How Citi flipped the demonetization script leading to 48% growth in debit card spends & 95% jump in debit card transactions

Case study by Publicis India for Citi that encouraged customers to go 100% digital after the country witnessed demonetization, submitted under the category: ‘Best Brand Building Campaign – B2C’ for LI Content Marketing Awards 2017

The Client

Committed to India for over 110 years, Citibank N.A., India takes pride in being a premier locally embedded financial institution, backed by an unmatched global network. Citi’s presence in India spans 45 branches across 28 cities and is the preferred banker to 45,000 small and mid-sized companies across India.

The Agency

Publicis groupe is third largest communications group in the world. A globally networked agency across 103 countries and with 233 offices offering strategic, creative, digital solutions to the brands.

Problem Statement

On the 8th of November, the Government took the nation by surprise in a decision that would impact the life of millions: pulling out 86% of notes from circulation, by demonetizing the 500 & 1000 rupee notes.

The intention was noble but left the nation queuing up outside Banks and ATMs for their own hard- earned money. With great change, come greater challenges The ATMs were soon out of money. Bank queues started becoming longer with a lot of chaos and confusion around cash. As a result, the nation had no other option but to move to digital payments. And with this came the advertising avalanche.

From banks to e-commerce portals to e-wallets to credit cards, everyone was giving deep discounts as compensation to this forced adoption.

In order to fight deep discounts and high media spends, we needed an idea that resonate with the culture as well as the individual narrative. For this purpose we initiated a research to unearth the consumer tension that will lay the foundation of our campaign.

We observed that our consumers (25+, male & female, urban, working in MNCs) don’t really have a digital fright. They were actually living a digital life on social media and at work, just not in the way they bank. It was interesting that these were not banking specific challenges but those which come because of change.

Based on the consumer researches, we gauged that the key reasons for not extending the digital behavior wrt. banking transactions involved:

  • INERTIA AND HABIT (“I can do later”, “I will do it in future when everything is digital”, “I always think of cash first. If I don’t have, I think of card”)
  • SECURITY AND TRUST (“I use my office laptop, it might not be safe”, “I have seen failed payments and the money was deducted”, “I am always scared what if my internet stops in the middle of payment”)
  • COMPLEXITY (“When I got the card, I had activated for a month it seemed to difficult”, “What if I send money to the wrong person by mistake”, “I can do it if someone sits with me. I forget after that”)

Consumer Tension: I know that digital payments are the future, but I am finding ways to avoid it till the final boarding call.

As a result customers make part of their overall payments via digital modes, but electronic transactions were not considered for daily needs such as grocery, utility bill payments, fuel requirements, medicines, etc. Our big idea needed to activate these people to take charge of the situation by giving them a sense of empowerment as opposed to, a sense oppression by the government.

Identified Objectives

Citi has a purposeful DNA. We are not just a bank, but an ‘enabler-of-progress’ and we wanted our campaign to be the same (not opportunistic like the other brands). Our challenge hence, was to stand out in the flood of offers and high media spends, while also staying true to our purposeful ethos.

Packed with deep consumer understanding and relevant insights, Citi gauged that to stand out from the clutter, campaign communication has to be relevant, simple and engaging for the consumers.
Our objective was to make people realize that change is not external (arising out of external situations) but internal (starting with you). Citi identified that some of the bigger spends (flight booking, dining bills, big ticket purchases) were being carried out via digital modes of payment but day to day spends were still being carried out with cash. We identified areas of opportunities where consumers can extend their digital behavior and switch from cash to digital modes. These purchases included grocery bills, fuel, utility payments, DTH bills, medicines, etc. This led to our big idea:

The Strategy/Execution

Go 100% Digital: Our creative direction brings out the feeling of optimism and certainty. It pushes us to look at the digital movement as a challenge that helps us engage with the consumer in the most relevant manner. Campaign direction was quite direct in encouraging customers to be a part of progress and Go 100% Digital, thereby extending their digital behavior to change the habit of making payments by cash.

Social Media Expression: #WhatsYourDigiScore: Citi also wanted to engage with the consumers in a conversational manner, hence we used #whatsyourdigiscore creative expression asking consumers to introspect and calculate their Digital score pertaining digital payments and know how far they have reached in their digital banking journey. Creative expression was an instant hit with the consumers and was linked to a Digital Calculator that helped them calculate their Digital score by asking simple questions about their transaction and banking behavior. The expression turned out to be highly provocative and fueled social media conversations with consumers challenging their friends to calculate their Digi scores.

Communication Route: Creative communication was derived based on consumer researches and gauging the transactions done via digital modes vs cash. We gauged that there are certain common transactions that are digital modes of payments by most of the consumers such as ‘Restaurant bills’, ‘Movie tickets’, ‘Airplane bookings’, ‘Cab payments’, ‘Insurance’ while other payments such ‘Grocery bills’, ‘DTH/utility bills’, ‘Fuel’, ‘House rents’, ‘Medicines’, etc. are usually made by cash.

Therefore, key messaging included:

  • –  You pay restaurant bills by card. Why not grocery bills too?
  • –  You pay for movie tickets online. Why not DTH bills too?
  • –  You book flight tickets by card. Why not buy fuel too?
  • –  You pay cab fare online. Why not house rent too?
  • –  You pay for insurance by card. Why not medicines too?

