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SBI Life’s digital spends increased 3-4 times YoY; resources dedicated to digital now outweigh offline medium

Driving diverse marketing assignments over the last 15 years, Chandramohan has been associated with some of India’s largest brands including SBI Life, Kotak, HDFC Bank and Tata Motors.

Driving diverse marketing assignments over the last 15 years, Chandramohan has been associated with some of India’s largest brands including SBI Life, Kotak, HDFC Bank and Tata Motors.

Chandramohan leads brand strategy, Cross-sell, marketing communication, media planning and online communication at SBI Life Insurance, India’s leading private life insurer. At SBI Life, he has been instrumental in impacting high mindshare and market-share through efficient resource utilization. During his tenure, SBI Life has been rated as “Most Trusted Private Life Insurance Brand” by ET-Nielsen in 2011 and 2012.

Brand transition at Kotak Mahindra Old Mutual Life Insurance and launch of e-age products for HDFC Bank besides managing one of the largest automobile CRM programs in Asia Pacific for Tata Motors at FCB Ulka Advertising are some of the key marketing initiatives driven by Chandramohan in his earlier assignments.

Recipient of the ‘Young Achiever of the Year’, 2010 from the CMO Council Asia Awards, Singapore and Indy’s ‘Young Achiever 2009’,  Chandramohan has also won “Best Brand Innovation” 2010 and 2011, “Insurance Communication Cup” 2007 and 2008 by BNP Paribas across its 42-country network.

How does the digital medium in SBI Life’s plans to reach out to consumers? 

Much before it became merely fashionable, digital was at the centre of our communication efforts. SBI Life was the first life insurer to have presence on social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The digital efforts are well-integrated with offline branding initiatives, while staying relevant to the medium and audience. For instance, our page on Facebook is called “Celebrate Life” and not SBI Life. Several offline campaigns including the “Heera Ad”, “Future Guaranteed” and “Customer Education” were seamlessly extended to the social medium.

We have a website in nine Indian Languages namely namely, Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Bengali, Kannada and Punjabi. This enables customers to understand our products and services in language they are most comfortable with, before taking a well-informed decision. Overall, leveraging digital medium is at the core of our strategic communication efforts. 

Which according to you have been some of the most exciting online campaigns that the SBI Life has initiated for its brand so far? 

Amongst many exciting online campaigns, Share – A – photo/video on Celebrate Life page received an overwhelming response. Fans were incentivised for sharing their “Celebrate Life” moments through pictures and videos. On performance parameters of PTAT and incremental New Fans, the campaign performed exceedingly well. Further, it is not unlikely that we may have a TV commercial based on these user generated video content. 

In the BFSI sector, performance based digital advertising works best. With the advent of new forms of content such as video and apps, what are your plans around this? 

In general, the advantage of “measurability” holds true for all categories. For us, the share of video-based content on social media platforms is around 35%. We continue to create video content, in the area of customer education and service, specifically for online medium. We have developed apps and games including the virtual life insurance crossword, contests on Facebook, e-life insurance dictionary and tax calculator. With increasing penetration of Smart Phones, we have intensified our efforts on developing apps that will of relevance to both internal and external audiences. 

What answers do you seek from your digital advertising agencies and digital media partners while promoting your brand on internet?

The answer-finding process is collaborative. We prefer a quality exchange of technical and strategic perspectives that generates solutions and trigger actions that best meet the brand and business objectives. 

You have mentioned about SBI Life’s multi-lingual website in nine languages. How has been its uptake among users?

Around 20% of the total unique visitors’ traffic on website is directed towards the multilingual versions of the website. From a business perspective, the multilingual site adds immense value as significant proportion of our business is sourced from Tier II and Tier III towns. Asides, I believe that, the availability of content in local languages can be one of the key drivers for accelerating the internet usage in India.  

SBI Life has social media presence on Facebook and Twitter. Have you seen any transactions happening through social media or is it just an information dissemination platform? What scope do you see in the social media space?

Initially, we followed a strategy of having differentiated content on Facebook and Twitter. On Facebook, we avoided content which may seem as hard sell for products or corporate. However, currently, with the increasing fan base, our Facebook page is transforming into a holistic channel. A significant proportion of user generated content is around service and product queries. We are now stretching the scope of social media presence to promote and facilitate online product purchase, customer education, employee and distributor recruitment.

You also have a dedicated YouTube channel? What kind of content you share there?

Our YouTube channel is whole-some in nature. It has content catering to varied audiences – prospective customers who are being served through viral ads and educational videos; existing customers through service related videos; employees and potential agents through testimonial videos; general public through content pertaining to awards and recent recognitions bagged by SBI Life.

In the context of BFSI, both online and offline transactions take place. But there is a perception that people research and compare products online and buy them offline. What do you think of this perception? Is it likely to change anytime soon? 

The advise-based sales approach is highly relevant to the financial products, specifically to life insurance, given the complexity of products. The advisor after doing a need analysis recommends a product that best meets the customers’ protection and investment needs. This interaction has some limitations on online medium, particularly when there is a high inertia amongst customers to understand the details of products.Nevertheless for certain sub-product categories, the business potential for direct online sale is high.  For instance, in context of the pure online protection product, as the awareness to subscribe to adequate insurance cover increases, the online channel will unlock the potential of this often-neglected product. This could also induce trials for other such simplified life insurance products.

Is there an online channel through consumers can buy SBI Life Insurance without physically going to the bank?

Both for non-bank and bank customers, we do have an online product which can be subscribed to without visiting the branch or meeting the agent.

What are SBI Life’s current digital spends? Will they move in terms of growth and focus this year?

We have significantly increased our advertising budget for the digital medium, almost by 3 to 4 times over last year. Having said, the spend level is not real measure of increasing focus on the digital medium by marketers, in general. For instance, for us the time and resources dedicated to efforts on digital now outweigh that on offline medium. 

How do you see your marketing objectives aligning with what the online medium offers two years down the line?

Even now, online medium and its constant evaluation of how we can extract value, stretching delivery of marketing efforts and integration with offline campaign remain focal point. We believe that both mediums, traditional and online, will co-exist and will be complimentary to each other. In general, a strategic integration of both the mediums can deliver higher yield than either of them in isolation.

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