The Difference Between “Could” and “Do” Use Cases

Amazon’s Kindle vs. iPad for reading in direct sunlight ad is buzzing around the internets today.

It’s a very clever spot that calls out a specific use case that I’m sure many people have.

Over the weekend, the NFL season began in earnest here in the States, and I got to see the ads I’ll be suffering with for the next four months. I say suffering because the same dozen or so spots will run ad nauseum during pretty much every broadcast, regardless of channel, until the Super Bowl.

Apple is running a couple new iPad spots, during NFL games that juxtapose interestingly with the new Kindle spot.

Whereas Apple is pursuing the general use cases for iPad, i.e. what you could do with the device, Amazon is targeting a very specific use case, i.e. something you actually do with the device.

I actually think the latter is more effective because it stresses a specific pain point that elicits a visceral reaction. Oddly, Apple aims for this exact sweet spot with its FaceTime spots.

The difference is subtle, but important. The “could” use case appeals to people with a variety of use cases, but the “do” use case addresses a pain point. Even though the latter is a smaller group, that group will be much more passionate about the ability to solve that pain point.

We’ve been successful finding and addressing the “do” use cases, much more so that the “could” ones. In my experience, “could” use cases allow you to check off requirements, but “do” use cases drive adoption and actual usage.

Finding the “do” use cases is more difficult, but these are what sell your product.

Find the comments.




  1. Actually, some of the most effective ads aren’t necessarily “do” ads, but “things you ought to do” ads.

    For example, I am a Verizon customer, and as we all know very well, Verizon has better 3G coverage than AT&T. This is reinforced time and time again via Verizon ads, to the point where a radio commercial features a salesman unsuccessfully trying to send a presentation; the salesman ends up blaming the spotty 3G coverage for his problems. But how many Verizon users truly depend upon Verizon’s 3G coverage capabilities?

    On the other side of that debate, AT&T featured an ad in which a guy tossed postcards around that supposedly came from every community in which AT&T 3G coverage is accessible. However, I’d be willing to bet that many of AT&T’s customers don’t depend upon AT&T’s 3G coverage capabilities, and even 99.9% of those who do don’t really care whether or not they can access the AT&T 3G network in Hope, Arkansas.

    Advertisers find a differentiator, then sell us on the idea that this differentiator is the most important thing in our lives. This is nothing new, of course; people of my age will recall the Charmin commercials in which Mr. Whipple couldn’t stop squeezing the package of Charmin with his bare hands. Never mind that this is NOT the way in which the product was intended to be used.

  2. I’m not really that interested in the advertising angle, more so in the contrast of use cases, which is critical to adoption. From a development perspective, building to pain points ensures your product will find a home somewhere and will generate passion, which is key to differentiation among the myriad of products.

    Incidentally, the AT&T ad you mention is almost bait and switch. It’s not boasting 3G coverage at all, just standard coverage. So, if you accidentally misinterpret the ad (as you did), you’ll be shocked when you see how thin the actual 3G coverage is.

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