The Business Marketing Association of New York last month awarded its Communicator of the Year award to American Express Co. for the campaign that launched the Plum Card for small businesses.
Presented Sept. 23 during Advertising Week in New York, the award singled out American Express for the campaign's impact and unique engagement with its target audience. It was the 43rd annual presentation of the award.
“This really went to a team of winners at American Express, rather than any one winner,” said Ned Clausen, BMA New York president. “One measure of its success was the great response by business owners.”
The Plum Card offers a line of credit to small businesses with high materials costs and variable cash flow, and helps reduce accounts receivable risks. If card holders pay their business charges early, they can receive a discount of up to 2%.
The original name of the card was Business Flex, but the company decided it needed something catchier.
“The question we're asked most often is, "Why plum?' ” said Alexander L. Chang, director-global advertising and brand management at American Express. “We wanted a color that was brand new in the marketplace and that indicated something creative. But the name also reflects the aspirations of small-business owners as they move forward—a plum job, a plum assignment.”
Chang said 400 colors were considered for the card before the final purplish hue was chosen.
The card debuted at the Inc. 500 Conference and Awards ceremony in Chicago in September 2007. Small-and-midsize-business and entrepreneur honorees at the event were the first to receive the card.
The campaign went on to restrict the initial release of cards to 10,000 initial “charter members,” creating a sense of exclusivity and limited supply.
Initial buzz was strong. American Express received 35,000 unique visits to the Plum Card Web site (plumcard.com) before the product was made generally available the following month.
Direct response TV highlighted the businesses selected for the initial Plum Card release, and the businesses themselves were given large plum-colored signage to display, signaling they were among the first Plum Card recipients.
The lead agency was Crispin Porter & Bogusky. It was American Express' first campaign with the Miami-based shop.
“We've played a role in the small-business category for some time,” said Peter Vaughn, VP-global brand management for American Express, “but with the development of the Plum Card it was critical to have a fundamental insight into what keeps small-business owners up at night.” M