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How ICICI came a long way in a short time

May 25, 2009 14:13 IST

How ICICI came a long way in a short time

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Aanand Pandey

From urging customers to live life on their own terms, to asking them to keep faith, brand ICICI has come a long way in a short time.

ICICI Bank's market cap, growing at breakneck speed until last year, hit a speed breaker on October 10, 2008, when its share plunged 20 per cent in a single day.

The fall, which the bank executives attributed to 'malicious rumour-mongering' in their complaint to the police two days later, has become a precursor to a series of image makeovers for the bank in the last few months.

Quick to tweak its communications strategy to tide over the image crisis, ICICI Bank launched its 'Power of Belief' campaign in December through the print media and its corporate website.

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Image: A man walks past the ICICI Bank headquarters in Mumbai.
Photographs: Arko Datta/Reuters
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It put consumer's security and belief first,   marking a departure from the days when Shah Rukh Khan, ICICI's brand ambassador, would exhort consumers to lead life 'on your terms'.

The new image was reinforced during the bank's 50th anniversary in February this year.

It issued a release extolling the virtues of 'belief' and presented a list of initiatives, which included 'Read to lead' education project for school children across the country.

Though ICICI Bank's executives declined to comment on its recent branding initiatives, observers concede that there is a change in the way it presents itself to consumers.

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Image: Sonjoy Chatterjee (R), managing director and chief executive officer of ICICI Bank UK, and Bollywood star Shahrukh Khan
Photographs: Manav Manglani/Reuters
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Says Future Brands CEO Santosh Desai: "Because of aggressive marketing earlier, especially in the consumer space, it was on its way to becoming the Citibank among Indian banks, both in a good and a bad way. Recently, there is an attempt by ICICI to tone down its communication."

Image manager and Perfect Relations co-founder Dilip Cherian adds: "The reason for the change in ICICI's tenor in the paid-for communications is that it was advised by the government to soft-pedal on its services."

Speaking to Business Standard earlier on Brand ICICI, K V Kamath, the bank's erstwhile CEO and MD, and now non-executive chairman said the brand stands for three attributes - innovation, the quality of being adaptive, youth and leadership.

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Image: K V Kamath, MD, ICICI Bank.
Photographs: Rediff Archives
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Interestingly, none of these attributes figure prominently in any of ICICI's recent TV and print ads, which hinge on the 'belief' quotient. Clearly, the bank intends to put congeniality ahead of its core strengths in its brand missives.

However experts say a marked change in the brand strategy may not be effective in the long run.

"A change in approach to your brand gives an illusion of fine-tuning of the bank to the customers. You have to be clear that you aim to be a certain type of brand in the long term before you embark on image change," says Desai.

Cherian is less flattering: "A brand going soft in its approach is not good. ICICI is a sound bank. It should continue to be assertive about its strengths."

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Image: One of ICICI's many credit cards.
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Chlorophyll co-founder Anand Halve feels that if ICICI aims to adopt a more consumer-friendly tone, ads would only go so far. "Consumers want to see the change on ground. And it needs to be done consistently, only then will they change their perception."

The bank's new chief executive officer and managing director Chanda Kochhar hinted in a recent interview to Business Standard that the bank's credit card, personal loans and two-wheeler loans have been curtailed significantly.

In fact, Kochhar could be the best person to spearhead Brand ICICI's ablution - she was the one who headed the team that ramped up ICICI's retail business from one per cent to 67 per cent of the bank's balance sheet in six years.

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Image: India's ICICI Bank's new chief executive officer Chanda Kochhar speaks during a news conference in Mumbai.
Photographs: Punit Paranjpe/Reuters
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