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A campaign you can bank on?

By Paul McCarroll

A good brand property is one that can stretch and flex with time and, right now, everyone’s talking about the latest HSBC brand campaign. Has it stood the test of time?

 

Way back then

 

Back in 1865 a bunch of Scots living in the Far East got together with local businesses and created the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation. This multinational mix of entrepreneurial energy and well-regulated Calvinism was a potent force and, over the decades, HSBC grew to become one of the biggest and most successful banks in the world.

 

By the 1990s HSBC was involved in a series of global mergers and acquisitions. One of these was the takeover of the Midland Bank and, by the start of the millennium, their griffin logo had been replaced with HSBC’s familiar red and white badge, right across the UK.

 

This was the moment that the famous “The World’s Local Bank” campaign was born. Highly praised and highly successful, the positioning suited HSBC on so many levels. The corporation was an amalgamation of local banks that had now grown into a world leading institution. Wherever you lived in the world, you could expect HSBC to understand the nuances of your specific financial needs – business or personal – and bring global clout to delivering you the best products.

 

 

A campaign that flew

 

When it came to ads, HSBC owned airports. Their posters were the last thing you saw before you got onto a plane and the first thing you saw when you got off it at the other end. From one country to the next, the advertising was seamless. Yet the global setting was full of local observations, offering different points of view on everything from fashion to food.

 

Then, with the financial crash, everything came back down to earth. HSBC were no longer your local bank. Nor your global one. They were closing branches, even withdrawing from entire countries. They dropped the World’s Local Bank line altogether.

 

 

Now

 

After several years of quietude, HSBC is back in the UK on our TVs and billboards. With a new line that looks back to its illustrious predecessor yet reframes it for today.

 

There are many here in the creative department at Proximity who love the way it has taken the property and brought it up to the moment. I share this point of view.

 

“We are not an island” is right at the zeitgeist, exploring the relationship between Brits and the outside world at a point when such a discussion is likely to produce varied, and often febrile, responses.

 

It walks the Brexit tightrope, placing the UK in a global context yet celebrating our Britishness. Sure Hunter S. Thompson wrote a great novel, but then we’ve got Jane Austen. Of course France is famous for its cuisine, but you can’t beat Greggs!

 

Whether you’re Leave or Remain it’s oddly reassuring. And it takes us from the global to the very, very local indeed. “We are Leeds” and “We are Bristol.” Regional newspapers have even run articles to explain to their readers some of the more arcane local references.

 

Not everyone loves this campaign. It has been accused of making lazy connections and being opportunist. When the campaign launched on TV there were critical voices from some Leavers, who considered it an attack on Brexit. Yet the attacks never became virulent. Instead, they sparked debate.

 

And that, surely, is its main strength. Engaging enough to spark conversations in offices, homes and on social media, intelligent enough to promote articles in the press, the earned media has been priceless.

 

Publicity you can bank on? I think so.