PARIS: Global bank HSBC has spent several years developing research which uncovers the emotional impact of financial planning and which now enables it to create distinctive, category-challenging propositions and communications.

In an award-winning case study, written for the MRS Awards, HSBC: Together We Advance outlined a series of projects over a five-year period which had used in-depth qualitative methods to "X-ray" emerging affluents in order to uncover cross currents of thought processes and emotional reactions.

These included a major study involving both ZMET interviews – the Zaltman Metaphor Elicitation Technique which elicits both conscious and unconscious thoughts by exploring people's non-literal or metaphoric expressions – and standard depth interviews across six markets.

Others projects explored the nature of aspiration and ambition within the emerging affluent and how this connected to their needs for digital services, while concept testing demanded task-based co-creation in micro-workshops.

"It would be fair to say it was not one piece over another that made us have the 'Aha moment'," said Henrietta de Souza, Global Head of Customer Insight, Global RBWM Marketing, HSBC.

"When you looked at it all holistically the insight was very clear that there was an emerging affluent mind-set and it was a global mind-set, and, as bizarre as it sounds, people in Mumbai felt exactly the same way as the people living in London," she explained.

The next step was to persuade senior management of the value of this insight, not always a straightforward process as this group is removed from everyday customer experiences.

"Being able to bridge that gap between these people and the emerging affluent, by being able to explain their psychology, what goes on in their minds, and then being able to show this in video is immensely powerful," said de Souza.

There are other benefits to come out of such an extended period of research. "We don't do any of that tactical stuff anymore because we don't need to," de Souza reported.

"Doing that deep exploration up front has given us the springboard to focus on other stuff," she added. "We're in a different space as a client insight team than we would have been without this foundation work."

Data sourced from MRS; additional content by Warc staff