Amex Canada Campaign a `paint-by-number success’

Client: Amex CanadaProduct: American Express Corporate CardAgency: Wunderman WorldwideThorough research up front about the expectations and demands of its customers provided the foundation for a direct marketing campaign promoting the American Express Corporate Card System, says an executive with Markham, Ont.-based...

Client: Amex Canada

Product: American Express Corporate Card

Agency: Wunderman Worldwide

Thorough research up front about the expectations and demands of its customers provided the foundation for a direct marketing campaign promoting the American Express Corporate Card System, says an executive with Markham, Ont.-based Amex Canada.

‘I’d like to say the success we had with our `5 good reasons’ campaign was a paint-by-numbers success,’ says Peter Orrell, the company’s director of travel management services marketing.

‘We simply followed the direction that our clients were giving us,’ Orrell says.

‘We conducted focus groups, usage and attitude surveys, all kinds of stuff to find out what it was they wanted to know about the corporate card. What were the unanswered questions.’

The company also conducted research into the personality traits of its typical customer, which it found is an extremely pragmatic person, unimpressed by promises and hungry for information.

The creative, which simply spells out five good reasons why a company should consider signing up for the American Express Corporate Card System, evolved from that.

Orrell credits the campaign – which included direct mail, direct response fsis in newspapers and magazines and on-page advertising with a direct response component – with a dramatic increase in brand and product performance awareness among the prospect group.

‘People started to understand that the corporate card was a whole lot more than just a payment mechanism. That it could not only save them money at the point of purchase, through negotiations with suppliers, but streamline their administrative processes as well.’

The hook was a free mini-audit of a company’s travel and entertainment expenses.

Q. How did the campaign come about?

A. Travel and entertainment represents the third-largest expense for most companies. And yet it’s very seldom managed in the same way that data processing costs, for example, are managed.

We wanted to sensitize our prospect pool to the fact that ‘this is a huge expense, we can help you get control over it.’

That sensitization made the prospect pool very receptive to a phone call from American Express.

Q. What were your objectives?

A. There were three. Education. Lead generation or response. And brand awareness about what a corporate card system really is. We achieved or overachieved on all three.

On the awareness side, we had very significant increases in brand awareness that this was a system and not just a payment vehicle.

In terms of response, I wouldn’t want to release numbers, but I can tell you we have generated tens of millions of dollars of business.

Q. Why did you choose direct marketing as the vehicle to get your message across?

A. The most important aspect of any communication is going to be bottom-line impact. In other words, how are we going to get leads into the hands of the salesforce?

We looked at a full range of options, and we quickly dismissed general advertising because the target market is so specific in this case. The business-to-business market, we felt, needed a direct response approach. We couldn’t just put image advertising out there.

We also had the objective of educating prospects. We wanted to make sure that our prospects could understand the category because it is a fairly sophisticated, complex product.

We wanted to make sure that they could ask five or six very key questions, particularly of a competitor’s salesperson, to find out whether the competitor’s product would meet their needs in the same way that the American Express product would.

Q. What was it about the creative that made the campaign work?

A. I guess the biggest challenge we had was in giving the reader enough information to keep going.

We knew that if we simply gave them a cute little promise that we’ll save you money, that would never fly. They wanted to know what we would save them and how we would do it, too. And how it would work for their company.

We did a great deal of research on what it would take to get them to open up the fsi – which headline was more effective, which copy type would be more likely to get someone in our target market to look at it. We did a lot of work on the balance between white space and print.

We wanted to give them a great deal of information in as few words as possible. They are very busy people, and if you give them too much information, it goes into the pile labelled ‘I’ll read this next week.’

I guess that’s one of the things I feel about direct response – typically, it can tend to be pretty wordy. There’s a lot of information and a lot of reminders.

This audience was saying, ‘Tell me at once, in a concise manner, and don’t tell me again. I can synthesize the information.’ We’ve taken that learning into other vehicles as well. Making things much more friendly to read.