Financial marketing


Don't Benchmark, Break Through

2nd February 2019

Some time ago before the term Fintech was even coined, W. Chan Kim and Rene Mauborgne wrote a hard-hitting piece in the Financial Times entitled, “Think for yourself – stop copying a rival.” They explained: “Companies need to break out of a vicious cycle of competitive benchmarking and imitation. Aiming to beat the competition has the opposite effect to the one intended. It keeps companies focused on the competition. When asked to build competitive advantages, managers typically rate themselves against competitors, assess what they do and strive to do it better.”

How do innovative companies lose their position? Two-thirds of the time, they pick the wrong competitor to worry about. New Fintechs take note!

As a progressive Fintech firm, it’s important to know what your competitors are doing, but only so you differentiate yourself from them, not so that you can become a ‘me too’.

Research, like a rear-view mirror in a car, can only tell you where you’ve come from, not where you’re going. Trying to research genuinely breakthrough category ideas is pretty near impossible since customers are notoriously bad at predicting whether they will adopt new behaviours. Remember, Sony Walkman, Bailey’s Irish Cream, Post-Its, Perrier (in the UK), Red Bull and Cashpoint machines all bombed in initial research.

Today, in so many areas, it is possible to get innovation to market at light speed and turn vision into action.

The real winners in the ‘new normal’ fast-forward Fintech environment are mavericks and contrarians, prepared to follow their intuition and passion about an idea in the face of opposition, against the status quo.

A note of caution in the words of the late Steve Jobs: When asked about the market research that went into creating the iPad, Steve Jobs responded, “None. It isn’t the consumers’ job to know what they want. It’s hard for [consumers] to tell you what they want when they’ve never seen anything remotely like it.”

He added: “Some people say, “Give the customers what they want.” But that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, “If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, ‘A faster horse!'” People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. That’s why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.”

It is also a truism that customer insight seldom leads to innovation in respect of the brand promise. Customers and other stakeholders may be best placed to score how closely you fulfil the brand promise in a ‘health check’ but are unlikely to provide insight into what that brand promise should be. We believe that can only come from a clear and remarkable shared vision.

Now that level of strategic differentiation is what Fintech and Financial Services firms tell us they are craving – and where we can help them most.

Find out about our revolutionary Brand Workshops here and lead the field.