FINTECH, the new playground for marketing professionals

My team and I put together the Fintech Marketing Hub inspiration days this last week ( and I got inspired by a number of young Fintech entrepreneurs who are challenging the banking and financial services industry. The Solvay Fintech Marketing Hub is an innovative independent world-class lab specialised in the marketing of tech-based financial services. We launched it 2 years ago with the support of a major actor in the finance industry.

A number of you may not be aware of the huge development of this new branch of finance. Fintech becomes a sector competing with traditional services like banking. It’s made of startups allowing customers to access a service (payments, investments, crowdfunding, peer to peer lending…) with no intermediaries. Banks are worried. Some are not conscious of the danger of cannibalization. Some others now realized how fast they could be replaced by these new players and are moving towards collaboration with them. But it’s the same clash of culture as we saw a few years ago in other industries.

As marketer, I’m most interested by detecting and understanding the new challenges appearing in these businesses. One of the goals of the Fintech Marketing Hub is to help Fintech entrepreneurs to address these challenges in the most agile way, train them and also advise them so they can be more successful.


Let me first restate what marketing means today.

For a long time marketing was restricted to a support function aimed at just generating more sales. Then, it evolved as a set of techniques aimed at delivering value to customers and generating satisfaction. This led to the emergence of customer-focused corporate cultures, solution-based products and services, customer care programs and the like. This is called demand-based marketing.

Now we entered a new era, a time when marketing is at the heart of the entrepreneurial process. Detecting opportunities, practicing creativity as the source of innovation, setting up new business models leading to market creation. We call it innovation-push and it’s the new game of marketing.

This new game means new rules but we don’t know yet what these new rules are. We must invent them day by day. Of course we have new buz words like « agile marketing », « content marketing » or « digitalization » but most entrepeneurs I meet ask me basic questions like « how can I recruit more customers ? », « how can I make my customers loyal ? », « how can I build trust in my brand ? », « how should I price my services ? », etc. This is reinforced by the fact that most Fintech managers are coming from the IT or the financial worlds and lack marketing knowledge.


That’s why Fintechs are an ideal field to invent marketing of the future. Marketing of the past is easy to grasp ! Just google « marketing plan » and you will see dozens of templates, book references or articles that will inform you about what was (and still is) usually done. But it is of no use here !

We face new challenges like :

  • How do we make sure that our product meets a market ? And by the way , which market ?
  • Besides a product, what is the real « value proposition » ? And how should we price it ?
  • How do we differentiate our business vs competitors now and in the future ? Who are the real competitors ?
  • How do we set up a strategic marcom plan ? Target, content, tools, budget…
  • How do we recruit enough customers to reach breakeven as soon as possible ? What are the right customers to go after ?
  • How do we create and monitor customer delight ?

Success of business comes from a smart combination of strategy, marketing, money economics and supply chain architecture. The new Fintech sector now needs to address marketing issues in a professional way. Marketing people can find here new opportunities to show their talent !

Be inspired !

For those interested in knowing more about Fintech, here are some links :


The five facets of “Positive Consumption”

I’m just coming back from BIOFACH the yearly German trade fair showing new products and trends of the booming bio/eco market This is all about food, cosmetics, lifestyle products and the rest. All green, organic, healthy things. The fair alleys were crowded. Much more than usual. I could feel the pulse of the market. I love that !

It’s interesting to watch European consumers becoming green crazy. The trend is not new. It started here in Europe 20 years ago. I will always remember one of my students proposing a thesis subject about “green marketing” at that time. Nobody, included me, knew what it was at that time. Now , although the bio sector only represents 2-3% of household food expenses, the EU market for organic products is growing constantly at annual rates of 7-8 %. This is exceptional given an average annual growth rate in grocery retail markets of around 2% to 3% over the last 10 years (Source: Case “Preserve® Products Strategy for Europe”, Baeyens, Brussels 2015).

