Against a backdrop of unease and pessimism, HSBC has launched a brand campaign in Hong Kong that strikes a positive and hopeful tone, asserting that "The story continues" as long as people believe it will.
The campaign, through Grey Group Hong Kong, kicked off last week with an LED lightshow using a highly valuable, Central district out-of-home location, which is owned by the bank. It will continue through 2020 and includes social media, a new public website and outdoor visuals at the HSBC HQ entrance and tram stops.
The most noticeable element in terms of design is what the bank is calling the "forward hexagon", which highlights two right-facing triangles in the HSBC logo. These resemble a fast-forward button and thus stand as a "symbol of forward movement, acceleration and progress", according to the bank.
The work, HSBC asserts, "aims to project optimism and confidence in Hong Kong’s future as well as HSBC’s commitment to playing its full part in supporting individuals, businesses and the community of its home market".
Tacitly acknowledging the anxiety that many in the city are feeling, given the protests of last year, the ongoing pandemic and the recently enacted security law, the campaign asserts that "progress is never easy", while referring to HSBC's long history in and commitment to the community.
The campaign arrives at a time when HSBC is facing job cuts, criticism for its public support of the new security law, possible US sanctions and accusations that it has been "spying" on clients to uncover links to the Hong Kong protests.
Suresh Balaji, who has a dual role as APAC head of marketing for wealth and personal banking and global head of marketing for insurance, told Campaign Asia-Pacific that a positive, hopeful message was important to deliver to the place that is the "beating heart" of HSBC.
While acknowledging that the bank gets its share of criticism, he maintains that it still has great affinity with the core of the community. "The kind of brand equity that we own, or that we have been able to garner, is unlike any other retail bank anywhere in the world," he said. "So to be able to reverse any negative feelings about our brand across the markets that we operate in is such a key thing for me."
As such, the Hong Kong campaign follows previous work launched in Australia and Malaysia, which also aims to focus on what prosperity and forward progress mean for those communities, according to Balaji, who was recently named in Campaign Asia-Pacific's 2020 Power List.
"Great brands always provide hope," he said. "They're not just there to make money."
During the rest of the year, HSBC plans to roll out "initiatives ready to help everyone start a new chapter", as well as content that brings the brand’s point of view to life while celebrating local stories of progress.