Personally, I find bank advertising irritating. Most of them fail to be engaging and just throw numbers at you. If it’s not Barclays trying to sell their personalised debit cards, it’s Santander offering you the best loans or mortgage deals. As these banks compete with each other, none of them really stand out for me; except one…
As I was watching TV last week, the advert for HSBC’s 2013 iconic campaign grabbed my attention. It tells the story of a smart little American girl who sets up a lemonade stand which accepts a variety of different currencies. If that weren’t enough, the girl impresses her customers with her language skills by selling lemonade to a Brazilian woman in Portuguese. In the second version of the advert, the lemonade trader does exactly the same by speaking in Cantonese to a woman from Hong Kong.
So what is the message behind this ad?
The tag line for this campaign, “In the future, even the smallest business will be multinational”, suggests that international growth is imperative for businesses of any size and that no matter what your language or currency, markets are opening up to everyone.
Why does HSBC put so much focus on international business?
Because of increasing globalisation and the new trading opportunities it brings, an increasing number of companies are driven to consider exporting.
HSBC shows that it can support these companies and demonstrates it with a simple, humorous story we can all relate to.
Having said that, with such global diversity, businesses MUST take localisation into consideration. Indeed, the key to international business success goes beyond translation. By taking into account other cultures and the country in which the localised product will be used, the little girl’s business becomes successful and grows internationally. We can see this for ourselves in the follow up ad which aired this week:
Here, our entrepreneurial young heroine is visiting India to meet an equally ambitious lemon trader and later communicates with a French distributor.
HSBC’s worldwide campaign promoting the company as “the world’s local bank” is a success story. This advert provides a good example of how a small business has managed to use localisation effectively and in doing so, has achieved great success. The little American girl’s business has grown from selling lemonade on her front lawn to having a business partner in India and a distributor in France. She did this by building strong relationships not only with her customers but also with an international business partner. She also did her research and gained a basic understanding of business etiquette by visiting her target market and welcoming her partner in an appropriate way (holding her palms together, as in praying, and saying “Namaste” with a slight bow – a customary greeting when individuals meet in India). With more than 125 million English speakers on the sub-continent, our young entrepreneur has been lavishly rewarded for her cultural awareness and business sense.
Despite President Barack Obama’s National Export Initiative plan and repeated initiatives from the British government, a massive number of small businesses in the United States and the UK struggle to overcome cultural and language barriers. There is no doubt that cultural nuances present challenges to the exporter but by doing your research and genuinely engaging with the target market, you can give your business every opportunity to grow internationally.
HSBC encourages us to follow a young girl as she becomes a multinational business leader and a role model who has probably encouraged viewers of her own age to learn another language and embrace another culture. I chose to write about this advert in particular not only because it shows passion, personality, optimism and warmth, but also because this little girl reminds me of my 11 year old sister who speaks French, English and German fluently….so just like the dad, I, too, am very proud of my little sister as I am sure that with her language skills, she will have a bright future.