G is for Glocalisation: Why HSBC did it best

Earlier this year, HSBC’s outgoing global head of marketing Chris Clark explained why the financial giant had chosen to ditch its long-standing position as ‘the world’s local bank’.



Speaking to CNBC’s Marketing Media Money, he said that cost-cutting measures and the decision to scale back operations in certain countries from 2011 meant the bank’s famous claim – and one of the most famous straplines in the banking industry – was no longer credible.


“[It] became something that didn’t position us in the way in which was truthful about the nature of our business. We weren’t the world’s local bank. We didn’t have branches in places like Thailand anymore. And so it sort of is slightly disingenuous to claim to be it,” Clark said.




No doubt the decision to move away from this position was considered carefully by HSBC’s most senior people. But it seems like Clark’s explanation slightly misses the point. The position was not a promise to be taken literally – a local bank for every nation in the world. It wasn’t really about the scale of global coverage. It was about being a business with a worldwide presence that still recognises the importance of local knowledge.


This brand position, strapline and the many campaigns it launched remain one of the most famous examples of glocalisation – the practice of promoting global brands adapted to local market considerations – in branding. And it’s so much better than the glib examples frequently trotted out in articles about global branding like ‘McDonalds serving a McBurrito in Mexico – genius!’ or ‘wow, Starbucks now has Cantonese pancakes on the menu in China’.


HSBC’s ‘glocal’ positioning was so successful because it was based on genuine insight, as explained in this post from Columbia Business School. HSBC realised that the global scale of the bank, while attractive to large businesses and investors, could be intimidating for retail customers. Positioning itself as ‘the world’s local bank’ deftly eased any consumer fears about the bank being too big, without playing down the organisation’s global status.


Find out more about going Glocal – and the rest of our b2b brand alphabet – by downloading our Little Book of B2B Brand.

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