HSBC Group’s Strategic Integrated Marketing Communication

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Marketing Communications

Building a productive image in the marketplace is an important task that small and large companies aspire to actively. Over the decades, innovative advances in consumer communication have become valuable developments that have improved marketing efforts, thereby creating customer-integrated services (Finne and Grönroos, 2017). Distinctive tools for interacting with target customers have been utilized at different times, and at each stage, they have been successful and in-demand. The examples of various communication channels used by marketers in different eras are as follows:

  • The 1980s – radio and principally print sources.
  • The 1990s – TV advertising as the main marketing tool.
  • The 2000s – The emphasis on online marketing with the popularization of the Internet. The emergence of social media has ushered in a new era of consumer engagement, and multiple digital channels have become significant tools for targeted and client-centered interaction (Vollero, Schultz, and Siano, 2019). Therefore, over the decades, market approaches have changed, and the focus on sustainable real-time engagement and a feedback system has become established.

An example of the structure of Omnicom, which includes thousands of agencies around the world and has an annual royalty turnover, excluding third-party costs, about $ 15 billion was given to illustrate the various challenges facing marketers and how much the company is worldwide (Omnicom Group, 2021), willing to spend on building relationships with their customers. For manufacturers and intermediaries (sellers), the question now is not whether to engage in communications with the general public and individual target audiences or not, but how much and how to spend in this area. Consultants (independent or agency) also help them resolve this issue.

The company maintains its marketing communications with a wide range of organizations and individuals: intermediaries, consumers, the media, other groups of the public and marketing actors. In turn, intermediaries maintain communication with their consumers and various audiences. Consumers are also in communication with each other and with their reference groups. All participants in the listed communications use various communication channels for their own purposes, which in turn are combined into a single complex of marketing communications.

A marketing communications complex (promotion complex) is a collection of all communication channels that are used by all participants in marketing communications. The company maintains its marketing communications with a wide range of organizations and individuals: intermediaries, consumers, the media, other groups of the public and marketing actors (Ang, 2021; Cheng and Zhang, 2016). In turn, intermediaries maintain communication with their consumers and various audiences. Consumers are also in communication with each other and with their reference groups.

The complex of marketing communications is used to promote a brand/product/service and consists of several main types (channels) of interaction: public relations (PR), Internet communication, advertising, sales promotion, personal sales, event marketing, direct marketing, etc. This should include internal communications with employees aimed at forming a correct understanding of the products/services produced by the company (Belch and Belch, 2021). Many FMCG companies regularly launch new products in their offices for their own employees. A feature of this complex is that communication through all used channels, including the internal one, carries the same message or set of messages, has a single template (design), a visual solution, but with a certain specificity for each channel. In other words, all communication channels are integrated to achieve a single goal and in a single style. In this regard, the concept of integrated marketing communications (IMC) was introduced into everyday life.

Within the scholarly dimension, there seem to be three main reasons for the formation of IMC as the main discipline of promotion today. First, it is opportunity. Specialists are always looking for new opportunities to promote a brand/product/service, and therefore in the everyday life of marketers, a large arsenal of means, channels, tools has accumulated and continues to be collected.

Second, it is a necessity; separate communication channels used to promote a brand/product/service do not work well in almost any of the markets that exist today. Specialists are forced to use several channels at once to achieve their goals. For example, if earlier promotions in stores were an independent tool, now they practically do not work without the use of Digital and SMM tools. Third, it is synergy – a single communication through various channels leads not to a simple amount of contributions but to a synergistic effect (Keller, 2016). This is not only a necessity but also an additional opportunity for companies.

There are also different views on the role of the IMC. Well-known marketing experts Schultz, Tannenbaum, and Lauterborn define IMC as a way of understanding the whole that one sees as a flow of information from a single source (Porcu, Barrio-García and Kitchen, 2012). Each source of information should be composed of separate parts – advertising, public relations, sales promotion, logistics, etc. Today, the recipients of information – target audiences – need confirmation that the source is trustworthy (Turner, 2017). This leads to the fact that IMC is rebuilding marketing communications in order to see them as they are seen by the consumer, to offer what the target audiences perceive with great confidence.

A number of scholars equate the concepts of “marketing communications” and “promotion”. But in general, in modern marketing, there is no agreed position on the relationship between the concepts of “marketing communications” and “promotion” (promotion management) (Percy, 2018). There is a point of view that integrated marketing communications are a broader term than promotion since it also includes communications through any or all elements of the marketing mix, in addition to promotion.

