17 Jul 2019

Telling your customers that you are innovative is a little like telling your friends that you’re funny.

They probably won’t care.

If you want your friends to know that you’re funny, make them laugh.

If you want your customers to know that you’re innovative, improve their lives.

This is a statement of the obvious, yet businesses remain obsessed with labelling themselves innovative.

The risk is that as a communication strategy it is ineffective and so potentially cedes competitive advantage to rivals.

Take, as an example, banks.

Do their customers care if they are innovative?

No, not really.

Polling commissioned by Hanover found that consumers and business decision makers valued a provider being “a trusted brand” (77%) far more than being “new and innovative” (23%).

Similarly, “safe and secure” (81%) against “new and innovative” (19%) and “well-meaning and familiar” (74%) over “new and innovative” (27%).

Overall, the three most important factors for both consumers and business decision makers when choosing a bank or payments provider were security, a trusted brand and ease of use.

Now, this is of course not to say that banks or businesses should not be innovative. Rather, these figures should be used as a guiding principle for communication.

Remember, you don’t tell people you’re funny. You make them laugh.

Banks are very good at this. Look at websites from the banking sector and you rarely see mention of the word ‘innovation’ – though innovations are everywhere.

They are all aligned, however, to the end result for their customer. What they are able to do that they couldn’t before, how they are more secure, how the payments process is simpler. On and on.

The guiding principle of communication is to focus on what matters for the customer.

Show not tell.

Real stories of real people experiencing real benefits.

This is far more compelling communication and, as a result, much more impactful.

Other businesses, and other sectors, could and should learn this lesson. Because their competitors will.

As Bob Monkhouse said: “When I told my parents I wanted to be a comedian they laughed at me. They’re not laughing now.”