Consumers are definitely spending more on organic food: between 2005 and 2014, per capita organic produce consumption increased by 110% while In the same period, household consumption of food in general remained almost constant. (Source: Organic In Europe: Expanding Beyond A Niche, Matthias Stolze,1 Raffaele Zanoli2 and Stephen Meredith3, in ORGANIC IN EUROPE: prospects and developments 2016, IFOAM EU Group,

But the most interesting aspect of “green consumerism” is its integration into a larger trend of “positive consumption” as Sharon Greene, the managing director of RISC International, a global consumer behavior consultancy already put it in a 2009 interview:

“We identified an increasing convergence of five facets of the Positive Consumption trend, which all come together within the same individual consumer:

  1. Social Engagement – or consumer empowerment – is the main dimension driving Positive Consumption across the world, it reflects a growing desire to engage and give back to society but also to take back control over one’s life, it’s all about reciprocity.
  2. Environment – characterized by an active concern for environmental issues and a desire to do what one can to protect the environment

  3. Health – reflecting concerns for the effects that products can have on one’s health and the health of one’s family. This dimension is increasingly linked to environment.

  4. Feel Good – an aspiration towards enhancing personal and individual well-being a dimension which emphasizes the fact that the Positive Consumption trend is not about denying oneself pleasure

  5. Ethics and ethical behavior – a preference for ethical business and an increasing sensitivity to the collective responsibility we have to ensure that companies do business in an ethical way.

Marketing often addresses these dimensions separately. But consumers will increasingly look for products and services which satisfy all five aspirations.”

This calls for an integrated approach to formulating value propositions. Consumers are complex and more demanding than ever. That’s why I love socially responsible marketing. It obliges us to be more sophisticated, more intelligent marketers. It forces us to practice a more respectful marketing and it finally allows us to reconcile our personal values with consumers current needs and wants.

Be inspired !images-2.jpg

5 ideas to stay informed of global trends


Last week I addressed a group of CEO’s and entrepreneurs in a key note called “the CEO Agenda”. One of the recommendations I gave them was to always stay abreast of new trends happening in the world as new trends are the waves on which you can build strategies.

One of them questioned me: “How can I do that ? I’m overloaded by work and I’m not a specialist of trend analysis”. He’s right. If you don’t save some time for watching trends, then you implicitly decide to live in the present instead of the future. And today, the present is already the past !

So, here are 5 ideas to pick up about staying on tune.

  1. Follow trends watching websites

There are a number of these out there on the internet. and are famous ones for consumer behaviors, but you can find a number about economics, technology, industry, etc. Choose one or two of them and follow them each week. It’s better than shopping ideas around the internet with no precise goal. I also recommend to log in to TED regularly Book one hour of your time every 2 weeks and follow a TED talk. It’s brilliant.


  1. Read futurologists

John Naisbitt was one of the first futurologists who wrote books about what he called “megatrends”. You need to hunt for this litterature or find reports edited by consulting firms. See examples like…/future…/future-state-2030-v3.pdf or

It’s enough to read one book each year or one report every three months about the future. It will give you a sense of the long term. It will help you detect waves on which to build your future strategies.

  1. Get interested in contemporary art

Contemporary art is a barometer of emerging trends. Postmodernism, a characteristic of today society, started as a broad movement that developed in the late-20th century across philosophy, the arts, architecture… ( Choose an art that moves you (graphic art or music or else) and look for its newest expressions. Try to spot the most advanced artists, those who appear to be out of norms, and study their output. It will unsconsciously train your mind to avant-garde and make yourself more open to new ideas.


  1. Visit the most trendy cities

Future happens in some places in the world. Silicon Valley for hightech and entrepreneurship, Boston, USA fo education, Milan, Italy for fashion, Singapore for media and communication industries, London for everything ! You can also travel to Seoul, Tokyo, Paris or Frankfurt. If you don’t have the chance or budget to travel these cities, get into them on line. Look at all new things happening in New York for example ! Be persistent ! Try to become a specialist ! What’s happening there at this moment will happen soon everywhere in the world.


  1. Watch generations under you

One of the reasons I’m always in line with what’s new is that I’m always with younger people. It’s fabulous when you don’t consider new things as weird but as a subject of interest. When my children were teens, I was interested in their music. When meeting young students, I learn new words, new tools, new behaviors. So, don’t stay in your generation ghetto ! If you’re generation X, meet generation Y. If you’re generation Y, go for Z ! Toots Thielemans, a world famous jazz musician recently died at 90+ ( He was quoted to say: “Does it make any sense to always play the same music as 50 years ago ? People are not expecting that from me. My ears are turned on to the future. I’m not living in the past“.

