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Engaging right customers in the right context is challenging for marketers: HDFC Bank’s Ravi Santhanam

Pointing out that direct-to-consumer (D2C) services allow seamless transition from awareness to fulfilment, Santhanam emphasised the importance of reaching the right customers with the right context

Ravi Santhanam

Ravi Santhanam, Chief Marketing Officer, Head - Liability Products and Managed Programs, HDFC Bank, emphasised the institution's evolution from a cost-centre to a profit-centre, attributing this achievement to digitalisation and the ability to offer a wide range of products online. 

Speaking on the sidelines of Goafest 2023, Santhanam also spoke about the banking industry's advantage, pointing out that direct-to-consumer (D2C) services allow seamless transition from awareness to fulfilment, and stressed on the importance of reaching the right customers with the right context.

“The challenges change with time. I believe that from a cost-centre we have converted ourselves into a profit-centre and there are several industries that allow us to do that and banking is one of those. Because money may not be given physically, it can be transferred into a bank. So, we started this journey way back in 2015 and now we have almost all the retail products available digitally for any Indian. Even if you are not a bank customer you can come, apply digitally and get a loan. That is the power we see that digital has,” Santhanam stated.

He went on to add, “The opportunity for us as marketers is that the services are reaching the consumers. D2C depends a lot on the retail presence. Banks have this advantage that when you go the D2C way, you directly continue from the awareness consideration to the actual fulfilment digitally. That is the opportunity I see for people in the banking industry.” 

The challenge for marketers is to make sure that they talk to the right customer in the right context so that they actually buy the product, Santhanam stated. 

Speaking about the importance of attributions, Santhanam stated, “Attribution is Science and art. Every media element that we have in the universe has a role to play and people should be very careful about the attributions. I do not believe in first touch or last touch attributions because it does not tell us the full story about the consumer's decision-making process. So, any media element, whether it is print, TV, digital media or social media, everybody has a role to play and it is more about understanding each media's role in the purchase process of the consumer and trying to figure out what works out for your category and for your particular brand.”

“It is also about understanding how you effectively measure so that you are not wasting money on any specific medium which is not helping you in the final conversion process,” he added. 

Santhanam used to work with ICICI Bank as Deputy Manager, looking after corporate and project finance, in 1998. Later, he moved on to Powergen, then Reliance Communications and Vodafone. He returned to banking in 2017 and joined HDFC Bank. 

Speaking about the changes that he has witnessed in all these years in the banking sector, he stated, “At that time I had to go to the ATM to deposit money. But today, you don't even move out and everything happens while you are at your home. So, technology has enabled us to change the way in which media plans. Secondly, there are a multitude of products available today. I was not even aware that consumer durables could have been brought up.”

So, that's a change where consumer credit has increased dramatically to cover almost every consumption item, Santhanam added.

Commenting on ad budget, Santhanam said that the allocation is not on any fixed ratio, it always differs from campaign to campaign and with varying percentages. 

“Media mix allows us to achieve our marketing, business and campaign objectives. So, we write down these and then the media mix is finalised on how we will get all these three things done,” he said.

Santhanam added, “The delivery sets HDFC Bank apart from all other banks. At the end of the day it is about consistent delivery. We have created this brand with very little communication over the period of 28 years. We are very passionate as a bank and our promise is to deliver.”

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