Have you ever been walking through an airport tunnel and noticed those sort of visually-appealing, kind of thought-provoking HSBC ads? The ones that either give you a slight warm fuzzy feeling or a light (internal) chuckle? The ones that make you say “it’s nice, in this cynical world, that there’s a large corporation willing to take a step back and take stock of things from every angle” – until you remember that HSBC is a f-cking bank. A retail f-cking bank.
A retail bank is probably one of the few institutions that has absolutely no need to dabble in subjectivity. Ostensibly, they hold your money for you and (in the olden days) give you a smidge of interest for it; while at the same time loaning you money to buy sh-t (that you probably don’t need) at a higher rate. That’s it; pretty black and white. Basically, a bank is the last place that needs to be contemplating the sociological implications of hipster dipsh-ts adopting Bedouin wanderer tattoos as a fashion statement.
Heads up, HSBC: you’re a f-cking bank. Just do bank stuff. (And just so I don’t hear any bitching from the ballers at HSBC Merchant Bank or whatever, I’m talking about the retail bank here, the one that advertises in all the airports. I’m pretty sure those signs aren’t aimed at QIDs or whatnot.) It’s pretty simple: have money around to loan and for people to take out when they need to buy a new Blu-Ray player.
Since I know you HSBC guys are visual thinkers, I will lay it out for you in a format you understand:
See, the thing with money is, everybody loves it. Even f-cking do-gooders love money – they can give it away to the less fortunate and feel all warm inside. A dollar is worth a dollar, to everybody. (Pipe down, FX nerds, you know what this is about.) A dollar will buy me, you – even Warren Buffett – a new chicken flatbread sandwich from Taco Bell, for instance. You could make an argument about the relative importance of money between different customers, but even then, there is a commonality: they’ll be pissed if you misplace theirs.
So spare us the heady campaigns suggesting thoughtfulness. The only important innovation in banking in the last thirty years is the advent of the change counting machine at the (dearly departed, now Canadian) Commerce Bank. There’s nothing quite like lugging twenty pounds of change 17 blocks and have it magically transform into $300. (I thought the no-envelope deposits at BofA were a good development, until I was trying to deposit $10k of gambling winnings (since lost, if anyone from the IRS happens to be reading) in Little Rock at a deserted outdoor ATM downtown. Stuffing 40 hundreds at a time into the machine seemed like a bad idea once the motorcycle and Escalade pulled up behind me. I aborted the mission.)
And the friggin Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corp wouldn’t let well enough alone with the duality campaign – they soon rolled out versions where three different words accompanied the same picture. Then they stepped it up even further with one word on three different pictures, like this:
When I was originally pondering this stuff, I was staring out a window eating a French dip, and pondered what wouldn’t work in the campaign at this point. Practically every word has at least three meanings. (Except maybe “fungicide.”)
I’ll spare you the French dip version (it involved Arbys, a can of Le Skoal and a slight depression in a road in Marseilles). As for HSBC, how about sticking with a tried-and-true approach to advertising: chicks in bikinis. Thank me later.