#MARKiesAwards 2021 case study: HSBC banks on full-funnel strategy to ditch 'Daddy's Bank' perception

It's truly a dog-eat-dog world when it comes to the finance and banking industry, where banks have to find way to stay relevant and differentiate themselves to appeal to their customers. HSBC, therefore, took a bold stance in an attempt to change the perception that it was a bank for the old and wealthy, by revinventing what rewards meant and grasping its customer's ethos to relate to its customers, giving them rewards that they actually want instead of mindlessly showering them in it. Regarding the campaign, Alice Fok, head of customer proposition and marketing said that HSBC believed that "zeroing in on what our customers want is the spark we needed to make change happen within HSBC Singapore". Find out how HSBC Singapore and its partner Digitas Singapore ignited the sparks in the hearts of our judges during the recent MARKETING-INTERACTIVE's MARKies Awards 2021, taking home the gold awards for both the Most Creative COVID-19 response as well as Most Creative Launch/Relaunch.

Challenge

According to the bank, people had the perception that HSBC was a “Daddy’s Bank”, the stereotype that it was for the older, wealthier audience was deep-rooted and the bank identified that it was a potential blocker for Millennials to engage with HSBC. Therefore, HSBC said that it wanted to think of a method to broaden its customer base and get a wider range of demographics to use its Revolution Credit Card

The bank said that the competition within the banking sector was fierce, with local and international banks competing and offering similar benefits - rewards to customers to drive acquisition. HSBC then observed that it was largely dominated by local banks both in size and perception, HSBC felt that it was a challenger brand in the credit card category, ranking well below the “big boys” in terms of market share. 

HSBC, therefore, wanted to launch a campaign with the following three objectives: to improve brand affinity and perception towards its new card offering, drive credit card acquisition and card activation by 20% each. The campaign sought to build brand salience, affinity and preference by connecting to Millennials to ultimately drive card consideration and conversion.

Strategy

Prior to the launch, HSBC said that its Revolution Credit Card was “just another rewards card offering promotions across retail, dining, and entertainment”. Competitor analysis and Visa’s data revealed that its proposition was perceived to be weaker than competing products of similar offerings and that its performance was languishing behind.

Low brand affinity, limiting brand perceptions and no real competitive edge meant that the card had low uptake and usage, HSBC said. Due to the perception that it was a bank for an older, wealthier audience, the bank said that the typical HSBC customer is more than 40 years old. To achieve its aggressive growth targets, HSBC thus decided it had to broaden its customer base.

HSBC wanted to target and connect to a mostly-ignored and untapped segment – Millennials aged 25 to 34. Using survey data, it profiled its audiences into the persona “The Carefree Experientialist”, who are digital natives planning their next phase of their lives and seeking experiences.

With this profiling, HSBC said that it was able to complete customer segmentation exercises to look at their affinities (sustainability, politics), interests (health and wellness, mindfulness), what they were in-market for (products by brands with a purpose), media consumption habits (digital nomads) as well as their attitudes.

HSBC then said that it found that these audiences are aspirational and are always trying to achieve more in life, as well as altruistic and feel that it’s important to contribute to the community and want to be self-sufficient to sustain their current and future goals. 

With this understanding, HSBC was thus able to target addressable audiences at scale and design communications to the needs of this segment.

As a bank, HSBC said that it is in a “unique position to tackle over-consumerism by encouraging like-minded consumers with its words and empowering their actions with its products.”

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, HSBC took this as a challenge to drive positivity and aimed to achieve relevance with millennials by inspiring them to realise their passions, challenging them to work towards better health and wellness, and motivating them to manage their finances more efficiently.

According to the bank, it learnt that Millenials were increasingly more concerned about their physical and mental wellbeing, more cautious about managing their finances for a rainy day, and want to live and buy with a better conscience, based on a deep dive into its consumer insights. 

The bank further observed that this growing attitude only “escalated further by the confines of the COVID-19 pandemic”. It cited that more than 80% of Millennials expect brands to align with their values. However, it was clear that HSBC’s category was still focused on getting consumers to spend mindlessly. The bank, therefore, saw a “prime opportunity to create change and positivity, to take a bold stance and focus on empowering consumers to live a more conscious lifestyle, supported by the HSBC Revolution Credit Card’s refreshed benefits.”

Using the tagline “live consciously”, HSBC wanted to empower consumers and split the “live consciously” into three pillars that were most important to its audience - health, self and wealth. 

