Case Study: KBC Bank – The Gap in the Market

KBC Bank N.V. is a Belgian universal multi-channel bank, offering consumer accounts and also business accounts for small and medium-sized enterprises.

These are tough times to set up a new business following the Belgian (and European and indeed Global) financial crisis. As always, the bank plays a very important role when somebody decides to make their idea a reality. Since the Recession, banks have been understandably cautious as to how much they will lend to whom.

Finding a bank which is prepared to take a chance on a new start-up is the first and often the hardest step for entrepreneurs.

KBC positions itself as the ‘go-to’ bank for anyone starting a new business in Belgium; they wanted to make sure all current and potential small business owners were aware of this.




Would-be entrepreneurs (especially retailers and local tradesmen) are often not sufficiently aware of the real needs/ wants of consumers. Small towns/ districts might not offer the biggest market; but even a small community is likely to be missing some type of business from its infrastructure. These gaps are everywhere. However, small entrepreneurs find it hard to locate their ideal place in the market. KBC’s approach was to find these gaps, mark them and make it easier for entrepreneurs to meet real consumer demand by starting a successful new business, in the right place.



Gert Pauwels, Creative Director Online & Brand Activation of TBWA\Brussels explains his client KBC’s thinking behind the campaign: “Whenever a business starts up, or expands and opens a second location, obviously there are a range of banking products that are required in that equation.”

KBC was already considered to be the bank for start-up entrepreneurs, but this campaign was intended to strengthen its position. KBC wanted to raise awareness and drive positive sentiment. The campaign went even further and in fact had a significant social impact.





KBC gave TBWA\Brussels a budget of 500,000 euros. The agency decided not to use TV advertising and instead to focus heavily on digital and outdoor media. They agreed a partnership deal with the local newspaper, Het Nieuwsblad. Radio was also part of the mix.

Gert Pauwels says about the strategy: “With this campaign we still have outdoor but we skipped TV completely, we only have radio and online. So very little paid media; the budget was used for the Gap in the Market Tool and localised communications.”

The agency estimated that to add TV to the mix with an effective weight would have required an additional 300,000 euros. As the campaign took off, it was clear that they had made the right decision to spend the money elsewhere.



The campaign’s centrepiece was an online tool (, which enabled ordinary citizens to find and mark the ‘gaps in the market’ in their local area. The process was very simple:

  • Filling in the zip-code
  • Marking the ‘missing business’ on the map
  • Afterwards, budding entrepreneurs could study the map, compare different regions and types of business. An additional feature allowed aspiring entrepreneurs to share (=pitch) their own business idea to their potential customer base.



As mentioned above, the campaign relied heavily on outdoor. Special posters inviting people to use the online tool were set up in every major city in Belgium. Each city had its own customised poster; copies covered the windows of empty stores in popular shopping areas right across the country (in fly-posting style). The message was reinforced via online banners, with IP-tracking helping to match this online display activity to the correct audience.



The idea was explained via video and local radio stations. To help entrepreneurs come up with ideas, KBC created short films featuring stories of successful entrepreneurs. The campaign naturally generated lots of PR coverage. Almost every newspaper in Belgium covered the story. Politicians and trade organisations took the idea on board. Several actually suggested making the tool permanent to encourage entrepreneurship in Belgium.

‘The Gap in the Market’ grabbed the imagination of the media, consumers and small business owners across the country.

Gert Pauwels comments on the PR: “Every newspaper had an article about it. Some had even several articles. We had a deal with one newspaper and the others just picked it up. If the story is really worth telling, it will be told and it had a really good effect here. The KBC story was picked up very well. We were the talk of the town in radio, on talk-shows, etc.”



Het Nieuwsblad covered all the campaign-related stories. A special micro-site – – featured interviews with the participants, results by region and top business opportunities based on third-party data and ordinary people’s submissions. A special survey about people’s satisfaction with the shops and services around them was published on the site, further fuelling buzz around the campaign.



In the final phase, KBC launched a competition to generate even more interest around The Gap In The Market. People who came up with the most popular business ideas from 16 regions of Belgium where KBC has a presence, had a chance to win a ‘company car’ for 6 months. 20 cars were presented!



The Gap in the Market is the most successful campaign KBC have run for the last 16 years. Sentiment was up by 12%. The campaign went beyond traditional goals – it touched and inspired people in the post-crisis period. The ‘missing businesses’ of Belgium became a national issue and found a place on the political agenda.

  • In total, 171,157 gaps in the market were reported (from a total population of only 6 million people).
  • On average 560 reports for every town or city.
  • Almost 1,500 fresh new business ideas were generated as a direct result of this campaign.
  • The website is now the most popular database for everyone looking to start a new business in Belgium.

Gert Pauwels on the campaign’s importance: “The activation and relevance of the campaign has great importance for society as well. It stimulates the economy and entrepreneurship in a post-crisis environment. It is something that goes into the heart of the Nation. The thing we need to get out of the economic crisis is positive thinking and entrepreneurial spirit.”



KBC’s ‘Gap In The Market’ campaign not only met the bank’s business goals, but actually influenced Belgium as a whole.

An integrated (offline/online) media strategy helped to push KBC’s strong central idea out to the key audiences.

Gert Pauwels explains why TV wasn’t used: “TV is good for storytelling but it is not that effective. If we want to activate people in general and give it a spark we don’t use that much TV. We prefer online and direct media.”

And the biggest lesson? Gert Pauwels again: “The biggest lesson and the one that almost everybody already gets is that activating your consumers, making them do things online-offline works better than just telling a story. The campaign had a higher relevance on a society level but also very relevant on the grassroots’ level. That combination did the trick I think.”





“The basic idea is very compelling. It looks like a campaign to entrepreneurs, but it actually involves a broader audience. There is a great fit between the image of KBC and this idea of bringing people together to help each other. It’s a perfect integrated case: one very smart central idea. That idea is executed in a selection of media and channels in a very strong way. Each channel is used in a smart way.

Integrated or 360° marketing is not about doing something in each and every channel. It is not about pasting the same idea or visual into different media. It’s about one central media-neutral idea, which has the power to work in all media.”



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