Magazine article Marketing

Blue Blooded

Magazine article Marketing

Blue Blooded

Article excerpt

Debra Davies is a worried woman. Her 16-month-old son is becoming a terrorist; her husband has a demanding job running a computer software firm and, as head of credit cards at American Express, she's had a bit of a busy week overseeing Blue, the biggest card launch in ten years, with the simultaneous roll-out of a new systems platform to support it.

It ought to be enough to preoccupy anyone, but Davies has a seemingly more pressing concern - Glen Hoddle's choice for the final England 22.

"Will Gascoigne be fit?" she asks. No, he won't. "I'm worried." You should be. "He hasn't played a full game for so long." And he won't this summer. Haven't you got more serious things to worry about?

This zestful, youthful, work-to-live attitude is at the heart of American Express's credit card launch. And although Davies is on the cusp of the new card's upper age profile, she happily admits her life view is true Blue. "It's to do with attitude. It's aspirational, innovative, fun. We've tried to use all the positive things our focus groups thought of Amex, things like good service, prestige and value, and made it relevant for 23- to 35-year-olds. Before this, they admired the brand but there wasn't a product there for them," she says.

Creating the image to appeal to this young, affluent set has meant Amex shedding the business-focused, global branding it has favoured in the past and which the wealthy professional has been prepared to pay for. But Davies claims this doesn't make Blue the poor man's Platinum.

"We have to expand, and in the next three years we think 50% of all new cardholders in the UK will be Blue members," she says. "We've invested [pounds]5m in advertising. The high production values of the ads, their placing in broadsheet supplements and glossies such as Marie Claire and GQ, plus late-night TV ads on Channel 4 will all retain the Amex branding of affluence and a classy feel while appealing to the younger people."

Signing up more outlets to accept Amex has been a vital part of preparing the ground for a broader customer base. All the major supermarkets now take the card, with Superdrug the latest to join, perhaps suggesting that Blue is more cheap and cheerful than Amex's other products. Not true, says Davies. "We're only providing what our existing customers were asking for."

'Do blue' is the message of the TV ads, which flash images of models dressing, skydiving and clubbing to the sound of New Order's Blue Monday. …

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