Posts by Khurram Hussain - Lahore

National Bank of Pakistan offers farmers easier access to loans

An earlier blog post showcased Pakistan’s Fatima Fertilizers for understanding the anxieties faced by farmers and offering a solution. This time around, National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) is working toward eradicating one of the biggest drivers of anxiety among farmers here: getting enough money to sow their crops. They generally have to rely on local lenders, known for their unethical practices and unfair terms, and with little
negotiation power, farmers are forced to go along.

NBP’s “Kissan Dost” (Farmer Friend Agriculture Program) offers a solution by providing lower interest rates than local lenders, with gold as collateral. This eliminates the ills of informal borrowing, such as delayed loan distribution and high interest rates. To illustrate this offering, a testimonial spot shows two farmers, one of whom needs to secure funds. The topic of approaching a local lender comes up, and both appear well aware of the trouble surrounding this approach (“If you are talking about that local village lender, then forget it. I ain’t going to be friends with him, he will be at my door the day after he issues me the loan for his payments,” says the farmer seeking a loan). The other farmer clarifies that he’s referring to the “Kissan Dost” program, which helped him out for last year’s harvest with a cash loan and relaxed repayments. The spot then details the benefits of working with NBP over a local lender.

With most farmers only remotely familiar with formal banking and having limited interaction with the institution—typically to pay utility bills—this NBP program can serve as a great first move to capture a huge market amid the throat-cutting competition in this category.

Pakistan’s Djuice mobile offering tackles social ills

Djuice, a pre-paid offering in Pakistan, has been positioned as a straight talker and to-the-point communicator, transparent and upfront. Its commercials for the service address social issues that drive anxiety—things that tend not to be talked openly about here. The tagline: “With Djuice, boycott society’s silence on this issue.”

One TV spot tackles disrespect toward women, showing a young woman unable to walk in a marketplace without getting hassled left and right. She starts screaming, and another woman asks, “When will there be change so that we start respecting women outside our families and in public?” She urges, “Speak up today or repent tomorrow—your words are your weapon against this moral illness, and with Djuice, just go ahead and voice your reservations and opinions to effect a change today.”

Another spot tackles the fact that many jobs are landed through back-channel connections, an especially difficult fact of life in recessionary times. A young man interviewing for a job is required to provide references. One friend tells him, “You know, my dad is a big shot and he can help.” The interviewer gets various calls from the applicant’s references, but eventually the candidate says, “I think my credentials are my most important reference in life.” As he walks out, the interviewer says, “Young man, you’re basically right! When do you want to join?” A third spot addresses the issue of teachers turning a blind eye to cheating on exams. The ads push a friends and family package, encouraging people to discuss these issues with their close contacts.

Faced with so many issues that seem beyond their control, Pakistani consumers feel hopeless in the face of government inaction. Djuice empowers consumers to believe they can tackle some social issues that are within their grasp, rather than sit idly by and wait for change.

Pakistan’s UBL touts rewards over penalties for loan customers

Similar to the Speed Camera Lottery depicted on Volkswagen’s, where drivers who keep to the speed limit are entered into a lottery, United Bank Ltd. Pakistan (UBL) is turning a process that’s normally penalty-driven into one that’s reward-driven. A new campaign, “Silah Mila” (“get the deserved reward”), promotes the bank’s discounted rates and rewards for customers who are keeping up to date with their payments for home loans, auto loans, etc.

Pakistani consumers are anxious about managing their funds in these crunch times (with high rates for borrowing) and incurring penalties for delayed payments and other charges for non-payments. Positive motivation is a clever way to attract customers most likely to be diligent with payments, help ensure that more people make their payments and stand out from banks that create anxiety around the consequences of delaying payments.

Fatima Fertilizer empathizes with Pakistani farmers affected by floods

Last year Pakistan was hit with the worst flood in its existence. So in its launch TV commercial, Fatima Fertilizer empathizes with the Pakistani farmer—suffering not only from the floods but from the financial crisis—and conveys that the brand understands his anxieties.

“It’s not easy to be a farmer,” says the voiceover as we see a farmer digging his hand into soil. “One has to make all the right decisions, sometimes one is up against fate and then sometimes against the forces of nature.” The brand is positioned as helping to make the farmer’s life a bit easier.

To break through in a highly monopolized market, the brand is betting that farmers will connect with a company that understands and respects their life and the challenges they take on amid a recession and extreme weather.

A branded response to Pakistan’s floods


The lives of millions have been affected by Pakistani floods and it’s feared the worst has yet to surface. With the government proving inefficient and ineffective (a truism in many developing countries), brands are stepping into the gap. Along with aid organizations, they are seen as more organized and helpful than national institutions.

Orient Electronics and Samsung for example, have joined together to deliver ration packs to flood victims. And brands are helping Pakistanis to give. Telecommunications brand Warid has partnered with a TV news channel to go door-to-door to gather food, clothing and other contributions. International footwear brand Bata, which has had a presence in Pakistan for more than 50 years, has placed collection boxes in its roughly 500 retail shops and is asking consumers to join the company in donating to a CSR fund it’s set up. The floods have also given rise to “people brands,” with singers, musicians, actors and sports stars stepping up their own relief efforts—a curious development in a country that lacks celebrity brands.

Brands here have a chance to gain consumer respect and trust like never before by contributing to relief efforts. Since most brands have themselves been affected—with many offices closed due to the floods—they have unique opportunities to bond with Pakistani consumers as they tally their own losses.

Photo Credit: United Nations Development Programme

In Pakistan, appliance brand drops poetry for facts and features

Here in Pakistan, domestic home appliances brands have shown a significant communication shift during this recession. While pre-recession communication was centered on inspiring lifestyles, now it’s all about a reason to believe, and brands are highlighting features and facts. A good example is Dawlance, which targets the upper middle class.

A pre-recession commercial, from April 2008, poetically promises viewers that the brand is “As reliable as mother’s love, as reliable as shade in the sweltering heat of the sun, as reliable as true love, as reliable as a true promise.” A more recent TV spot drops the poetry for hard facts: A spokeswoman “at Dawlance i-novate Center” tells us that “in refrigerators I need quick cooling, and a large five-piped compressor gives me instant cooling. Dawlance understands my needs and is reliable for me.” Other spots highlight different features.

The problem here is that since the product is not significantly different from those offered by rivals, the brand is differentiated largely by the emotional promise propagated. By abandoning the emotional approach, Dawlance becomes more generic—the provider of just another product, one that could just as easily come from another manufacturer.

The 12-man optimism squad: The only source of hope for a nation of 166 million

We’ve seen various brands encouraging hope and optimism as a marketing strategy for the recession. In Pakistan, two multinational brands are using this approach in a country where the downturn is one of several factors increasing anxiety and unrest. Pepsi Cola Pakistan and Mobilink (the country’s largest telecom service provider, owned by Egypt-based Orascom) are aligning themselves with the national cricket team, which seems to be one of the only sources of cheer for Pakistanis these days. A series of Pepsi commercials feature upcoming stars and old heroes. For a nation that shows high levels of nationalism mostly when a cricket match is on, this seems like a smart approach, especially for foreign-owned companies that could benefit from showing their allegiance with a popular Pakistani cause.