All in all, it’s about curiosity. Trends are emerging everywhere every time in front of us. We live in the theater where the actors of future times are playing. Just have this routine to be always curious about everything new. Forget about your immediate work, people who are usually around you. Don’t work too much on details. And think !

Be inspired !

BREXIT: a new example of VUCA


Have you heard of VUCA, one of the buzzwords in strategy today ?

VUCA is the acronym used to describe the state of our business environment.Not only business, by the way, but also political and societal.

VUCA stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity


When I started teaching strategy, back in the 80’s, the best of the best tools was the “long term strategic plan”. I’ve seen dozens of such plans: 80-100 pages of details about investments to make, market shares to gain, factories to locate and countries to conquer… All that was based on assumptions that the world 5-10 years down the road would be more or less the same as the present.  Well, we know now that change is the only status quo. Not only that: the way we compete, our customers behaviors, our political and regulatory environment are moving constantly. Business and financial investors don’t like that. That’s why Brexit generated so much volatility on finacial markets too.


Linked to volatility is the unpredictability of the framework in which our decisions will be executed. Management techniques were always based on assumptions about the future and the use of planning as a major tool of management and control.But , as said above, , change is constant in this volatile world.  We don’t know anything about the future. That’s why “planning, budgeting and control” methods lead to endless discussions in companies today. It just doesn’t work anymore.  So, what can we do ? Strategists talked about scenario planning i.e. generating several scenarios about the future and the probability of occurrence. Good ! But…it doesn’t really help much. Look at Brexit again. Everyone knew that the “leave” decision of voters had a 50% chance of occurrence but  a few hours later the consequences of it were nevertheless still hard to predict.


Our world is now so complex that great decision makers are those who can point the key issues in an information jungle.And great executers are those who can keep focus on key actions. Everything became complex: supply chains, customers’ behaviors, big data systems, economic models, financial products,…So the danger is overcomplexification leading to a lack of vision or oversimplification due to a misunderstanding of key issues . Brexit again is a good example. Consequences of this political factor will be economical, commercial, regulatory and…emotional. Moreover, all consequences will link together making the whole a kind of never seen patchwork.


I believe that one of the main challenges of our times is to accommodate paradoxes. For centuries, mankind was characterized by simple problems that could be dealt with simple solutions. The complexity of today, as mentioned here above, is leading to a gigantic confusion. As most people still reason in terms of dichotomy (good or bad, right or wrong , desirable or not desirable, …) we end up with never ending debates leading to no solution. Today, we must think differently. We should accommodate the extremes. We cannot escape solutions that are wright and wrong, baring consequences that may be good and bad, being finally desirable and undesirable at the same time. This how we should see Brexit. Whatever the vote, there was no “good” solution for all. Now that the vote is done, we will need to manage and negotiate the outcomes intelligently.

To conclude, Brexit is a good example of VUCA. But VUCA is everywhere now. We live and we manage in a global interlinked societal, political and economical environment. What is happening somewhere on the globe bears consequences everywhere else. Let’s be attentive and understand this complexity the best we can.

Be inspired !


Five consumer trends to watch if you want to find successful niches

I’ve been reading an interesting article published by Euromonitor International called Emerging Markets during Crisis: Business Strategy in Times of Uncertainty and recently written by senior research analyst Fernando CRUZ (

Although I was not surprised by his research findings, my own experience leads me to think that these trends are really global. You can observe them both in emerging markets and mature markets and they are so strong that they guide consumers’ behaviors not only in periods of instability but also at any time these days.

The five trends spotted by Cruz are:

1. Convenience

Cruz is observing that “…urban life is demanding and frequently involves long travel times between home and work….”. This is only one of the reasons why people always ask for more convenience. The need for convenience is not new. Actually, most inventions came from human beings’s willingness to make life easier. This need is to source in the primary times of humanity. But what is interesting today is that while trying to make life simpler and more convenient, we actually made it more complicated ! The more we invent new solutions to problems, the more we seem to create new problems coming out of complexity. Pressure on life organization in big metropolitan areas is just enormous and hard to manage. It’s not only about commuting, it’s about meals, kids, parents, job, personal life,… My wife regularly tells me: “We should talk organization today” ! And I tend to say: “yes darling, later please” and I’m dreaming of having a robot taking care of all this for me and the family 🙂  So, all new solutions to these organizational problems will be welcome. There is a never ending source of opportunities here that marketers should grasp. The trick is to be the first one or  the most efficient or the cheapest. Choose your formula !

