American Express shows that rewards work for small businesses, too

The brand enlists three entrepreneurs, including Toronto Raptor Fred Vanvleet, to show the value of its Business Edge card.
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American Express Canada is spotlighting a broad range of industry leaders to promote its American Express Business Edge Card to young entrepreneurs.

The financial services firm has teamed up with three small business owners – the Toronto Raptors’ Fred VanVleet, Toronto restaurateur and chef Grant van Gameren and 22-year-old Taylor Frankel, entrepreneur and co-founder of cosmetics brand, Nudestix – to associate the brand with drive and ambition.

The 60-second hero video sees Fred VanVleet defiantly talking about how he was born to outwork the competition in arenas outside of basketball. A series of shorter videos gleans insights from all three entrepreneurs.

According to American Express Canada marketing director, Katherine Dillon, the brand had not released a small business product in a while, though its insights showed that athletes would resonate with both consumers and business owners. On the consumer side, as part of its sports theme and the new unified global brand rolled out this year. In the summer, American Express also enlisted Toronto Blue Jay third-baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. as part of a broader effort to change perceptions that it is “just” a credit card company.

According to Dillon, regardless of their industry, each entrepreneur “shares the same attributes of hustle and drive, but talks in a different voice.” VanVleet talks about his favourite apps, the importance of face-to-face meetings, and items essential to his business (like the reward points offered on the card). Van Gameren, by contrast, conveys the energy of someone who works unconventional hours (the restaurateur’s spots are filmed at different times throughout the day).  Frankel, who took a year off studying at a business program at Ryerson to start her business, demonstrates how a younger, up-and-coming entrepreneur can benefit from Amex services.

Dillon tells strategy that, based on the research it’s done, there is an opportunity to empower small business owners with a low-fee product that gives them rewards on daily spending, which they can redeem toward their business expenses or travel.

“Canada is a points-hungry market. I see tremendous value in that, especially with small businesses,” Dillon says.

According to JD Power, cash rewards are the most popular rewards (30%), followed by airline tickets (23%). In that same study, American Express came second to Tangerine in terms of overall customer satisfaction. However, in Canada, Visa and Mastercard still retain the dominant market share of the credit card business.

The marketing strategy is centred around a mix of digital content, online video, social media and influencer engagement, including partnerships with over 40 business owners across Canada sharing their stories in the social and digital creative. Digital creative was developed by Ogilvy Canada, while Notch Video created the hero video. Other agency partners include North Strategic (social media, PR and influencer marketing), BT/A (experiential events) and UM (media).