I have been thinking a lot about how marketing, specifically integrated marketing, is being used among big companies and discovered that many companies are making the push. But apparently American Express is a marketing genius. If you type in “plum card” into your search engine, you do not find stories touting the wonders of the card, just the wonders of the marketing strategy. Of course, when your target market is businesses who already understand marketing strategies and the best ways to earn your customer, I guess you have to be a little smarter, a little faster, and perhaps, a little purpler. Here is the breakdown of what AmEx used.
The Launch to the Right Crowd… The American Express Open Plum Card launched at the Inc 500 Event in Chicago on September 7, 2007. This event, sponsored and named for Inc Magazine, recognizes the top privately owned companies in the United States. Attendees of the event were each given iPods with a leather case and invited to be the first to apply for the card. Scarcity Marketing… There was a limited first release of 10,000 members, something blogger Jim Bruene calls “scarcity marketing,” putting a number on how many, to get more than enough consumers interested. [You can access the full post at http://www.netbanker.com/2007/11/american_express_plum_card_uses_unique_marketing.html.%5D Bruene noted that the Plum Card website had a countdown clock and a waiting list, which he couldn’t get on fast enough. And so it seems that even savvy businesspeople can be dazzled by marketing.
Spotlighting the Consumer… American Express OPEN also ran several television ads, which most of you have probably seen. The campaign features small businesses and congratulates them on receiving the new card. The television ad I remember was for a company called Pinkberry, someone I had never heard of. The frozen yogurt company is mostly in the western part of the country but that did not stop me from wanting their product. The campaign was simple and astoundingly brilliant. Feature companies in your ads to encourage other companies to apply for your card, and hint at the idea that if they are card members, perhaps they will end up in your advertisements as well. I guess nothing gets a business like free advertising and a pretty new card too. Andrew Jacob, founder of the Jacob Group, says he believes these commercials are currently the best on television. “What better way to get small businesses to apply for the Plum Card than to get them fantasying about being selected by AMEX to be on their commercial? While it would be a long shot, Small business owners “believe” in what they are doing, “believe” they re unstoppable, and “believe their Small business is so great that they may actually have a shot at making it in the AMEX commercial!”
Following the Trend….Though a credit card doesn’t always bring to mind trendsetting fashion, AmEx did hit on a very real trend in American marketing. The color (technically, burgundy) is a fashionable color and represents elegance and sophistication. Tom Julian, president of the Tom Julian Group, says the color “appeals to the emotional side of one’s passions and interests, the individual desire for zest and to be distinct.” Additionally, fruit is all the rage right now, [think Apple and Blackberry].
Making it Accessible…American Express purchased the lead finder (I have no idea what the technical term is called) on Google so that when people went to find it, it was at the top of the page. Another smart move, the company added a tagline to the top spot, “Whose getting a Plum Card? Initial release of 10,000 cards.” American Express also set up a Facebook page so card members could tell everyone how much they loved their new card. Advertising in the Right Place… American Express also ran a series of ads in the Wall Street journal a few weeks after the premiere launch announcing the card. At that point, American Express put out the application invitation to anyone falling within the guidelines: businesses that have revenue between six and seven figures, purchase materials/supplies and inventory in addition to other business items. [You can view the product at www.plumcard.com.]
The American Express campaign’s target audience is certainly one of the most difficult to market, because they know all the strategies and have probably employed most of them. Credit card companies are ruthless in getting people to apply for their cards and anyone who has been to college or a festival or a large tourist attraction knows what I mean. Obviously the campaign was a success, garnering 10,000 card members in less than nine months. However, I will say that American Express has their work cut out for them in differentiating between their charter members and general membership population. With such a heavy push for being one of the first, it is important for AmEx to treat the original 10,000 members as a higher, more loyal class of customers.