American Express Black Just Sells Itself

Marketing Budget? We Don't Need No Stinking Marketing Budget!

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What's the pinnacle of marketing? To spend nothing, said John Hayes, chief marketing officer at American Express, who commands a billion- dollar-plus marketing budget.

Mr. Hayes, speaking to hundreds of digital media executives at the Interactive Advertising Bureau's Mixx Conference in a cramped Times Square hotel ballroom, said the perfect example of this is American Express's much coveted "black card."

"You know the model of conversation is working when you can spend nothing on marketing," he said. "We spend nothing to market black card. And yet the demand is unabated."

He said he gets two questions when people find out he works for American Express. The first: "Can you get me a black card?" The second: "What does it do?"

"You want it and you don't know what it does," he said. "By that point you know you've entered the conversation."