2. Indulgence

Cruz defines an indulgent purchase as “acquiring something to be enjoyed as a special pleasure but that is normally understood as wrong or unhealthy“.  Junk food and sugar-sweet products but also alcohol and tobacco or any relaxing drugs are of course unhealthy but we see an emerging trend of “healthy indulgence” definitely coming out these days. More convenience may help you manage life problems but it doesn’t bring happiness. And happiness is a key value in our post-modern times. We need to feel good for ourselves. The “slow food” movement, originated in Italy a few years ago is a nice refuge value for some of us. Food is always re-comforting, it brings the ones we love together, it’s a way to relax. Some will pair this with wine tasting, some others will develop their talents as cooks. There is a huge market there ! But all activities linked to “a better self” like sport, yoga, meditation, nature hiking,… are multiplying. Everyday, new ideas are emerging leading to micro markets. Be creative, there are opportunities for years in this area !

3. Transparency

In his research report, Cruz gives the example of how people choose their tourism products: “Driven by the advantages of the online channel, sales of tourism products via the internet have grown rapidly in recent years, as this channel provides information, transparency and comparability”. For sure this is not limited to tourism. We look for transparency when preparing a buying decision but we also want transparency on how brands and suppliers are managing their supply chains. What materials went into the products we buy ? Were they manufactured in ethical social conditions ? Do they respect the environment ? And I could post here an infinite number of information that customers and citizens want to know. A number of companies don’t know how to answer this particular need but some innovative guys in the Silicon valley launched startups who detail their cost and margin calculations to anyone. Wow ! What a change in culture. My fellow marketers, don’t be afraid of transparency: go for it and fit the need !

4. Nostalgia

It was so good in the past ! Life was easier, we didn’t have so many problems, we were so happy, bla bla bla… We forget our parents’ hard times and if we would travel back in the past, 30-40 years ago, we would come back as quickly as we went ! Actually, we want to keep the best of these fantasized times. Some products we were already using as kids, some brands our mothers already used, some “feel good” images of the past… I supervised my first final thesis about “nostalgia marketing” about 10 years ago. It was very new. Now, it’s very trendy ! Want an internet radio with a design of the 1950’s ? A vinyl record that you can digitalize on a smart record player ? Dress like Humphrey Bogaert ? Everything is possible. The trick is to combine heritage with technology or fashion. Look at Burberry or  The Mini Cooper. You get the best of both world. Dare to be old. Team with a baby boomer to know how life was in the 60’s, then imagine new “old products” or relaunch forgotten brands !

5. Status

Being a very old human need, status always evolved as do cultures and societies.  Cruz again recalls the evidence that “status triggers a set of emotions, such as pride, satisfaction or superiority. Frequently, consumers buy objects to reflect these emotions and communicate them to other people“. We need to please, to be appreciated, to feel recognized as valuable by people around us and, if we can’t make it to the top, we need to compensate. Brands, fashion and product design, also customer care are some marketing tools helping us to feel important. And what is most interesting today is the link with a strange paradox. We want to be perceived as “different” but we continue to copy others.  There is a huge opportunity here for those marketers and entrepreneurs who can reconcile both of these needs of their target markets. Customization, one to one marketing, micro-niches are the answer. For example, in a number of emerging markets, “buying foreign brands” is a status symbol. But consumers who do that don’t feel so unique. So, it you offer a unique creative foreign brand only available in limited volume, you double the status effect ! Think of it !

Finding niche markets is not a problem if you watch smartly how trends evolve. All behaviors we observe tend to show us the way. Be immersed in the society. Look, hear and smell markets !

Be inspired !

And…thanks to Fernando CRUZ for leading me to reflect about all this !



Megatrend – Urban world: The global consumers to watch

Here is a very interesting report on the future of urban consumption… Read it or keep it and…be inspired !

Urban world: The global consumers to watch