Execution of the campaign

1. Know thyself – Digital Calculator

In order to stimulate a behavior change, it was important that our customers most know where they currently stand. So, Citi India took the digital experience a step further by creating an online calculator for customers to calculate their Digital Index: The calculator worked on an algorithm that took in to consideration customer’s digital behavior (mobile and desktop banking access), digital purchases (categories and number of transactions) and share of digital transactions (vis-à-vis offline transactions).

#WhatsYourDigiScore Digital Calculator framework included gauging consumer’s digi score based on Digital behavior, Digital purchases and share of Digital transactions.

Digital calculator turned out to be a highly engaging, simple and stimulating tool as it actually helped customers introspect their own spending patterns. This also brought out the competitive streak among our customers, who started competing for higher Digi-scores.

2. Social Media Amplification: Campaign involved social media contest that encouraged customers to calculate their Digi score and share it on Facebook or Twitter challenging their friends to do the same. Social media contest also asked consumers to share their ‘Digital moment of success’ and be the part of progress. Social media campaign executed turned out to be the most engaging social media campaign achieving 34% engagement rate on Facebook (highest ever for any Citi campaign). Campaign also became ‘Top trending’ from the day 1 of the launch. Campaign also generated more than 29,000 conversations and 244+ Million impressions.

3. Deep Integrations with Digital Hotspots: In order to push our customers to introspect on their spending behavior, we had to catch them at the right time, at the right place and with the right message. We knew this would not be possible with a traditional media selection. Deep integrations with digital hotspots turned out to be a game-changer for the campaign as we were able to target them with insightful messaging and during the consumer journey. Some of the integrations included:

  • You pay for movie tickets online. Why not DTH bills too? o You book flight tickets by card. Why not buy fuel too?
  • You pay for insurance by card. Why not medicines too? o At Airports: You book flight tickets by card. Why not buy fuel too?
  • Across dining, lifestyle, news, shopping, and entertainment digital hubs: You pay restaurant bills by card. Why not grocery bills too?
  • Ola/ Uber via Truecaller: You pay cab fare online. Why not house rent too?

With these contextually targeted integrations along with insightful communication, campaign achieved greater engagement and broke all records set by previous campaigns and stood out among all the noise and clutter. Messaging and contextual targeting meant that consumer not only understood the campaign idea but also participated actively engaging through their purchase journeys.

Deep integrations also involved several innovative way of targeting the consumers. For e.g. we were able to target Ola and Uber consumers via truecaller using data analyses identifying consumers who have received calls from uber/ola drivers and hence prefer booking cabs through this medium.

Also, we targeted consumers via Wi-Fi targeting for consumers accessing airport wifi encouraging them to extend their digital behavior on other transactions as well.

4. Creating a movement and repetitive reminders – Influencers Marketing

  • Influencer Marketing: Making the movement reach the masses, we selected influencers from different walks of life – Rocky & Mayur (Dining and Travel), Rajiv Makhni (Tech) and Ambika Anand (Shopping & lifestyle) to fuel the conversations about going 100% digital and sharing their Digi-scores.

Here’s what Ambika Anand has to say about Going Digital.Now it’s your turn to go 100% digital!

Citibank Indiaさんの投稿 2017年3月7日(火)

  • Influencers brought a lot of credibility and engagement around the campaign using video, text, visuals to encourage consumers.

5. Strategic Location branding, owned media and On-ground activation

  • We strategically selected high impact outdoors locations for OOH. Beyond this we majorly invested in our owned media: outdoor media sites, emailers, Citibank online portals and ATMs. We identify key Travel outdoor sites, dining hotspots, fuel stations, etc. to target consumers in the most relevant and meaningful manner.
  • On-Ground activation on the same theme were organized in corporate hubs in Delhi/ NCR, Chennai, Bangalore and Mumbai


(Source: Citibank Internal Data) Digital Impact:

  1. 225,000+ Hits: Over 225M people checked their Digi-Scores, making it a highly successful campaign
  2. 244 million+ impressions and 29,000+ conversations on digital media
  3. 1.25% CTR: As opposed to an average CTR of 0.42%, we achieved a 3X rate of 1.25% CTR for thecampaign
  4. 34% Engagement rate on Facebook (Highest ever for Citibank)
  5. #WhatsYourDigiScore, was the top trending hashtag for Day1 of the launch

Brand Impact:

  1. NPS Score jumped from 38% to 48% during the campaign (Dec’16 vs Feb’17)
  2. 3% jump in card preference (very difficult to move card preference indicators) from 64% to 67%(Q4, 2016 vs Q1, 2017)
  3. 1% increase in mother brand preference from 63% to 64% (Q4, 2016 vs Q1,2017) [ Note: Brandpreference indicators are very difficult to move]

Business Impact:

  1. 95% jump in Debit cards transactions (Post Demonetization)
  2. 10% higher Credit card spends (Post Demonetization)
  3. 48% growth in Debit card spends (Post Demonetization)

Overall, it was not just another Campaign but a movement of progress.

Case study video:

Citi WhatsYourDigiScore

How Citi flipped the demonetization script by asking it's consumers to go 100% digital.Agency: Publicis Groupe Publicis India

Lighthouse Insightsさんの投稿 2017年10月25日(水)