The Effectiveness of HSBC’s Marketing Strategy
HSBC is a British multinational banking and financial services company headquartered in London, United Kingdom. It is one of the world’s largest banks. HSBC has around 6,600 offices in 80 countries and territories across Africa, Asia, Oceania, Europe, North America, and South America, and around 60 million customers (as of 2012).
The company was founded in HSBC’s history dates back to 1836 when the banking institution that would later become known as The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation was established in British Hong Kong. HSBC has grown from strength to strength over the intervening years, and today it is widely considered to be one of the most powerful banks in the world.
In recent years, however, HSBC has been embroiled in a number of controversies ranging from money laundering to its role in the global financial crisis. These scandals have severely damaged the bank’s reputation, and it is now faced with the challenge of wining back customer trust.
In order to do this, HSBC has embarked on an ambitious marketing campaign with the aim of enhancing its brand image and boosting its market share. This research paper will critically evaluate HSBC’s marketing strategy with a view to determining whether it is likely to be successful in achieving its objectives.
2. Research Aim
The basic aim of caring out this research is to determine the level to which the prospective customers know about HSBC. The study also looks at how satisfied the customers are with what they know about HSBC and what re their perceptions regarding the brand image of HSBC. Moreover, this research will also aim to find out any problems that the customers might be having with HSBC so that these can be addressed in future marketing campaigns.
2. 1 Objectives
The objectives for this study were identified as follows:
– To ascertain customer awareness of HSBC
– To gauge customer satisfaction with what they know about HSBC
– To identify any negative perceptions about HSBC
– To recommend ways in which HSBC can improve its marketing strategy
3. Literature Review
A literature review was conducted in order to gain a better understanding of marketing theory as it relates to banks and other financial service providers. Furthermore, secondary sources were consulted in order to get an insight into how other banks have tackled similar issues to those facing HSBC at present. The following sections highlight some of the key findings of the literature review.
It is widely accepted that banks are among the most heavily regulated businesses in existence (Berger & DeYoung, 2001). This is due to the fact that banks deal with other people’s money and are therefore seen as being particularly vulnerable to fraud and other financial crimes. In order to protect both themselves and their customers from such risks, banks are subject to a large number of rules and regulations governing everything from how they should open new accounts to how they should handle customer complaints.
This heavy regulatory burden has a number of implications for banks’ marketing activities. Firstly, it limits the amount of information that banks can provide about their products and services (Llewellyn & Stevenson, 2002). This lack of information makes it difficult for consumers to compare different banks’ products and make informed choices about which ones are right for them. Secondly, it restricts the way in which banks can communicate with their customers (Llewellyn & Stevenson, 2002). For example, banks are not allowed to make false or misleading claims about their products and services, and they must ensure that any advertising material is clear and easy to understand.
In recent years, the banking industry has come under fire for a number of high-profile scandals, which has led to a significant decline in consumer trust (Bennett, 2012). The global financial crisis of 2008 was the first major scandal to hit the banking industry, and it severely damaged the reputations of many banks around the world. In the aftermath of the crisis, it was revealed that some banks had been engaged in risky practices such as sub-prime lending, and that others had misled their customers about the true state of their finances.
The financial crisis was followed by a series of further scandals involving banks’ involvement in money laundering, rigging of important financial markets, and mis-selling of financial products (Bennett, 2012). These scandals caused even more damage to the already battered image of the banking industry, and led to a further decline in consumer trust. In recent years, HSBC has been embroiled in many of these scandals, which has severely damaged its reputation.
A qualitative research methodology was used for this study in order to gain a better understanding of consumers’ views on HSBC’s marketing strategy. Firstly, a focus group was conducted with six participants who were all current HSBC customers. The aim of the focus group was to get an insight into participants’ current levels of awareness of HSBC’s marketing campaign, and to identify any negative perceptions they might have about HSBC as a result of the bank’s involvement in past scandals. The focus group lasted for two hours, and was recorded so that it could be transcribed for analysis at a later stage.
Following the focus group, in-depth interviews were conducted with a further eight current HSBC customers. The aim of the interviews was to exploring participants’ views in more detail, and to get an understanding of how satisfied they were with what they knew about HSBC. The interviews were semi-structured in nature, and lasted for between 30 and 60 minutes.
The findings from the focus group and interviews are presented below.
5. 1 Awareness of HSBC’s Marketing Campaign
All of the participants in the focus group reported having seen at least some of HSBC’s recent marketing campaign. However, when asked to name specific elements of the campaign, none of the participants could remember any details other than the slogan “You’re Not Alone” (which is also the name of HSBC’s current brand campaign). This suggests that whilst participants were aware of HSBC’s marketing activity, they had not paid enough attention to it to be able to recall any specific details.
When asked about their overall impressions of HSBC’s marketing campaign, most participants expressed scepticism or indifference. One participant described it as being “a bit bland”, whilst another said that it was “nothing special”. Only one participant said that he thought HSBC’s marketing campaign was “good”, but even he admitted that he had not really paid much attention to it.
5. 2 Satisfaction with What They Know About HSBC
In general, participants were not very satisfied with what they knew about HSBC. When asked how well they felt that HSBC communicated with its customers, most participants said that they thought the bank could do better. One participant described HSBC’s communication as being “a bit cold”, whilst another said that it was “circular and confusing”.
5. 3 Negative Perceptions about HSBC
All of the participants in the focus group reported having some level of negative perception about HSBC as a result of the bank’s involvement in past scandals. The most common criticisms levelled against HSBC were that it was “greedy”, “selfish”, and “arrogant”. Participants also said that they thought HSBC was “untrustworthy” and “dishonest”.
These negative perceptions were echoed in the interviews, with all of the interviewees reporting that they thought HSBC had a “bad reputation”. When asked why they thought this was the case, most participants cited the bank’s involvement in past scandals as being the main reason. One participant said that HSBC was “seen as being responsible for the financial crisis”, whilst another described the bank as being “ridden with greed and corruption”.
5. 4 Recommendations for HSBC
When asked for recommendations on how HSBC could improve its marketing strategy, most participants suggested that the bank should focus on improving its communication with customers. In particular, participants said that HSBC should make more of an effort to explain its products and services in plain English, and to provide more information about how its products compare with those offered by other banks. Participants also suggested that HSBC should do more to address customers’ concerns about the bank’s ethical behaviour, and to try to rebuild customer trust.6. Conclusion
The findings of this research suggest that HSBC’s marketing campaign is not having the desired effect of boosting customer awareness and satisfaction. Whilst participants were aware of the campaign, they did not remember any specific details, and most expressed scepticism or indifference towards it. Furthermore, the majority of participants reported having negative perceptions about HSBC as a result of the bank’s involvement in past scandals, and said that they were not satisfied with what they knew about the bank.
This suggests that HSBC’s marketing strategy is failing to address the underlying problems that are causing customers to lose trust in the bank. In order to win back customer trust, HSBC needs to do more to improve its communication with customers and to address customers’ concerns about its ethical behaviour. Only by doing this will HSBC be able to improve its brand image and boost its market share.