Social Issues / American Express; A Look Into Social Marketing

American Express; A Look Into Social Marketing

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Autor:  anton  05 May 2011
Tags:  American,  Express,  Social,  Marketing
Words: 2850   |   Pages: 12
Views: 472

American Express is a company with a lot of history that continues to excel in the Global financial market. From credit cards and travelers cheques to business finance management and social cause involvement, American Express handles worldwide business in a manner that is simply unmatched and unbeatable by other Global financial companies.

Currently American Express is the 15th most valuable brand in the world. Its worth is estimated at a staggering $20.87 billion. Founded in 1850 in Buffalo, New York by three men, Henry Wells, William Fargo, and John Butterfield, American Express became an official business. Soon after the announcement, the company moved to Manhattan, purchased a few small rise buildings and set up shop. Today the headquarters building is directly across from ground zero in downtown Manhattan and has been the official site of American Express since April 1986.

When considering the reach that American Express has to businesses and consumers, Globalization is an idea that comes to mind. As the global market continues to expand at its rapid rate, more offices are needed to fit the growing demand. American Express has set up global offices in many countries such as, Toronto, Canada, Brighton, England, UK offices in Sussex, the Asia-Pacific headquarters in Singapore and the Latin American & Caribbean division is located in Miami, FL. The alliance that �AMEX’ has as a global network stretches worldwide and is still in further development and expansion.

As you might remember back a year, AmEx was using a slogan for their advertising campaign called; “My Life. My Card.” Described as, “The theme, appearing in ads for American Express charge cards since November 2004, is being supplanted, beginning Monday, with a campaign that replaces a general, image-oriented approach with a specific, product-focused tack.” (Are You? 1) This campaign was semi-successful even though it came to an end a few months ago. In light of the new change it was time to launch a new advertising campaign. This campaign that is still running currently has been extremely successful. “The change is embodied by a rhetorical question, ''Are you a card member?'' -- Amex-speak for ''cardholder'' -- which is answered with demonstrations of what American Express believes, are the benefits of its charge cards.”(Are You? 1) The new question, Are you a card member has customers and potential customers asking themselves, are they? If not, some may question the statement or others might simply discard the whole idea all together.

When American Express asks consumers and businesses are you a card member? The people that like to or would like to identify themselves with the company feel that it is an easy process and that you have a sense of belonging and feeling like a human and not a statistic. Instead of telling consumers about your product, AmEx asks a question where one has to think and ask them the question to whether or not they are an existing card member and by doing so, being part of an �elite’ class of credit card holders. “The strategy is to convince consumers that there are meaningful advantages to carrying the green, gold, platinum and other colorful charge cards -- even if it means paying fees not assessed for the rival credit cards like Capital One, Discover, MasterCard and Visa.” (Are You? 1) Each credit card states a given credit limit and rewards classification status. For example, the platinum card which is gold and no has no credit limit also includes the best rewards program at American Express. The platinum card also has a $450 membership fee but the balance must be paid off in full each month. If the platinum card is not what you were looking for, AmEx has a card to best suit your needs. The green card is a preferred rewards card where the user earns points for rewards, can pay their balance off in full over time and carries an annual fee of $95. The color variation in their credit cards helps distinguish different levels of customers that are all card members.

Changing paths for a brief moment, American Express has one branch of its business that has done surprisingly well. Travelers Cheques are a staple in Amex’s business and put the business on the board as far as being a truly international company. Denominations in 1891 were as follows, $10, $20, $50, and $100. Today these denominations exist but also include higher value notes to suit their clientele’s wants and needs. At this current time American Express continues to be one of the leaders in the Travelers Cheques market. While on the subject of travel, when card members want to redeem their awards towards travel, the customer does not have to look very far. Reason being, Amex has set up their own travel agencies to deal with the customers every need and to increase profits due to the nature of providing this service internally within the business.

American Express’ great push for the preservation and promotion of Free Trade does nothing but help their business and promote a fair economy. In a Toronto conference, Vice President Harry Freeman discusses how Amex is praised for its conservation work with Free Trade and what the company has done to keep the train rolling. ”Amex was doing "the Lord's work," as one free trade coalition member put it, for larger rewards than the Canadian market. In speeches, Freeman and others explained that the deal with Canada would be a prototype for what American Express hoped to achieve around the globe.

"I think, particularly in financial services, the larger companies will be looking at what I would call a niche strategy, looking for niche here or a niche there to go into the Canadian market," Freeman told a U.S. congressional trade committee last year.

