“Use Case Based Marketing:” Passive Aggressive (Yet Defensive) Competitive Messaging?

Peter Jarich
Peter Jarich – VP, Consumer Services and Service Provider Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:                 

  • The concept of marketing new technologies or solutions around use cases seems like a logical way to link deployment to real world carrier requirements and opportunities.
  • Use case marketing is also a not-so-subtle way to suggest that competitor messaging is based on hype more than reality, in the process flagging areas where a vendor potentially sees itself at a perceived competitive disadvantage it needs to counter.

Last week, Nokia held an analyst summit dedicated to its Fixed Broadband business.  One of the most anticipated topics was the discussion around software-defined access.  Beyond the fact that software-defined anything is buzzworthy,  going quiet on a hot, new (or new-ish) technology is a recipe for ceding mind share and giving customers a reason to listen to your rivals.

To be sure, the vendor’s presentation on software-defined access networking delivered.  Solution components were outlined. Points of competitive differentiation were claimed.  There was even an explanation of how software-defined networking fits into the framework of the “hype cycle.”  More than anything, however, there was a focus on use cases.  Edge-cloud deployment use cases. G.fast automation use cases. Network slicing use cases. 5G fronthaul use cases. Virtual CCAP use cases. Gigabit connected home and predictive care use cases.

Putting aside the ability to execute on any one (much less every) use case, the heavy focus on use case marketing is instructive. Against the backdrop of Nokia’s potential disadvantage in the space, a focus on real-world use cases could be seen as an attack on competitors playing up a new technology without giving customers a reason to deploy it.  While a fair assessment, there are multiple reasons for a use case messaging strategy – though the interplay between them needs to be carefully managed.

  • Market Education. With any new technology, the potential applications aren’t always clear at introduction. Simply elaborating the applications is critical for helping customers (and prospects) understand why they’d want to deploy the technology…and do things differently from how they’ve done them in the past.
  • Thought Leadership. As a corollary to educating the market on a technology’s applications, a detailed discussion of use cases suggests that the vendor has actually thought them through enough to actually execute on them – lending a degree of credibility that they can actually put them into action for a customer.
  • Pushback Against Hype. Leveraging use cases in messaging is one thing. Explicitly calling out use case based solution development as a key differentiator (something Nokia did) suggests a comparison with competitors – particularly that competitor messaging is heavy on hype and lacking on reality.

But there’s a risk here.

Where a vendor who’s been leading the charge on a technology (launching solutions, talking it up) seems to be balancing hype with market education and real world use cases, it supports their image as a thought leader.  When a vendor who has been less visible in driving the technology does this, it can quickly come off as defensive –  a move to indict competitor marketing as pushing technology for the sake of technology.

In Nokia’s case, the vendor managed to nimbly walk this line.  Use cases were accompanied by solution and asset details. Benefits were quantified. Competitive efforts were never actually called out as “hype.” What was lacking, however, were references.  Beyond a mention of 30+ trials and demos, linking use cases to actual deployments is the only way to execute on their marketing potential.

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