Amex to debut international branding campaign

For the first time in six years, American Express is planning to debut an ad campaign that will highlight the brand, as opposed to specific properties.
'We'll take it from its historic product focus, where we might have looked at the Air Miles card, into a brand message,' says president and general manager Beth Horowitz, who joined Markham, Ont.-based Amex Canada this summer from the company's London, U.K. offices, where she was SVP, product development for International Consumer Card Services. 'It's time,' she adds.

For the first time in six years, American Express is planning to debut an ad campaign that will highlight the brand, as opposed to specific properties.

‘We’ll take it from its historic product focus, where we might have looked at the Air Miles card, into a brand message,’ says president and general manager Beth Horowitz, who joined Markham, Ont.-based Amex Canada this summer from the company’s London, U.K. offices, where she was SVP, product development for International Consumer Card Services. ‘It’s time,’ she adds.

In fact, a campaign from New York-based AOR Ogilvy & Mather is currently in development in collaboration from O&M agencies in other markets. It may also be adapted for localization and will likely break in a few countries later this year, including the U.S., before hitting the airwaves in Canada in 2003. Horowitz says the spots will be ‘global in perspective.’

‘That doesn’t mean you’re always aiming for the lowest common denominator – but you can’t ever be blinded and let one market take over.’

The advertising will speak to the company’s ‘historic brand heritage in terms of service, integrity, security and success,’ explains Horowitz, who adds that it will also support Amex’s growth strategies in Canada. They include: expansion of card membership; growth of business with each individual cardholder; and development of the company’s non-card offerings.

Amex Canada will also be redefining its psychographics – via proprietary research that has been piloted in other markets – which will focus on how, why and where existing and prospective consumers make purchases. ‘We’ll be redefining that, but I’d say we tend to [speak to] upper- and middle-upper-income customers who are correlated with success and know what they want in life.’

There are also plans to continue to explore niche targets for future potential programs like the Tiger Woods-branded credit card, which launched this summer and is geared at avid golfers. ‘We realize that all customers aren’t the same, so to have a one-size-fits-all product strategy would not be right,’ she says. ‘As we get into segmentation and understand where the growth potential is, and where we can add value to those customers, we’ll be coming up with the right value proposition.’

Since Canada is earmarked as one of the top five markets internationally for Amex, Horowitz says that it is an ideal test market. ‘Canada is a complex, dynamic, as well as competitive marketplace. So when we know [something] works in Canada, we know it’s exportable outside of Canada.’