot say, was after considerable thought as they wanted a celebrity who would cut across all regions and connect with their common man target group (TG).

“She is not just the face of the campaign but was completely involved in the stories,” says Anil Nair, describing how Balan spent time at Muthoot branches getting acquainted with the realities of why people take loans.

The other message the campaign seeks to convey is the transformation of MPG as a company that has moved far beyond gold loans and has a full spectrum of innovative financial offerings.

Targeted communication

But let’s rewind a bit. Why is this low-key financial services player from Kerala, which has as its primary customer base the unbanked common man, getting into a high-decibel branding and marketing game?

For that, a bit of history. Although set up in 1887, it took a long time for the Muthoots to emerge out of Kozhencherry, their ancestral town. The catalyst for growth was the split in 1979 of the family business into three entities. Interestingly, the Muthoot Pappachan Group was the first to move out, setting up an office in Thiruvananthapuram. But it’s the Muthoot Group that has been aggressive and known, nationally, especially after it padded up with IPL team Delhi Daredevils and, more recently, with Chennai Super Kings.

The MPG group, by contrast, has been fairly low key, and had not done any marketing the last two years. Rather, it had been busy refining its vision statement, some of it crowdsourced by listening to employees and customers. The statement reads: “To be the most trusted financial service provider, at the door step of the common man, satisfying him immediately with easy and simple products.”

Each word in that is important, says Muthoot, describing how doorstep delivery is facilitated by opening more and more branches. Currently, the group has 3,600 branches and is trying to expand pan India and penetrate North and East.

While the group has products aimed at the middle class and elite, it’s the common man that is at the centre of Muthoot’s operations and growth targets. So, understandably, the marketing communication entirely talks to this TG. Over the years, a thousand case studies have been captured of why people take loans, their capacity to pay back, how it is done, etc.

“If you sit with our customers and hear their stories, you will definitely have tears in your eyes,” says Muthoot. “These scripts literally wrote themselves,” agrees Nair. “All we are doing now is to amplify the message.”

From social media to hoardings to cinema theatres, the campaign will run across various platforms in 10 different languages as the aim is to spread the MPG name and presence beyond its traditional southern bastion.

Batting with street cricket

Other marketing efforts of MPG are also aligned with the common man TG.

Even before the Blue Soch campaign was launched, this April the group kicked off the Muthoot Blue League of Dreams, a sort of IPL for ordinary people who play cricket on the streets.

Over 1,200 people registered, and players were shortlisted based on their stories.

Four teams were finally formed (Mumbai, Delhi, Kottayam and Parbhani) and it played parallelly along with the IPL trending on social media. MPG hopes to make it an annual affair celebrating gully cricket and the common man! Blue Soch is clearly gearing up for a long innings.

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Published on July 12, 2018
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