According to another opinion, it is a promotion that is the most extensive, universal and systemic type of marketing activity, which includes, in addition to traditional tools (channels), such types of marketing interactions as, for example, viral marketing, impression marketing, implementation marketing, etc. (Key and Czaplewski, 2017). The vulnerability of the first point of view is due, in particular, to the fact that today some marketers propose to move from the term IMC to the term integrated communications, believing that the concept of IMC began to outgrow the concept of marketing.

Introduction

The HSBC Group was founded in 1865. Today HSBC is officially recognized as one of the largest banking and financial services organizations in the world. The group is headquartered in London. HSBC has been successfully operating in Europe, Asia-Pacific, North and South America, the Middle East and Africa for a long time. Through an international network of more than 10,000 companies located in 84 countries of the world, HSBC provides a wide range of financial services to nearly 128 million customers, including large organizations, banks and large private clients.

HSBC Group provides its clients with a full range of financial services around the world.

The Bank is a universal commercial bank providing a wide range of services, such as opening accounts, transfer transactions, trade finance, lending, financial leasing, issuing bank guarantees, conversion transactions, accepting deposits from individuals and legal entities, settlement and cash services, cash collection services, and other operations within the granted license of the Agency of the Republic of Kazakhstan on Regulation and Supervision of the Financial Market and Financial Organizations. The Bank is actively involved in co-financing measures to restore and support agriculture and develop small businesses. Its services are used by hundreds of enterprises, organizations and private entrepreneurs; thousands of people trust their deposits.

Advertising

It seems rational to stress that the processes of promotion are directly related to marketing communication that include a number of points. The most relevant ones for HSBC will be presented in this section. According to the key theoretical findings, advertising should be perceived as a crucial power that may change attitudes, as well as contribute to consumer knowledge and comprehension to a great extent (Rosenbaum-Elliott, 2021). The outcomes of the mentioned promotion tool can only be significant if a firm realizes what it is aspiring to attain via advertising. For this reason, HSBC’s goals are aimed at its future, which is founded on what one may expect from the Bank and how all factors are related to the industry in the time ahead. HSBC implements such an idea in its core initiatives that are featured by a unique graphic style that connects all the actions with “In the future” (Bottomley, 2019). The latter motto serves as a foundation for every advertising campaign of the Bank.

For example, the Bank invested in a notable advertising campaign recently. Prosperity stories from around the world have been welcoming over 900 million passengers to the world’s busiest airports. This is a campaign from HSBC, which has been advertising at the world’s top airports since 2001. The new “Together we thrive” campaign is presented in five languages, at 17 airports, in nine countries (Brownsell, 2018). It shows the bank’s role in bringing the world together and helping clients and communities thrive.

The visuals are based on a bank logo in the form of a hexagon with 79 different versions. Each image uses a hexagon as a window to a thriving world, with global and local scenes representing the city or country HSBC serves. From crowds outside cafes in Hong Kong to innovative rooftop farming in New York and community cycling initiatives in the UK. These images reflect HSBC’s business priorities, which include trade, education, diversity, inclusiveness and sustainability. The campaign covered 1,500 bridges and 94 km of passenger aisles in the departures and arrivals areas at major airports in the world (Brownsell, 2018). The visual materials have been specially selected to withstand a jet blast from aircraft engines as well as the most extreme weather conditions. It should be noted that the campaign was developed by Saatchi & Saatchi.

Public Relations

Public relations have related the efforts directed at identifying and closing any gaps between how the company is perceived by its primary target audience and how this company would like to be perceived. The latest public relations undertakings of the Bank tend to include the launch of online community resources. Their aim is to obtain the views of its clients in the framework of how HSBC could advance its offers. The Bank also utilizes social networks in order to provide consumers with forums that make the process of sharing feedback possible. Then, it is important to emphasize that the Bank effectively practices sponsorship by giving support to a number of crucial sports events worldwide, including golf, rugby, and tennis (the most noticeable in this regard is Wimbledon) (HSBC, 2021).

Personal Selling

Among the most notable activities of HSBC within the scope of personal selling was the opening of super sale centers that are known as hyper banks (HSBC, 2021). Such an idea came from the concepts of Apple stores. The main objective here is to enhance the sales of a particular product and providing services that would stress the significant features of the offers. Such branches can be considered as a great option for the Bank as clients constantly feel that they can get bank support right away.

Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing

HSBC tends to adhere to common practices in the framework of sales promotion and varies its approach sometimes. For instance, one can shop online with the Bank’s credit card and get a chance to obtain cash back for everything he or she purchases (HSBC, 2021). Then, the processes of direct marketing are founded on the following: target customer needs, response, value control, and developing relationships with clients (Cheng and Zhang, 2016). In this regard, the Bank uses an efficient approach – there is simple and convenient banking via direct channels such as the Internet and mobile apps.

Situation Analysis

From the research above, it may be reasonable to state that HSBC pays considerable attention to its marketing and related tools. In particular, its advertising campaign seems to be broad, convincing, and advanced. It follows the core ideas of the Bank, as well as good practices in this vein. Moreover, HSBC invests in its development as a modern and up-to-date organization, focusing on the latest technologies. The Bank still does not forget about ethics, “while customers often want banking services to be modern and responsive, they also want to be certain that their money and their information are safe” (Bottomley, 2019, para. 10). Such an approach increases client trust and reputation in the Hong Kong market.

Nevertheless, there is evidence that the described advertising campaign in 2018 did not contribute to the desired outcomes. This campaign was launched in July of 2018; according to Trading View (2021), HSBC’s depositary receipt rates decreased after “Together we thrive,” which allows assuming that the chosen strategy within this scope was not appropriate. Hence, it should be stressed that the Bank is to develop another approach here and be ready for a number of shifts.

At this point, there is a necessity to appeal to the SWOT analysis of HSBC in Hong Kong in order to define potential perspectives of the IMC improvement. It should be stressed that the crucial strengths of the Bank in the mentioned market are its strong reputation and trust among clients. Moreover, its presence in different business dimensions such as commercial, private, and investment banking, as well as financial services, contributes to reaching a broad range of customer base, which, in turn, leads to a diversified client pool. These strengths might even outweigh the weaknesses – poor retail banking in comparison with the core competitors can be addressed by lowering the related interest rates.

However, several threats are present as well; given the current unstable regulatory situation due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it is important for HSBC to demonstrate flexible policy and strategy in all its activities. This especially concerns the area of mobile and internet banking, on which the Bank tends to focus (HSBC Group, 2019). This is evident from the position of the leaders of HSBC. Then, according to HSBC Group (2019), another opportunity is to reach the millennials customer base in order to ensure client generation for the future.

Strengths
  • Solid brand name and financial positions;
  • Presence in different business dimensions such as commercial, private, and investment banking, as well as financial services;
  • Diversified customer pool
Weaknesses
  • Insignificant retail banking
Opportunities
  • Diversification of portfolios for clients;
  • Lower interest rates;
  • Millennials’ client base
Threats
  • Changing governmental regulations;
  • Competition from the global actors

Table 1. HSBC SWOT Analysis.

Objectives

It is important to determine objectives that HSBC is to achieve after implementing the strategy that will be provided in the following section. First, it is the increase of market capitalization – that is currently 939.371B (Yahoo! Finance, 2021) – for 3%, which seems reasonable for a market leader. Second, it is important to diversify the client base and make an emphasis on the younger generation, which was claimed to be among key opportunities for the Bank. Third, HSBC should possess such an IMC strategy that would be flexible and efficient even under the current market fluctuations due to the pandemic.

Strategy

The first proposed strategical shift will be rebranding. Currently, the Bank tends to restructure its marketing operations and change the functions from regional teams to particular business units. It seems rational to state here that in the future, there will be a moment when the organization will gain a completely sustainable brand reputation and the image of Hong Kong’s best local bank. The mentioned rebranding should be accompanied by digital innovations, through which HSBC will show that it realizes client needs and offers appropriate services.

Then, there is a necessity to launch a new advertising campaign that will have a new target audience. Given the fact that the ongoing core idea of the Bank is focused on the future, the mentioned target audience – which was also claimed to be the key opportunity – should be youth. In particular, one should pay attention to the late millennial generation to ensure interest and potential demand. People between the ages of 25 and 31 have seen technological progress in its prime, and advertising for them should be a means of obtaining sufficient and relevant information instead of abstract and abstract plots (Taylor, 2018). By using appropriate online platforms, HBSC can ensure the sustained interest of the target group in question due to their responsibility for the choice of products or services. Moreover, this group has sufficient knowledge of communication channels and promotion means. Therefore, late millennials are a convenient population category to attract to launch a new advertising campaign.

