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How do you market something that people don’t really understand?

The Challenge

Drive behaviour change and overcome trust barriers in a low engagement sector by helping the public discover and adopt a range of financial innovations (or solutions/products) that can help them build their financial resilience.

The Insight

People can relate to product benefits that are relevant to them, not to the technology that enables them. When we frame these benefits in relevant behavioural science principles that put the innovation in context, we can deliver an optimised digital campaign that drives product adoption and behaviour change.

The Solution

A nationwide campaign that saw 3x higher awareness of open banking, a 2.6x increase in trust and 2x increase in likelihood of consumers to adopt the products.

Nesta, a UK-based innovation foundation, works to bring bold new ideas to life through a combination of programmes, research and funding. 

Within Nesta, Nesta Challenges uses challenge prizes to stimulate innovative solutions to some of the biggest challenges we face. Challenge prizes are a simple but powerful idea. A problem or opportunity is identified, the challenge is publicised and rewards are offered to those who can deliver the best solutions.

Since the economic crash of 2008, the financial services industry has seen many shake-ups. Arguably, none as impactful to consumers as the introduction of new legislation brought in by the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) in September 2016.  This legislation obligated the banks to open up their Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) which encouraged new challenger brands to enter the market and to offer something new. This introduction was the result of an investigation conducted by CMA into retail banking, which concluded that incumbent, older, larger banks were not doing enough to compete for customers’ business. 

The Open Banking Implementation Entity (OBIE) was established by CMA to enforce this mandate and the term ‘Open Banking’ was coined. The goal? To offer greater competition in the financial services market, give consumers more control of their finances and make banking more transparent. 

To spread awareness around this shift, Nesta Challenges & OBIE issued a call for the best open banking-powered fintechs to take part in a new challenge ‘Open Up 2020.’ This wasn’t just about a business objective; there was an opportunity to improve millions of lives by helping customers in the UK build financial resilience and a better relationship with their money.

The challenge, Open Up 2020, needed an effective marketing campaign to get audiences to use these financial solutions. 

Marketing a product that people don’t understand 

Blue State was tasked with running a digital campaign highlighting 15 separate fintech offerings to demonstrate the value of their solutions and to make them more accessible to a wider range of consumers. Pinpointing a holistic approach across 15 products was a challenge. To many UK citizens, Open Banking was seen as something complicated, boring and unsecure if they were even aware of it. So, how do you market something that people don’t really understand? 

We began by defining and profiling every audience across all of the fintech offerings and mapped out how we wanted to position each individual product to them. We set out to understand what makes consumers aware, interested, and engaged with Open Banking; how we should best communicate this message, who we should be reaching and how to properly relay this information in the middle of a pandemic. With millions of people losing their jobs, or having their finances seriously impacted by the uncertain economic environment, being relevant and useful to consumers was a key priority for this campaign.

We quickly learned what message framing worked and what didn’t. Customers responded well to messages that made them feel confident and in control of their money. Messages that encouraged audiences to focus on their financial health or “spend less time managing money” did not resonate either. 

When trying to build the public’s trust around Open Banking solutions, we found that explaining how Open Banking is governed, regulated and utilized by UK’s largest banks helped allay concerns and increase likelihood of adoption. Clear evidence around the efficacy of these solutions was key.

The value of a test & learn approach

Often, projects are centered around the big “launch” moment, when in fact, it’s more beneficial to have smaller, more iterative launches along the way. That way, you know if you’re going in the right direction. Over the course of our digital campaign, we tested over 30 unique messaging angles, constantly optimising across 50+ audiences. 

The Test & Learn approach.

After just a few weeks of live media, we had tested two completely different creative directions, a large number of messages informed by different behavioural science framings, different design styles and different formats and audiences. 

Chart detailing how we drove adoption of open banking
Chart that details how we communicated open banking

Through all of these iterations, we were constantly adapting and refining our message and tactics. When COVID-19 hit, affecting the financial stability of millions of people, we were able to quickly adapt our messaging. Because we didn’t go with a big launch up front, our testing approach meant we had budget and resources available to pivot quickly. 

Being able to adapt during your campaign — whether reacting to a pandemic and devastating financial crisis or not — is key. It gives your campaign resiliency.

Driving awareness and shifting attitudes

Around 1 in 10 people in the UK saw our adverts, and out of those who clicked on the ads, 1 in 5 went on to convert almost double the industry standard. And what’s more, based on a UK National Representative survey, our campaign doubled the likelihood that people would adopt and use an Open Banking product. 

Results from the Nesta campaign. Those who saw the campaign were 3x more likely to be aware of open banking, 2x more likely to adopt in the future, and 2.6x more likely to trust open banking

The Open Banking sector now has evidence on what resonates with their audiences and learnings for how to market their solutions something that didn’t really exist before. And as a result, more people than ever have access to increasingly helpful financial solutions to help them manage their money. 

By prioritizing optimisations, focusing on personalisation and pivoting our response in an ever-changing landscape, we helped guide our partner through challenges presented by COVID-19 and produce a powerful campaign that drove real results.


  • 12% of the UK population recollected the ads
  • 17.5% conversion for those who clicked on an adoption ad
  • 23,000 sign-ups across all platforms
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