Written by Theodora Konstantinidou
HSBC is one of the world’s leading international banks. The network comprises around 80 countries and territories in Europe, Asia, Middle East and Africa. According to reports, 21% of current account holders say they have switched their main current account to a different provider in the last three years, a figure that is significantly high. Switching peaks among 25-34-year olds. Consumers find it hard to bond with a bank as they do not believe that they have a mission or a positive image. Consequently, in a highly competitive market almost half of the marketing expenditures must be accounted for by ‘brand building’ (Mintel, 2019).
The campaign “Together we thrive” was launched on the 1st of January 2019 in the UK and it was created by J. Walter Thompson London. Out of home advertising, print ads on newspaper as well TV ads were launched all the same time. The campaign aimed at changing the consumers’ perception from being a bank that is interested only to the international élite to a bank that is accessible and caters to every Briton. Print ads intended to portrait the international ties of British citizens to other countries such as India, Korea, Sweden and America. The TV ad features exactly the same script. A white rectangular featured the brand’s logo and a plethora of words which were analyzing a paraphrase of the famous book No Man Is an Island by John Donne suggests that human beings should not live in isolation. All men are interconnected to one another.
No one stands alone like an island that is surrounded only by the sea. The TV ad illustrated the same writing and message accompanied by images of people drinking Colombian coffee, eating tikka masala and watching American movies. Mike Watson, creative director at JWT London said: “At a time when opinions in the UK have never been more polarized, our campaign aims to walk the middle ground by simply highlighting that many of the things that make us quintessentially British are the things that make us inescapably international. And who better to point that our that the bank that’s been connecting the world through trade for over 152 years.” (The Drum, 2019).
Source: The Drum
Also, there were specific ads created for major metropolitan cities like London, Birmingham and Manchester to name a few. HSBC describes the target for this campaign as open-minded, curious, optimistic and restless leaving on big city centres across the UK. The aim, therefore, was to celebrate local pride and the unique features each city holds within each limit.
Another noticeable aspect of the project was the introduction of a sound identity at the end of the TV ads. The sound was created by electronic music producer Jean-Michel Jarre. According to recent studies, there is a rise in purchases through smart speakers like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home. Such devices are voice control, therefore, there is no visual aspect to showcase a brand and therefore the introduction of a mogo (musical logo) can be proven to be an asset for the brand. In terms of consumer behaviour, you can use classical conditioning to make the public better recall the brand. The sound is intended to be used at sponsored events by HSBC like the rugby competition Hong Kong Sevens.
The campaign gained both good and bad reviews. By many, it was named as one of the best ads for 2019 as it showcased a strong message and refreshed the brand. On the other hand, HSBC has been accused of trying to push a political message through “Together we thrive”.
The ads went live in a period when Brexit was a topic highly discussed and controversial. It was, therefore, perceived as an ‘Anti-Brexit’ campaign as it shows the multicultural characteristics British citizens have. The bank has dismissed such accusations saying that there was no hidden agenda or subliminal messages in the ads. El-Gammal, a member of the JWT London, said that: “We’ve seen massive increases in ad awareness, in positive buzz and word of mouth, and an increased positive overall impression of the brand.” (Warc, 2019). To summarize, the campaign underpinned by the phrase “Together we thrive”, reflected the brands’ long-term commitment to helping customers flourish and feel secure about their unique identity.
At the beginning of 2020, it was announced by the bank that the campaign will continue the following year with the phrase ‘Home to So Much More’. The new project aims to position the idea that everyone can feel at home in the UK. This time there will be a political message that of pro-immigration and will feature a famous British comedian Richard Ayoade son of a Nigerian father and a Norwegian mother.
The protagonist will be asking questions such as ‘where are you from?’, ‘is it where you were born? or where your parents were born?’ to highlight the diverse background that everyone carries without even knowing. The ads are expected to have a big success.
References and Bibliography
Lucy Aitken, (2019). How HSBC’s Together We Thrive aims to build trust in post-Brexit Britain. Available from: https://www.warc.com/content/paywall/article/warcexclusive/how-hsbcs-together-we-thrive-aims-to-build-trust-in-post-brexitbritain/120733 [Accessed at 1 April 2020]
Thomas Slide, (2019). Consumers and Retail Banking – UK – September 2019. Available from: https://reports.mintel.com/display/918516/?fromSearch=%3Ffreetext%3Dhsbc [Accessed at 1 April 2020]
Imogen Watson, (2019). HSBC continues its ‘Together We Thrive’ pledge with ‘We are not an island’ campaign. Available from: https://www.thedrum.com/news/2019/01/03/hsbc-continues-its-together-we-thrivepledge-with-we-are-not-island-campaign [Accessed at 1 April 2020]
Sarah Vizard, Charlotte Rogers, Ellen Hammett & Molly Fleming (2019). The best marketing campaigns of 2019: Part I. Available from: https://www.marketingweek.com/best-marketing-campaigns-of-2019-part-one/ [Accessed at 1 April 2020]
Charlotte Rogers & Molly Fleming, (2019). ‘Together We Thrive’: Has HSBC nailed it or not gone far enough? Available from: https://www.marketingweek.com/togetherwe-thrive-hsbc-nailed-it-not-gone-far-enough/ [Accessed at 1 April 2020]