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How Paytm made the most of ‘demonetisation’ opportunity?

- 4 min read By Gurudev Prasad

10 January, 2018

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While the country is still debating whether the move to demonetise 500 and 1000 rupee banknotes is a masterstroke by the government or it just shot itself in the foot, there’s one entity that has made the most of this ‘opportunity’ and emerged as a clear winner and that is Paytm.

As per a report in Mint (23rd November 2016), since demonetisation Paytm has served over 45 million users and signed up over five million new users. Further, the report states that the digital wallet touched a record five million transactions on 14th November, and has grown to become comparable to the combined average daily number of payment transactions seen by debit and credit cards in India.

Now those are some impressive numbers. Of course, the unique nature of this move by government puts the entire category of mobile wallets/payment solutions in the position of a natural advantage but what is admirable is the fashion in which Paytm has appropriated itself as a brand that’s championing the cause of making India a cashless country.

It’s not an easy task and before you smirk and say that they have the luxury of enormous budgets, let me warn you that there are enough examples of brands (especially start ups) that blew up massive funds on vanity campaigns. Remember the Housing campaign, or more recently the unbox zindagi campaign by Snapdeal.

Beyond money, there are four essential elements that make this campaign worthy of a marketing case study.

Allow me to elaborate on these elements, one by one:

Speed

I read somewhere “A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week". When it comes to brands trying to leverage on an opportunity (event/news/policy change etc) there’s nothing more important than the speed of execution. The Prime Minister made announcement of demonetisation on 8th of November at 8:15 PM and on the 9th morning you had full-page ad of Paytm in many newspapers. (I should point out though that I am not aware if it is legally allowed to print the picture of Prime Minister in a branded ad of a private entity). What makes it even more interesting is that no body had a clue that the government was planning something like this, so it means that the whole campaign was conceptualized and executed in a matter of just a few hours. Can you imagine a big, traditional company pulling off something like that? Just the approvals on creative will take a couple of weeks.

Stance

As a rule, brands are extremely cautious in taking a stance on controversial issues, especially those relating to religion, politics and policy. But like it or not, things are set to change. In the age of social media where the information flows both ways, increasingly consumers will expect their brands to have a point of view, to take a stance even on controversial issues. Given their aggression and desperation to get the audience attention, start-ups will start taking sides on issues sooner than we expect. Some will win and some will face the music (by the way, Licious ads taking a dig at vegetarians is the worst stance by a brand in recent past). Paytm in this case has been both lucky and clever. Lucky because the move to demonetise has a direct impact on cash transactions (at least in short term) which makes the category of digital wallets a natural beneficiary. Clever because, irrespective of the long term outcome of demonetisation move, by riding on it – the brand has emerged not just as a cheerleader but as a saviour in this highly inconvenient time. Thus, earning both- consumer attention and affection.

Scale

What Paytm has done wonderfully is married speed with scale of execution. That’s not an easy feat. Though the campaign was conceived literally overnight, it doesn’t look rushed. The brand followed up their full-page ads with a 360 degree media blitzkrieg. The campaign focused on both the demand and the supply side i.e. the consumers as well as merchants. This media onslaught was well complemented by on-ground execution. You could see the Paytm communication almost everywhere- cafes, petrol pumps, shops, and even some paan shops. A newspaper article suggests that the company has deployed 4,000 employees to sign up merchants and claims to add 25,000 merchants daily to its network. That’s the dream of any marketeer- ATL and BTL working in perfect sync and the numbers rolling in.

Simplicity

Last but not the least, what impressed me the most about the Paytm campaign was simplicity of the message. Educating both consumers as well as the merchants on what is Paytm and how it works in a clutter free format and in a few simple steps. It is this simplicity of messaging that makes the brand approachable and endearing rather than overwhelming and intimidating. A print ad educating the merchants on how they can come on board with a tearable strip that can be used by them for display- is my particular favorite. The brand clearly shows its mainstream aspirations and talks to a broad demography. This simplicity of messaging is one of the key elements that is driving mass adoption of Paytm. The brand’s tag line of “Paytm Karo” is probably the best manifestation of how simple the brand has kept the story so far.

In opportunity marketing, the winner takes it all. I am talking about the consumer mind space here. There are other brands as well that are trying to capitalize on ‘demonetisation’ move. But quite frankly they appear to me as runners up in a race where Paytm has got the pole position.

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