American Express

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American Express

Headquarters: New York Brand established: 1850 2005 advertising: $602.8 million 2006 Interbrand/BusinessWeek ranking: No. 14 Brand Value: $12 billion CoreBrand ranking: 27



STRENGTHS: Gregory: The company continues to build its brand in a steady, consistent manner. Brand Power has grown from 70 to 78 over the past three years. It has grown from 62 in 2000. Brand equity is also growing—from 17.8% of market cap in 2003 to 19.1% in 2006. They are a real value powerhouse. Roth: American Express continues to be one of the few truly differentiated brands in the financial category. They’ve been able to maintain this strong profile by continually innovating across product offerings and communications. CHALLENGES: Roth: On the “watch out” side, Amex has now entered the bank card world; it will face a very experienced and aggressive group of competitors who will fight even harder to defend turf they once claimed as their own. Ries: Its biggest challenge is the loss of retail outlets because of high fees charged by the company.

What began as a simple American Express card for business—one green card—has exploded into a rainbow not only of card colors but also of functions and features for a variety of business needs.

“They do a very good job of segmenting the marketplace. They understand how to deal with different people’s needs with different products,” said Interbrand group CEO Jez Frampton. “With OPEN for Business, they’ve created good awareness in a very short period of time. It’s distinctly positioned and continues to develop their whole, overall portfolio strategy.”

In Interbrand’s latest annual poll of best brands, American Express ranked No. 14, the same as in 2005, while its brand value increased 6% year over year.

As part of its overall strategy and messaging, American Express extended its umbrella marketing campaign this year. The “My Life. My Card.” campaign, which debuted in late 2004, added a directors series this year, allowing celebrity directors to tell—and direct—their own American Express card stories. M. Night Shyamalan’s two-minute short film of a surreal walk through a restaurant was the first of the series and bowed in March.

Wes Anderson followed in April with his own two-minute film, which followed him on a set and showed how he makes decisions to make movies. At one point, he hands his American Express card to an assistant for a $15,000 helicopter pad purchase. (“Keep the receipt,” he says.)

A new, nondirector spot tied to the U.S. Open in September featured tennis star Andy Roddick in a match against the classic videogame Pong.

American Express OPEN continued its small-business push with a series of educational events and the Make Mine a $Million promotion for women business owners.

On the corporate side, the focus remained on midsize businesses because, as an American Express spokeswoman said, they “represent a huge opportunity since many of them have not had business cards.” The company targeted them with a print campaign promoting expense management, along with Web advertising and exhibiting at dozens of events attended by financial, purchasing and travel management executives.

The company also increased its sales force last year, the spokeswoman said.

American Express added 1.9 million cards in the second quarter for a total of 7.1 million added year over year, including a 42% increase in network partner cards. Business spending through American Express grew in the U.S., with small-business spending up 18% and corporate spending up 15% year over year. Globally, American Express noted it achieved double-digit growth in each major region.

—Beth Snyder Bulik

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