With 28 million card members on file, assets of $116 billion and business booming around the world, building a niche here and niche there appears to be working for American Express.” (What it wants 2)

Moving forward in time brings us to a point in advertising that has always seemed to work; using celebrities to advertise your company’s product and/or services. American Express has been using this technique for some time now but as of more recently, has been using the services of celebrity card members to speak on how their American Express card helps them in their life in many ways. Having the card be more than something tied to finances and more tied to life and the way each one of us lives it is one of the major selling points for the celebrity card members advertising campaign. For three decades, American Express has used famous "members" (card holders) to sell cards to consumers. “From the famous 1970s ad campaign asking consumers to identify celebrity members to the current "My Life. My Card," ads starring Robert DeNiro, Tiger Woods, Ellen DeGeneres and big-wave surfer Laird Hamilton, AmEx has created an image of high-end exclusivity.

Those famous green cards may simply be functional pieces of plastic. But in the rarified world of AmEx marketing, they are passports to a better lifestyle. And membership has its privileges.” (Tradition 1)

The general public and current card members were intrigued by the offering of each card and what kind of “rewarding lifestyle” it came with. With the success of the cards, the slogan known as, asks “Are you a Card Member?” was released to the general public in the form of a large scale marketing and advertising effort. Currently being used as a weapon in the financial field, Are you a Card Member, that started May 15, 2007 and ended August 15, 2007 has increased purchases and newly enrolled card members. Immediately after this campaign took off, American Express’ �Members Project’ was launched. “A part of the "Are You a Card member?" campaign, the celebrity-encrusted Members Project asks people to visit, where they can suggest, discuss and vote on "innovative, achievable projects that will have a broad, positive impact on the world." Projects can be geared toward arts and entertainment, business and finance, education, environment and wildlife, fun, health and fitness, and community development.” (Shake up 1) American Express is willing to donate up to $5 million towards the winning �project.’ With a generous donation like that, the company can expect to see a lot of positive and well appreciated exposure. AmEx figured that the celebrities that they have used for advertisements in the past were usually well liked and popular among the nation. This lead to the obvious, American Express had to think about who does advertising for them and assemble a small team of the best to deliver the exciting message about the Members Project.

The cast that Amex recruited for their television commercial that famous film director Martin Scorsese directed is impressive at least. Each celebrity made a very quick and brief sentence or two about a need for concern for the world around us. What was said by each celebrity on the TV spot;

Alicia Keys: It's a great gift to be in a position to make a difference.

Sheryl Crow: Being in the public eye enables us to draw attention to things that matter, like the environment.

Andre Agassi: Children at risk.

Shaun White: African relief.

Alicia Keys: Medicines for those in need.

Tim: Or keeping Lake Winnipesauke clean. (Scorsese 1)

Tim is a �random’ person that happened to be passing through the set and by mistake, over heard what the celebrities were saying and decided to jump in and mention Lake Winnipesauke in New Hampshire. It is the state’s largest lake. Shawn White then claimed that he had been there and it was “nice.” At this point Scorsese does not know whether or not to keep Tim in the shot but then mentions that he has “a nice face” and decides to keep him in it. Ellen DeGeneres finishes out the commercial by stating that, "I swam in it once. When I got out I had to take my bathing suit off and it burst into flames. It happens any time I swim." (Scorsese 1) This selection of well-known celebrities expressing their concern and much appreciated support on national television provides a sense of comfort in doing the right thing because a favorite celebrity of theirs told them about the members’ project and how they can help.

The chart above shows the key attributes of both Habitat for Humanity and the Members Project from a volunteer point of view. American Express has clearly excelled in informing the public about the project. The low ranking on the time factor is due to short three months card members are allowed to post ideas and then vote on the best entries. If the project is offered every year, American Express should expect to see their business expand as people become more environmentally conscious. After the voting narrowed down a list of the top fifty ideas it was time to vote again to shrink the field down to twenty five. A few short weeks later the top five project ideas were chosen to be voted upon by all card members online on American Express’ special website at The winner that took the cake with 32,182 votes was to provide safe drinking water worldwide with the help of UNICEF. The way the money was raised was that Amex promised to donate $1 to the project for each card member that signed up, with a limit of $5 million. So far American Express donated at least $2 million to the cause plus any other funds that are received in the meantime. (Members Project winner 1)

American Express’ long history of performing social good has continued with this project but it is a step beyond previous efforts. Elaine Fogel, a member of, an online community of marketing professionals that is currently trucking along at a membership count of over 290,000 active members. Elaine was discussing how impressed she was with the idea and concept of the American Express Members Project and mentioned, “It's creative. It's innovative and can likely capture the hearts of older Millennials. It's a great acquisition tool for Amex and another nugget to add to their corporate social responsibility bag of good deeds. This is corporate philanthropy at its best. It's the ultimate win-win situation.” (Social 1)

Another added bonus for use by card members is the ability to check on updates on how the clean drinking water project is working out. There are pictures and blog entries from volunteers about how the funds from the members’ project is greatly helping those in need and the less fortunate.

