Amex focusses on image + action plan

Today's chief executive knows exactly how much raw material and labor cost goes into each unit of production and how many sales calls and dollars each salesperson brings in.But it is not always clear what the return is for each dollar...

Today’s chief executive knows exactly how much raw material and labor cost goes into each unit of production and how many sales calls and dollars each salesperson brings in.

But it is not always clear what the return is for each dollar spent on communications.

Increasingly, marketers are demanding to know what they are getting for their money.

Did the campaign sell, or merely entertain? Is the message clear? Is anybody listening?

Work harder

And they are also demanding that their often reduced advertising budgets work even harder than they have in the past.

These are exactly the kinds of questions and demands marketers should be making.

Advertising today should stimulate some specific action or behavior on the part of the prospect or customer – behavior that can be observed and measured, that tells marketers what they got for their money.

Of course, advertising should also build/support a brand’s image – that is fundamental.

Therefore, not only must the advertising increase awareness and reinforce the brand image, it should also stimulate a desired behavior that draws a prospect closer to the sale. This type of advertising we call image + action advertising.

The American Express Corporate Card System campaign used this image + action approach to reach a tough audience, improve awareness and generate sales leads.

In the business-to-business environment in which a highly-targeted audience of decision-makers and key influencers are the prospects, and these individuals are inundated with advertising messages, Amex faced a significant challenge.

As the leader in the Corporate Card category, American Express’ research indicated that to continue to gain market share required increasing awareness of the product category, overall, and Amex’s offering, specifically.

Best prospects

Additionally, the Amex Corporate Card salesforce required assistance in identifying the best prospects for their sales efforts.

Therefore, the objectives of the campaign were twofold – to create awareness for the Amex Corporate Card System and its benefits, and to generate quality leads for the salesforce.

Traditionally, one solution would have been to use print to carry the awareness advertising and direct mail to generate the sales leads.

However, the more innovative and effective solution was to create an image + action advertising campaign that required every medium to both increase awareness and generate sales leads.

This required understanding the key messages that would change the target audience’s attitudes about the brand and would change their behavior.

Amex’s research indicated the target audience, namely, financial decision-makers in medium- to large-sized businesses – vice-presidents of finance, chief financial officers and controllers – were cynical about advertising claims overall, were skeptical about the benefits of a corporate card offering, primarily due to a lack of specific knowledge about the benefits and were bottom-line driven with a ‘prove it to me’ attitude.

The resulting ‘Give Me 5 Good Reasons’ campaign delivered a tangible, down-to-earth and credible message about the benefits of the American Express Corporate Card System.

It focussed on the bottom-line impact and delivered key information to persuade the prospect to take the next step which was to respond to the offer, namely a free Travel and Entertainment Expense Impact Study.

The campaign used sequenced communications to deliver the message, and included teaser ads, polybag sleeves, oversized free-standing inserts, on-page ads in key business newspapers and four-page inserts and on-page ads in leading business and travel publications.

A direct mail package was sent to a highly targetted list of financial decision-makers in medium to large size businesses.

Follow-up package

A follow-up package, sent several weeks after the initial mailing, included a letter and special newspaper supplement that was developed as a joint venture with The Financial Post.

These different formats allowed for diversity and sustained interest throughout the four-month campaign.

And each and every component of the campaign contributed to increasing awareness and generating leads.

By using general advertising and direct marketing techniques to create this campaign, a truly integrated campaign resulted and the aggressive campaign objectives were more easily met.

Importantly, the results were measurable. Tracking studies indicate awareness levels have improved and the targetted number and quality of sales leads was achieved.

In fact, the Amex salesforce responded positively to the campaign in Canada and Amex is planning to launch the campaign in a number of other countries.

Heather Albrecht is vice-president, account director at Toronto-based direct marketing agency Wunderman Worldwide.