PALINI R. SWAMY writes from Bangalore: Two years ago, State Bank of India went for an image makeover. Built on boilerplate B-school fiction that “a whole new generation” is growing up unaware of product X or company Y, India’s biggest public sector bank used the findings from a spurious FM radio survey to spend millions of rupees on imbecilic print advertisements and TV commercials.
“Which bank has more customers than the population of Australia?” “Surprisingly SBI“.
The campaign by Ogilvy & Mather was slammed left, right and centre by customers, who found it wasteful and insulting that young Indians had to be told that SBI isn’t just your dad’s bank. Commentators like Sucheta Dalal weighed in.
“It is difficult to believe that India’s educated, upwardly-mobile youth is so ignorant. It is however possible that this target group cares less about numerical supremacy than quality of service. And there, SBI indeed has a long way to go before catching up with its private sector rivals.”
Two years down the line, there is no trace of the SBI campaign, nor any sign that youngsters have shifted to it in hordes, nor any evidence that yuppies and puppies have learnt all about its ATMs, internet banking facilities and such like. But clearly public sector banks have learnt little from its cosmetic surgery.
Canara Bank, the 102-year-old bank headquartered in Mangalore, unveiled a new logo in the presence of the Union finance minister P. Chidambaram in the last week of December. In place of the flower and petals came a set of two interlinked triangles to make it more attractive to Generation X.
Like all new designs, every stroke and curve has to be explained, as it is on the bank’s website.
“The new brand identity for Canara Bank is based on the idea of a bond and is a representation of the close ties between the Bank and its many stakeholders–from customers and employees to investors, institutions and society at large…
“The colour palette and typography have been carefully chosen. The rich blue represents stability, scale and depth. This contrasts with accents of bright yellow that evoke optimism, warmth and energy. The Canara Bank logotype has been hand-crafted. Its classic, serif letterforms communicate heritage and stature.”
But neither the logo nor the explanation have done little to convince customers, as evidenced by these letters to the editor of Deccan Herald.
For one hundred years Canara Bank known for its humble and quick service to the common man, has gone hi-tech by wasting public money to change its logo. Unless this act was to benefit somebody, there was no need to change the earlier beautiful logo. If this money which is wasted on logo change is pumped in to recruit fresh staff, the service will be remarkable as in good old days.
K. N. KINI, Bangalore
The Canara Bank has changed its logo, gone in for new boards, stationary papers, application forms and vast changes in ATMs. It must have cost a huge packet and apparently some big guys have reaped the benefit. However the number of staff remain the same or are reduced due to transfers or retirement. Their age profile is increasing. Naturally, with reduced staff the customer service suffers. But who cares for customers?
Chidambaram who had attended the bash in Bangalore last week for this logo change should have chided the chairman of the bank for this wasteful expenditure and should have advised him to pass on this surplus amount to recruit new staff and increase the interest rates on deposits.
Obviously, a bank has to make business decisions it feels necessary. Obviously, it has to change its spots to appear younger, hipper to attract new customers. Obviously, it cannot be stuck in the past. Obviously, not all decisions can be exercises in democracy, taken with the OK of all the customers.
But do we pounce on public sector companies and undertakings with far greater ferocity than we reserve for their private sector counterparts? Merely because of the word “public”, do we believe we have a bounden right to decry or derail any move it may make, even if it is in the right direction?
And frankly, do we resist change, for the sake of resisting change? Is the money set aside for an image transformation enough to increase deposit rates or recruit more staff?
One more letter in Deccan Herald:
“I fail to understand why there should be any objection to the Canara Bank changing its logo. The bank’s leadership has done well to move with the times and have created a beautiful logo. It is part of the changes that should happen in any company and the chairman should in fact be congratulated for his innovative spirit. The charge of wasteful expenditure is ridiculous. What has customer service to do with a change of logo?
B.G. SRINIVASA RAO, Bangalore
Does a public sector bank have to justify every rupee it spends to the public, even when it is no business of the public? Can a bank afford to be penny wise at the risk of being pound foolish later if not sooner?
On the other hand, can Indian Airlines become Indian, and Indian become Air-India, all in the space of a couple of years without anybody asking questions?