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The art of taking on giant incumbents: ICICI, all time awesome
campaigns – III


The art of taking on giant incumbents-ICICI-all time awesome campaigns

Unlike in politics, the anti-incumbency factor doesn’t always work in favour of challenger brands! Specially, when the incumbent happens to be a monolith. Think Amul in butter, Raymond in suiting, Colgate in toothpastes, Maggi in instant noodles… mostly lords of their territory.

The large incumbent not only appropriates the core category value, it often defines it. The problem gets even tougher for the challenger when the category is a high involvement one, making brand switch a high stake proposition for the consumer.

This is what makes the rise of brand ICICI remarkable, going as it did up against the formidable State Bank of India.


SBI owns perhaps the most crucial cultural value we look for in a bank – safety. Even today, few can match up to SBI when it comes to reassuring the customer with a sense of stolid safety. The giant public sector brand chose wisely when it came to its logo too – the key hole of a safety vault


All other banks till then were essentially regional flavor variants of SBI’s idea, rather than being challengers with a truly differentiating value. After all, what can you offer your customer better than safety when it came to their money?

ICICI did what great challengers always do – spotted a weakness in this very strength of SBI. Not by looking at banking, but the transition the society was going through.

Opening of the economy was a bold move by India (even if necessitated by financial desperation), a country used to a protected and controlled economy. Urban Indians were experiencing early joys of being liberated – essentially through an improved consumption atmosphere.

ICICI put two and two together. Money was transitioning in our minds, from an item for safe keeping --> to the enabler of gratification.

And safety was becoming just a tad dated as we flirted with excitement




It repositioned safety and therefore SBI, without bad mouthing it!

The unprecedented number of ATMs and the extremely pushy loan peddling agents delivered on ground what the brand promised in its advertising – making ICICI the ultimate gratification brand, redefining banking in India.