Hang Seng Bank’s switch to Simplified Chinese characters in their advertisments

So, I’ve sent the following message to Hang Seng Bank’s Feedback and Suggestions email address:

Dear Sir/Madam

I happened to walk past your Central Headquarters this morning, and my attention was caught by a huge advertisement poster on a wall outside your building because of its choice of Chinese script: Simplified Chinese Characters (hereafter SCC) used in PRC.

I personally don’t have a problem with SCC. I can read SCC with ease, and I occasionally use SCC in my writing. But I do not consider it a wise move on your part to switch to SCC in your advertisements.

You might think that the switch to SCC is to facilitate understanding of your advertisements by potential Mainlander customers. But the majority of people who will be seeing your advertisments are not Mainlanders. Using SCC actually has the effect of distancing the majority of your existing or potential customers in Hong Kong. Actually, assisted by the context, Mainlanders have little difficulty understanding advertisements written in traditional Chinese characters.

A more crucial factor that you should consider is perhaps the need to distinguish our banking business from that in China. As i like to put it: If we are trustworthy, it’s because we are different; not because we are like China. To put it another way, why should Mainlanders bank in Hong Kong? It’s because we are not like the banks in China. If they trust you enough, the difference in writing will be negligible to them. On the other hand, if you make yourself resemble a bank in China by using SCC, why should they be interested in you?

I am writing this not because I think that SCC is inferior to traditional Chinese characters, but to state my opinion that if your purpose is to attract the attention of potential Mainlander customers, your switch to SCC as a marketing strategy will only backfire.


Paul Sze


4 thoughts on “Hang Seng Bank’s switch to Simplified Chinese characters in their advertisments

  1. Pauline

    Hi Paul, I had EXACTLY the same feeling as you! Unlike you, I can’t read SCC myself. I spent a long time trying to figure out what the advertisement was all about and then gave up! I’m also wondering why they’ve made such a move!

    1. You can’t read simplified Chinese characters, Pauline? I never formally learnt this script. But it’s just some kind of guessing. After a while, you’ll pick it up easily.
      And Hang Seng bank has called back saying that they will discuss my views at their next meeting of the marketing people. I’m not hopeful that they will do anything about that huge poster. But I’m hoping that they will weigh the pros and cons more carefully the next time they want to advertise in SCC.

  2. I never really read Chinese anyway, so it’ll take me AGES to learn simplified Chinese!
    I doubt that Hang Seng Bank will change that poster. Do you think they’re using simplied Chinese due to some kind of political reasons?

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