Columnist

The stakes are high when marketing your product

Competition is strong, but if you want to stand out you have to get it right first time

Marketing for FinTech, crypto and blockchain companies can be an afterthought. The tech and product ideas tend to come first, then the brand development later. Yet the stakes are high.

Get marketing communication wrong and people judge your product long before even trying it. In this column, I review how to stand out for the right reasons in an ultra-competitive landscape.

Ads and social media

The way I stay updated about product launches is via the advertising on London’s underground trains. There isn’t much else to do when penned in by fellow commuters on all sides. The ads show what marketers think urban dwellers in the capital need: more ways to spend money, treat stress, regrow hair and order takeaways.

It was via the underground that I spotted Revolut’s now infamous Valentine’s Day advert. ‘To the 12,750 people who ordered a single takeaway on Valentine’s Day. You ok, hun?’, it read. This caused a widespread reaction on social media.

It was criticised for being insensitive and patronising to single people. It also appeared to use customer data in a way that revealed something about their lifestyles. To add to the controversy, it directly copied a Spotify ad campaign from 2016.

Iona Bain, founder of Young Money Blog, wrote an eloquent critique of the Revolut campaign on Twitter and her website. Many others followed in the mainstream press. It was often women voicing concerns about the ad’s tone or feeling the joke was targeted at them rather than including them.

As a Revolut card holder and a prolific Deliveroo orderer, I felt conflicted. The ad didn’t offend me – a single takeaway is a win in my book – but it did raise interesting questions about marketing in the fintech industry.

Lessons learned

What can start-ups in blockchain and crypto learn from this case study? It shows what can happen once you break into the mainstream and attract greater attention. Irreverent tones and memes are pretty common behind the scenes at start-ups. But a joke that works inside your organisation may not resonate with all your potential customers.

To get around this, ensure you test your content as much as possible ideally before publication. Use test markets and online forums – the modern-day focus groups. Invest in content designers and UX writers.

Would the message of the advertising be different if teams making fintech products had greater diversity? The truth is it is still unusual to see women equally represented, especially at senior levels. It’s also much more difficult for female-led start-ups to receive funding, even though studies show they perform better. To get ahead of your competitors, why not hire female consultants! Find them in groups like the Women in Tech Revolution or the Top 100 Women in Fintech.

I’ve mentioned in this column the need for companies operating in the financial space to be transparent about how they use customer data. In the case of Revolut’s ads, they later admitted making up the numbers. That would have been reassuring to customers who would like to retain privacy over their spending habits. Security and trust remain important factors in customer loyalty.

Advertising of crypto products has previously been banned by the likes of Google and Facebook due to concerns over lack of regulation and fraud. They lifted the bans last year, but ICOs, STOs and IEOs are likely to be subject to scrutiny. A comprehensive marketing strategy that takes into account regions where you can and can’t advertise is key.

Saving, investing and AI

A couple of other ads that caught my eye recently: Dozens and Plum. Dozens claims to bring together a current account with saving and investing. With the proliferation of products out there, anything that does it all in one app could add value. The company is also looking for investment at the moment.

A different proposition is Plum – an AI powered assistant that helps you to save and invest more. It learns your spending habits over time and works via Facebook messenger. Could this be a way to better manage money without an awkward meeting with a financial adviser? Time will tell.

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