The message that should be delivered here is that HSBC makes their personal and career interests possible to implement. In this regard, it is essential to take into account the point that clients do not utilize a single platform to communicate and deal with HSBC. Hence, the Bank is to use different platforms – starting from Facebook and ending with YouTube – in order to reach as many consumers as possible. The crucial advantage of HSBC in its new strategy will be the emphasis on the image of the world’s local bank. Thus, the organization should take continuous measures to enhance this image, which may be attained by the constant renovation of the branches.

Tactics

For HSBC, it may be important to develop its new promotional video that would fit the format of Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, given that these platforms are most popular among young users. A responsible marketing team should create a one-minute video that will be named “Future capabilities through today’s possibilities.” Such a motto will imply that Hong Kong’s youth can feel the benefits for their future careers, education, and other activities by cooperation with HSBC – the video sequence should fit this idea.

Then, the Bank should cooperate with the leading tech actors in the market in order to figure out new solutions for its ongoing operations. For example, there may be an agreement with Apple to develop a particular soft, as well as to give cashback by using HSBC’s credit cards through Apple Pay. This will also enhance the Bank’s reputation among youth to a great extent. Finally, the Bank can develop a specific platform that will allow the clients to communicate with each other sharing their feedback and even reaching the top management by forming joint requests.

Actions

Starting from July 7th, 2021, HSBC should begin to implement its new strategy that was proposed above. The first week will be dedicated to searching for and hiring a particular team that will work on the project “Future capabilities through today’s possibilities.” During the following month, this team will develop and present this significant advertising campaign – expenses here will be $500 000. This considerable sum includes the promotion on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. The second month will be dedicated to negotiations with Apple, during which a particular agreement should be signed. Then, the following four months should be used to monitor the outcomes of the campaign and adjusting them in case of some undesired outcomes. In this regard, feedback will be collected via the mentioned platform, the launch of which will take place on September 1st, after investing here about $100 000.

Control

In order to ensure that the proposed strategy is followed and implemented appropriately, HSBC’s marketing team is to conduct constant analysis using a variety of tools – starting from SWOT and ending with the marketing mix. The Bank is an advanced organization that does not need to hire new specialists in terms of control and monitoring. Nevertheless, the proper delegation of responsibilities in this vein will be an essential factor in achieving the desired outcomes.

Reference List

Ang, L. (2021) Principles of integrated marketing communications. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Belch, G. and Belch, M. (2021) Advertising and promotion: An integrated marketing communications perspective. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Bottomley, J. (2019) Banking in the future. Web.

Brownsell, A. (2018) HSBC reinvents airport ads with biggest global campaign to date. Web.

Cheng, C.-W. and Zhang, J. (2016) ‘The effects of channel experiences and direct marketing on customer retention in multichannel settings’, Journal of Interactive Marketing, 36(1), 77-90.

Finne, Å. and Grönroos, C. (2017) ‘Communication-in-use: customer-integrated marketing communication’, European Journal of Marketing, 51(3), pp. 445-463.

HSBC (2021) HSBC’s official website. Web.

HSBC Group (2019) HSBC Asia factbook FY19. Web.

Keller, K. (2016) ‘Unlocking the power of integrated marketing communications: How integrated is your IMC program?’ Journal of Advertising, 45(3), 286–301.

Key, T., and Czaplewski, A. (2017) Upstream social marketing strategy: An integrated marketing communications approach, Business Horizons, 60(3), 325–333.

Omnicom Group (2021) Omnicom official website. Web.

Percy, L. (2018) Strategic integrated marketing communications. New York: Routledge.

Porcu, L., Barrio-García, S. and Kitchen, P. (2012) ‘How Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) works? A theoretical review and an analysis of its main drivers and effects’, Comunicacion y Sociedad, 25(1), pp. 313–348.

Rosenbaum-Elliott, R. (2021) Strategic advertising management (6th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Taylor, C. R. (2018) ‘Generational research and advertising to millennials’, International Journal of Advertising, 37(2), pp. 165-167.

Trading View (2021) HSBC depositary receipt chart. Web.

Turner, P. (2017) ‘Implementing integrated marketing communications (IMC) through major event ambassadors’, European Journal of Marketing, 51(3), 605–626.

Vollero, A., Schultz, D. E. and Siano, A. (2019) ‘IMC in digitally-empowering contexts: the emerging role of negotiated brands’, International Journal of Advertising, 38(3), pp. 428-449.

Yahoo! Finance (2021) HSBC Holdings plc (0005.HK). Web.

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