How Did a Newly Launched Brand Combat the Economic Crisis?


Prior to the end of 1990s, Turkish banking was considered to be a profession of money transactions within the Turkish banking system. However, by the end of 1990s, retail banking started to become the center of attention, leading banks to become much more customer oriented. In particular, Garanti Bank started concentrating its efforts on credit cards and formed a separate company in October 1999 called Garanti Payment Systems (GPS) to manage its credit card business, with more direct links to consumers. As a result, Garanti Bank launched the Bonus Card under its own brand, Bonus, on April 15, 2000. The card had an EMV (European Master Visa) chip, as well as multi-branded chip-based attributes, and enabled novel Customer Relations Management (CRM) opportunities for its time. After the launch, Garanti Bank shifted to a primary focus on credit cards, resulting in a positive response from the market. However, within the first six months of the Bonus launch, Turkey faced a deep recession in November 2000, with a big jump in overnight interest rates. Then in February 2001, the Turkish Lira was devalued by 94% overnight. Under these circumstances, Garanti had two choices: to continue its communication strategy as planned, or stop all communication, as nearly all shops were empty. Could Bonus help in uplifting consumers’ morale? The uncertainty continued throughout 2001, leading to major layoffs but Garanti continued in its set course with the Bonus Card, while making necessary adaptations to its initial strategy, such as changing their communication message, getting engaged in co-branding activities and many more. As a result, Bonus grew at least two or more times than the sector average, in different criteria such as total sales, total transactions; accounting for more than half of the total Master Card credit cards in Turkey with 1.65 million card holders by August 2002.

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