Case Study: Developing Messaging for Financial Services Using MaxMessage™

Challenge:

A financial services client was launching a new product outside their traditional portfolio, and needed to determine the optimal messaging strategy for the launch. The new product was designed for a different market than the client had previously targeted, leading them to seek more information about the underlying needs and motivational triggers for the audience. The client approached Rockbridge for a study with the objective of developing effective messaging to communicate the value of the product to the target market.

Solution:

In order to provide direction on the creative execution of the messaging, Rockbridge used its MaxMessage™ approach to identify compelling positioning strategies based on the tangible and intangible benefits sought by consumers. MaxMessage™ links tangible benefits to deeper psychological needs, serving as a framework to craft powerful messages and advertising.  Compared to other methods often used for creative development, such as focus groups or consumer interviews, MaxMessage™ ensures greater clarity, objectivity and stability because its outcomes are derived from structured survey data.

For this financial services client, a large survey sample of prospective buyers was sourced from a reputable online panel.  In the online survey, respondents were presented with a series of questions that gathered:

  • Interest in the product concept
  • The critical product feature/attribute influencing the decision to sign up for the product (e.g., pricing features, service channels, unique perks associated with the product)
  • The functional benefit associated with the critical attribute, consisting of the reason the feature mattered (e.g., avoiding surprises in the approval process, more money available for spending)
  • The emotional (psycho-social) benefit unlocked by the product (e.g., greater control, serenity)
  • Why the benefits matter, consisting of the overriding value orientation that drove product preference (e.g., a desire to be a responsible financial manager, quest for a tranquil life).

MaxMessage™ identifies the most important features, benefits and values that motivate purchase, as well as their linkages, which guides creative strategy.  These are presented in the form of value-chains that link different levels of need from the differentiating feature to the overriding value.  The chains are rooted in means-end theory which recognizes that while consumers may base decisions on tangible features or attributes, they are ultimately satisfying higher order needs that ladder up to overreaching values that govern the buyer’s choice within a category.  For instance, in financial services, consumers may be driven by values such as a desire to achieve peace-of-mind, lead an orderly life, achieve material well-being, be a good parent, or be responsible.

In this study, Rockbridge identified three positioning themes that were particularly effective in motivating consumers.  To illustrate, one theme focused on a need to achieve financial control – certain unique features of the product delivered on this need, while control ultimately appealed to overriding life values such as an emphasis on responsibility.  (See example below).  The output advised creative professionals exactly what needed to be covered in messaging, including the features and benefits to stress, linkages that can be drawn to underlying emotions to improve message impact and comprehension, and values that could be portrayed symbolically.

To apply the output, the creative team was supplied with the positioning strategies along with open-ended comments to provide further context.  Following best practices for applying “means-end” value-chains, the clients were advised to (a) stress the dominant features, functional benefits and emotional benefits in advertising, (b) draw linkages in ads (e.g., more certainty gives you control) to ensure greater comprehension, and (c) portray the value orientations symbolically.

Result:

The study provided interesting insights that the client had not expected due to the fact that they were entering a different marketplace with a new kind of product.  The action-oriented output of MaxMessage™ gave clear direction on creative execution.  The client is currently developing the marketing plan for this new product for launch in 2018.