Before the members’ project was announced, the previous social good campaign that was in place was to promote the stop of AIDS by means of the American Express RED card. And as a founding member of RED, for each card member, every $1 that is spent on the card, Amex would donate a minimum of 1% of each dollar to AIDS prevention and research. “American Express RED will be the first credit card to meet payment needs of a new and growing group of individuals termed �Conscience Consumers’. These are consumers who make decisions about the brands they purchase based on their social, ethical, and environmental values. The Future Laboratory4 estimates there are currently 1.5m �Conscience Consumers’ in the UK and this figure is set to rise to 3.9m by 2009.” (Red Card 1) As with the members’ project, conscience consumers are what American Express is going after to get involved and become a card member. In this instance, AmEx simply �stepped their game up’ and proved to the public that they are a company that cares about social matters and making sure they are involved with the community. This also proved that as a company, Amex is committed to providing the funds to make dreams and brilliant ideas into a reality.

"Through The Members Project, we brought together our community of Card members in a new, interactive way that tapped into ideas and causes they are most passionate about," said Jud Linville, President and CEO, Consumer Services at American Express. "Our Card members truly rallied around project ideas, encouraging Card members across the country to get involved -- now they can feel great that a difference will be made thanks to their votes and efforts." ” Over the years, American Express has supported causes that are important to Card members, merchant partners and the general public, from reopening the Statue of Liberty after 9/11 to fighting hunger and preserving historic sites around the world. Through these programs, including The Members Project, American Express is providing an outlet for consumers' desire to "do good." (AAAA 1-2)

When I first considered American Express as a whole I thought to myself about credit cards and rich folks. When a quick glance is taken, one will be able to see how the company is constantly striving to better social good and beneficial projects. With the company’s long history of giving back to the community, good press continues to turn out as American Express ups the ante on frequent donating. AmEx is one of the top companies that sets the standard for philanthropy. The view in the publics’ eye could be any better with this progressing system of ideas.

Works Cited

"'Children's Safe Drinking Water' Project Idea Voted the Winner of American Express' Members Project by Card members." AAAA SmartBrief. 7 Aug. 2007. 18 Sept. 2007 <>.

"American Express- the Members Project- the Scorsese Commercial." SplendAd. 17 June 2007. 18 Sept. 2007 <>.

"American Express Red Card." Cause Marketing Forums. 26 Jan. 2006. 18 Sept. 2007 <>.

Aun, Fred. "AmEx Interactive Effort to 'Shake Up the World'" ClickZ. 5 June 2007. 18 Sept. 2007 <>.

Diebel, Linda. "How American Express Gets What It Wants." The Toronto Star 11 Feb. 1989, Saturday Second ed., sec. D1. LexisNexis. Auraria Library, Denver. 18 Sept. 2007. Keyword: American Express.

Diebel, Linda. "How American Express Gets What It Wants." The Toronto Star 11 Feb. 1989, Saturday Second ed., sec. D1. LexisNexis. Auraria Library, Denver. 18 Sept. 2007. Keyword: American Express.

Fogel, Elaine. "Amex Brings American Idol Concept to Social Responsibility." Marketing Profs. 17 May 2007. 18 Sept. 2007 <>.

Health, Paul. "American Express : Expanding the Consumer Value Proposition." The Asian Banker (1998). LexisNexis. Auraria Library, Denver. 18 Sept. 2007. Keyword: American Express.

Krauska, Greg. "American Express Members Project - Blue Ocean Model for Nonprofits." Innovate Rotary. 17 May 2007. 18 Sept. 2007 <>.

McCarthy, Michael. "American Express Sticks with Tradition of Celebrity Pitches." USA Today 7 Mar. 2005, sec. 7B. EBSCOhost. Auraria Library, Denver. 18 Sept. 2007. Keyword: American Express.

"The Members Project." The Members Project. Apr.-May 2007. 18 Sept. 2007 <>.

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