101 Great Minds on
Music, Brands and Behavior


Andrea Newman

Global Head of Brand at HSBC


“I still don`t think that many brands have really embedded audio in a way that they are able to draw the full potential out of it.”

Andrea Newman, Global Head of Brand, HSBC

Andrea began her career at HSBC 21 years ago. She worked as a secretary in Global Public Affairs department and worked her way up to become the Global Head of Brand of the company. She steers the brands and invests in creativity every day. She has overseen the development of the brand from a federation of over 50 brands to create one unique brand, which unifies all under one roof. Andrea manages the group`s global agency and marketing services network as well as the advertising within 48 airports across the globe. She doesn`t only focus on her work for HSBC, but is also a Non-Executive Director at YouGov, an international data and analytics group, operating within the Market Research space.

Reese: What is your role at HSBC?

I am responsible for the creative output of the brand. To date, that has meant anything from our airports program, TV commercials, implementing the new brand identity, through to launching our brand sound most recently. My team is also responsible for brand management, media, activation, agency management, and a four-course brand strategy. However, we`re moving from a global brand strategy to a more locally relevant brand strategy, but within an international framework. Mostly, we have been working with the markets to help them understand and achieve their local brand ambitions.

Reese: Why are you changing your strategy?

We are actually very different in each market we operate in. In some markets, we are a big commercial banking brand, in others a big retail brand, or also a private banking brand somewhere else. Our brand promise is “Together we thrive” and that needs a strong local resonance behind it. For that to work effectively, you have to set it against a local cultural context, and I don`t think you can always do that globally. It`s a big shift for us to drop that “one-size-fits-all” approach.

Reese: How do agencies deal with your sonic identity?

Newman: Our agencies were included in the briefing process when we decided to launch our sonic identity, and I really wanted something different. So, I also met with sonic branding agency myloveaffair, and I knew immediately that they were going to help HSBC be bold and adventurous with the project, and were the perfect partners to help us achieve our objectives.

Reese: How did your process look like?

Newman: It was quick – really quick. Myloveaffair called me and within a few weeks everything was ready. I was surprised to see Jean-Michel Jarre on the screen during a call with the agency, saying that our briefing was wrong and how we should do it all in a different way. That was in July. I really wanted to present this project at our Global Marketing Leadership Conference in September. Two weeks later we went to his studio in Paris and I was really nervous because I didn`t know what I would do if I didn`t like the work. We listened to his work and everyone who was there said “wow, he did it!”. It was an incredible experience. Only three people at HSBC knew we were doing this, and we brought him as a surprise to our marketing conference. No one knew that he would come on stage and play our new sonic branding. For the first time ever, there was a standing ovation because everyone loved it.

Reese: So, it wasn`t tested?

Newman: It wasn`t tested, because I`m not sure what we are asking customers to say. I like it or I don`t like it? It was really important that the staff liked it, which was definitely the case. We didn`t do a big external launch, but provided the sound book Jean-Michel developed, including the seven different tracks, to the markets. Most of the markets launched it quickly. We had about 90% positive sentiment on social media and that was a kind of a test in itself.

Reese: What are the touchpoints you used it on?

Newman: The touchpoints we ended up using were not the ones we expected in the beginning. Actually, the first time, was on a Taiwanese credit card commercial.

Reese: Was it created for ATL communication?

Newman: It was created for everything. We have the mnemonic at the end to go with our logo and different versions of that. But there`s also an hour-long version of one track. It was used in the Taiwanese credit card spot, in telephone banking in the UK as hold music, some markets have used it in their branches, in internal conferences, private client events, all sorts of things. I don`t think we have one market where it`s totally packaged up and used across every single touchpoint, but we still see it as an experimental process.

Reese: Why in the first place, were you looking for something new? Why were you not happy with what the agencies gave you? What got you to the point to take some money and create a sonic identity?

Newman: Ten years ago, we were a truly iconic brand, but over time we had become a proliferation of lots of different brands. We spent two years prior to launching our sound identity, working on our visual identity and really tidying up our brand visuals. In 2017 I was sitting in our global leadership conference and our global CEO at the time came on stage to the music from “The Greatest Showman”. I remember sitting in the audience, thinking that we should have our own music. We are on a journey to become an iconic brand again. And that`s the armor we need.


Reese: Do you think we are in the golden age of audio?

Newman: I don`t know. A lot of the time, the key is being distinctive. You don`t notice so many other brand’s audio, do you? It`s a tough process. It`s a bit like developing visual work. You have to be really distinctive. I still don`t think that many brands have really embedded audio in a way that they are able to draw the full potential out of it. 

Reese: To me, the biggest misconception about sonic branding is, that so many brands go to their advertising agencies and ask for a sound logo like McDonald`s or Intel`s. I`m always asking myself why they want a faster horse if there are cars?

Newman: Some brands are marketing-led organizations, and others are not. Only very few brands are so marketing savvy that they invest the time and the consistency to get to the result in the right way. 


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