HSBC CMO Becky Moffat on bringing brand promises to life

The CMO of HSBC UK is determined to turn famous brands into preferred ones – and taking a broader view of how those brands are built is key to making it happen.

HSBC CMO Becky Moffat on bringing brand promises to life

Ask someone in the UK to think of HSBC advertising and there’s a strong chance they would be able to reference the comedian Richard Ayoade, witty scripts about dogs and Belgian footballers, and a message of inclusivity in polarising times. It’s a great example of a campaign that’s been bold enough to become part of the cultural debate – and has made itself famous in the process. However, if you think the Chief Marketing Officer of HSBC UK is happy to rest on its laurels, you’d be mistaken. For Becky Moffat, pictured right, powerful awareness levels for her brands have to be just the start.

“Our team has done a great job of building brand awareness and recognition and that campaign has really started to differentiate HSBC UK over the last three years,” she says. “My focus now is how we build on that and make it more relevant going forward. Awareness isn’t the problem. Our big challenge is to make people think a little bit more about us being the right partner for them. It comes down to consideration.”

This type of clear strategic diagnosis is central to Moffat’s role. As CMO of HSBC UK, she isn’t just responsible for the ‘red brand’ that the Ayoade campaign promotes, which draws its revenues from both B2B and B2C customers. Her portfolio also includes M&S Bank and first direct, two consumer brands with distinct heritages and identities – and a need for equally defined roadmaps.

A portfolio of purposeful brands
“We’re working with the CEOs of each business to make sure we’re very clear about the strategies for each brand and the tactics that deliver against them,” she says. “That’s important when you’re managing a portfolio of brands like this. You have to avoid falling over each other, and for that you need clarity about what’s going to have the biggest impact for our customers and therefore for our business.”

Whether it’s first direct’s “challenging the challengers” positioning or HSBC UK’s purpose to “open up a world of opportunity,” Moffat is clear that marketing campaigns alone can’t define a brand or drive the salience and consideration that growth depends on. “My hope for our profession generally is that we’ll start to see more alignment between branding, other aspects of marketing and experience journeys,” she says. “They have much more impact together than when they’re fragmented. If we just go out and do marketing communications in isolation, then we end up letting our customers down by not delivering against the brand promise that we’re putting out into the marketplace.”

Moffat uses the example of credit risk assessment as a critical aspect of customer experience that it would be easy for marketing to ignore. “Unless we have an aligned view on how and why we’re saying ‘yes’ then there can be real dissonance,” she says. She talks about the importance of there always being a human being available to first direct customers on the phone – and of HSBC UK exploring all aspects of its purpose.

“There’s a danger of sounding hollow if you have ads that talk about inclusivity, but you don’t deliver that in the products and services you offer,” she says. “If we’re talking about things publicly, we need to be able to demonstrate that we’re doing things behind the scenes that really do make a difference. The work we’re doing with Shelter to open up bank accounts for people who don’t have fixed addresses is a big part of that.”

No marketing department is an island
Moffat’s holistic approach to marketing is enabled by the relationships her central marketing team forges with the business leaders of the different brands. It’s these partnerships that enable positive discussions around strategy – and a rounded approach to marketing that includes both brand and demand.  

“We’re trying to step away from the idea that there’s this division between brand marketing and trade marketing,” she says. “It’s actually just short and long-term marketing and they both have an impact both on trading and your brand. Our CEOs are asking for more and more long-term views of how we build and grow, and how we balance short-term tactics with that – and it’s a great conversation to be having with them.”

It’s a conversation that’s enabled by Moffat’s relationship with HSBC UK’s central finance team – and a commitment to developing models that can capture the full breadth of marketing’s impact. “It was through marketing’s relationship with the CFO that we were able to build the foundations for our econometric modelling,” she says. “Our partners in finance don’t question what we’re doing in the way they might have done historically because they’ve helped to build the models. There’s an implicit trust and understanding of what’s behind those models as a result.”

It’s a cross-functional understanding that seems to come naturally to Moffat herself. She talks about growing up wanting to be an economist – and about her ambition to study organisational psychology. She’s not interested in developing marketing campaigns in an ivory tower. She’s determined to influence how entire systems come together to deliver outcomes for her customers. HSBC UK is determined not to be an island – and that holds true for its marketing department as well.

For more insights from visionary Marketing Leaders check out LinkedIn’s CMO Corner.