George Warfel
George Warfel Jun 22, 2017

For marketing efforts on the move, it’s time to unpack the use case

Just as in the movie “Field of Dreams,” financial service leaders sometimes seem to put the product out there and hope they will come. Maybe a field of daydreams is more accurate.

If you asked someone to name three campaigns that moved them to seek out the featured product, it’s unlikely a bank marketing effort would get mentioned.  Martha Mathers, marketing practice leader at CEB (now part of Gartner), agrees that a lot of bank marketing gets lost in the noise.

She notes that it’s less about delivering a message to a target audience and more about achieving breakthrough such that consumers actually engage with the message.

Andrea Walker, associate vice president at Beneficial State Bank—and who has the great, for-real job title of “creative media evangelista”—sums up the pain point precisely. She notes that banks face a daunting task in cutting through the noise to grab the attention of those they serve.

“Let’s face it, banking can seem boring and complicated, but (it) is critically important (to) the communities the bank serves,” Walker says. “With limited budgets, multiple communication platforms and varying products and services, it can be a challenge to effectively use each channel.”

What if financial services organizations reconceived marketing the same way FinTech companies have disrupted banking itself? Here they can use some essential FinTech innovation process rules:

  • No idea is a bad idea.
  • Assume it’s never been thought of before.
  • Don’t worry about how to instantiate it until you’ve thought it through completely.
  • Is there a natural constituency or group of initial adopters ready to be the product’s evangelists?  

Applying these and other innovation principals to the design of marketing programs moves the industry out of old habits—something required for rising above the marketing noise.

But there is more: FinTechs don’t design their innovations around the technology but the customer use case. This crucial concept proves equally important to designing successful marketing programs.

Here’s a use case-based marketing script for a sample FinTech payments service:

“You’re on vacation and suddenly remember that you left an important bill unpaid. No problem. You can use the FasterPay app on your phone, like Mary is doing, and: Problem solved. It even works if you’re in a different country. And you’ll get a confirmation on both your phone and your e-mail. Can your bank do that?”

The app itself sounds clever. But first and foremost comes the marketing: It determines whether the product wins or loses. This kind of ad demonstrates how the use case approach to marketing can boost customer response to bank products both old and new.

Another good way to understand the use case approach to marketing is by understanding what it is not:

  • Features and functions.
  • Technology-based.
  • Try it and you’ll like it. (The other way around is what works. If we can make someone like the new product, she is more likely to try it.)
  • Believing that price matters. (Price only matters in relation to the value of the use case.)

Fortunately, financial services leaders don’t have to come up with the customer use cases: That was addressed when the product was invented, developed and tested. Marketers can start their work, then, by engaging the bank’s product development engineers for copies of the product’s use case. From there, you can create sample marketing campaigns based on the use case while you develop your audience personas.

To get started, try to analyze some examples of use case-based marketing. Below is a sample based on the example above.

“You’re on vacation …” (the situation of the product use case).

“…and suddenly remember that you left an important bill unpaid:” (the cause).

“….use the FasterPay app on your phone, like Mary is doing:” (the solution).

“It even works if you’re in a different country” (an extension or enhancement).

“…you’ll get a confirmation via both your phone and your e-mail” (safety and surety).

Now take your own product. Can you design the marketing program around those five facets? To recap, these are: the situation of use; the cause; the solution you demonstrate; the extensions and enhancements; and the safety and surety of use.

A marketing program built around this use case paradigm takes a page from the very FinTechs that intimidate so many traditional banks.  

Or if you prefer, imagine your presentation to admiring colleagues at a conference. It could begin something like this:  “You’re working on a ban marketing program … when it occurs to you that so many campaigns get ignored … that’s when you turn to use cases… and…”

Hopefully, you know how the story goes from here.


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George Warfel has more than 25 years experience as a principal consultant to financial institutions, central banks, card schemes, retailers and FinTechs worldwide. His practice includes working with clients to develop and manage strategies, innovation and products. 

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