Stupid. Baffling. Brilliant.

Critics have been quick to disparage this new HSBC ad, creative folks love it, and others are simply baffled. And that’s the whole point.

HSBC would like consumers to know that the bank values people who think differently, because “different values make the world a richer place.”

It’s a distinctive branding platform, to be sure. But is it a meaningful and compelling one, especially in the midst of today’s economic crisis?

Frankly, I’m just glad to see a financial institution talk about “values” at all. So I’m keeping an open mind, despite feeling a bit burned out already by the bank’s tri-panel print/poster campaign.

The trick is how can HSBC transform its brand story into an equally distinctive experience for customers? After visiting a branch recently, I didn’t get that. But, then again, maybe my values are just different.