Magazine article American Banker

AMEX Adds More Cachet, Dialogue to Marketing Mix

Magazine article American Banker

AMEX Adds More Cachet, Dialogue to Marketing Mix

Article excerpt

American Express Co.'s chief marketing officer says the company is using unconventional tactics to make its cardholders feel special and others feel envious.

For instance, at the U.S. Open tennis tournament this summer, cardholders who rode the New York City subways could hop on bicycle taxis and ride for free from the station to the stadium just by flashing their cards. (Amex was one of the tournament's sponsors.)

Customers who could not get the day off from work could drop in at a space Amex rented in midtown Manhattan to watch the matches on a large-screen television.

"We want our cardmembers to feel rewarded with membership, and we want prospects to say, 'Boy, I should get one of those,' " said the marketing officer, John Hayes.

This fall, Amex tried to bring the same feeling of exclusivity to cardholders who watch the television dramas "Lost" and "Prison Break" by giving them online access to episode previews and clues.

"For the [television] network, it's great because it creates deeper involvement," Mr. Hayes said. "For those people who say television advertising is dead, no, it's just very changed. You have to bring imagination to these things."

Joanna Lambert, an Amex spokeswoman, declined to say what the company pays the television networks for the preview privileges, but she said the Internet is a less expensive way to promote the Amex brand than traditional broadcast advertising.

Indeed, 12 years ago, television advertising was nearly 80% of Amex's marketing budget, but it has dwindled to less than 50% this year.

In the third quarter Amex spent almost $1.6 billion on marketing, up 7% from a year earlier. (The figure includes the cost of reward programs and some customer service expenses.)

Amex has also been involving its customers in marketing. For example, last year consumers could fill out and submit a questionnaire, similar to the ones in magazine ads featuring celebrities like Tiger Woods, Ellen DeGeneres, and M. …

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