To bring out the active, bold and empowering nature of the concept, HSBC said that it needed the design to be dynamic and energetic. From creative and headline testing, it found that a direct eye-catching copy and striking colours appealed more to Millennials and aided in the statement nature of the idea: to show consumers how they could transform their virtual world into reality with the Revolution Card and step out into a brighter and more colourful life where they could live a conscious lifestyle. 

HSBC said that it brought this creative idea to life by leveraging on a growing online trend that had captured Millennials, creating TikTok-styled videos that aligned to the three pillars to grab the attention of its audience and instigate a “Conscious Revolution”. 

HSBC also added that to truly capture the attention of Millennials and make its card a real consideration, it had to reach them at the right place with the right message. Consumers’ lifestyles and habits had shifted due to COVID-19, and Millennials were going out less often and spending more time online. Social media usage and news consumption increased rapidly as people struggled to stay updated in a rapidly changing world. Given the understanding of its persona and the surge in online behaviour during the pandemic, HSBC thus decided to implement a purely digital-driven campaign, designed with a sharp targeting strategy that made full use of contextual placements to reach out and connect with its audience.

Execution

With the campaign period between August to October 2020, HSBC said that it curated a “full-funnel media strategy comprising of three phases” to truly capture the attention of Millennials and make its card a real consideration. Done together with agency Digitas, the three phases are namely prime, engage, connect and convert.

During the priming stage, HSBC released high impact advertisements to build the “association that HSBC Revolution Card supports its audience’s conscious living needs”. This was done through video activations across YouTube, Outstream and Instream, social stories, and large formats in contextual spaces to ensure the launch message was unmissable and delivered cut through in a crowded market. HSBC also said that its targeting focused on affinity audiences - users who have demonstrated interest in one of the three pillars, layered with detailed demographics such as life events.

In order to engage the audience, HSBC said that it did this through informative, interactive and engaging placements, namely on Spotify through meditation or self-improvement podcasts and music playlists, Channel NewsAsia featurettes through the “HSBC Conscious Living Series” with three influencers as well as social activations and influencer challenges, and an online sponsored run with online marathon platform Spacebib which allowed users to unlock more exclusive offers the more they ran.

For the connect and convert, HSBC drove consumers to find out more and to apply for the card through DV360 DCO and Discovery banners, as well as social link ads adapted from the same thematic creatives and pillars with its product proposition benefits strongly highlighted. To drive conversion, it focused on tactical ads with card benefits and acquisition promotion callouts across search, social and native. For bottom-funnel acquisition, they engaged with ready to purchase audiences, such as in-market and behavioural audiences with recent purchase intent, lookalike audiences and first-party data retargeting audiences to complete the loop across the funnel. 

Result 

HSBC said that the campaign surpassed both media and business objectives. The bank said that more than 90% of the target audience at an optimal frequency to drive increased awareness of our card offerings. Video ad formats also garnered strong completion rates of 7% as the creative message resonated well with its audience. Delivering customised creatives based on targeting drove above-average CTR and VCRs (eg. showing a health creative to a user interested in health and fitness). 

The bank also added that its partnership strategy across audio, influencer and virtual run content extended the campaigns’ impact. Branded playlists on Spotify garnered a total of more than 900 streamed minutes with 35% of those streamed minutes from the 30 to 34 age range. The sponsored Spacebib virtual run had over 300 sign ups and a total unique reach of 183,000 from the influencer led content strategy.                        

For its tactical activation, HSBC tested card usage benefit messaging against generic benefit messaging and found that usage fronted messaging outperformed generic messaging in terms of clickthrough rate (CTR) by 0.45% to 0.42%.

Its consumer sentiment tracking also showed consumer sentiment trending above industry norms, which helped it connect more meaningfully with its customers, said HSBC. The campaign created renewed excitement around the HSBC Revolution Credit Card, receiving positive reviews and word-of-mouth amongst consumers. 

HSBC also saw an improved market penetration by 2% comparing pre compared to post-campaign. Brand salience, affinity and preference improved significantly where Adtrack data showed consumer sentiment trending above industry norms for the following categories. Awareness, brand affinity and relevance also saw a great increase, therefore making HSBC’s campaign a success. 

“By creating a brand that identified with our consumers and aligned with their values, we not only helped to create renewed excitement for the HSBC Revolution Credit Card but also brought back a bit of positivity in a pandemic, empowering consumers to live a happy, fulfilling and meaningful life,” said HSBC.