What HSBC’s record fine teaches marketers like you

This is a huge marketing story that hit the front pages. Yet it barely warranted a mention in the marketing press. There’s no Twitter angle. No Facebook link. No mention of views on YouTube. No brand manager in tie-less shirt and sharp suit.  “Easyjet launches an app” is apparently more critical to your career.

You see, people find financial services dull. It’s low interest compared to cars, alcohol or cosmetics. And while you can decide whether you like a beer by drinking it, you’ll find it a lot harder to work out whether a five year investment bond is right for you or not. In fact, you’ll have someone do it for you, an IFA.

Besides, the customers in this group were in their 80s and that demographic is not as interesting as yoof, is it? They have money (clearly) but are poor on social networking skills.

Yet the massive HSBC fine is a lesson for all marketers. Financial services marketing is heavily regulated. This is a good example of why. The fine and promised compensation come too late for some (they died) but at least a reckless piece of marketing did not go unnoticed or unpunished. I should add that HSBC behaved very properly once the issue came to light.

I believe we have a duty as marketers to be good citizens. Whilst there is a lot of attention on activity that involves mums, kids, young singles and couples, there is less focus on the edges of our world. Despite their wealth, older people are still discriminated against by marketers and low interest product categories operate under the radar. Combine the two and you have a recipe for miss-selling.

My worry is less that vulnerable people are ripe for malevolent exploitation. It’s more that in our fixation with all things young and fashionable, we miss real opportunities, great stories and genuine action.

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