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Not many marketers can be said to live their brand's tagline, but, having done tours in six countries for HSBC, Kevin Martin makes a pretty strong case when he says, "I live the world's local bank."

For the past 16 months, the bank's 45-year-old senior VP-head of customer marketing has been in the U.S. helping HSBC USA stake a claim in New York City. Last spring, it rolled out a $10 million-$15 million marketing push from WPP Group's JWT to expand the brand's reach in the Big Apple, blanketing city dwellers with an innovative media plan that hit them where they live and work. One highlight was wraparound ads in Grand Central Terminal and Penn Station.

"We took New York's position and asked what is so fabulous about it and what can HSBC marry to it to create an overall brand position," says Mr. Martin, who ran HSBC's retail operations in Australia before moving to the U.S.

Going up against behemoths like J.P. Morgan Chase, Citigroup and local institutions like Bank of New York isn't easy, but HSBC's unaided brand awareness doubled between March and July, based on data provided by the bank. "The brand is going somewhere in the U.S.," says James Gregory, CEO of CoreBrand. "In terms of brand power, they've become a player."

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