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Marcy Shinder, VP-brand management, American Express OPEN

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Title: VP-brand management
Company: American Express OPEN
Years in current job: 3
Quote: “The economy has challenged us to be really innovative in how we market. It's not about the amount of money, and it's not about the new channels. It is really about the way people want to be marketed to today versus before the recession.”

Marcy Shinder, VP-brand management at American Express OPEN, has driven success for the business through her commitment to the small-business customer—the core target for OPEN.

This commitment is evident across all OPEN platforms, from the launch of a redesigned Web site (www.openforum.com), to its use of social media networks to build the brand, to partnerships with entrepreneurial associations, to fully integrated marketing campaigns.

“The reality is, any time you are faced with the kind of adversity that was facing our company and customers, within the marketing function itself and certainly the entire economy, you have to challenge yourself every day to think about how you are going to turn that situation into an advantage and be resilient,” Shinder said.

Being in an industry that has been particularly hard hit by the recession—the financial services sector—and serving small-business customers struggling with the economy, Shinder and her team faced significant challenges this year. They responded with a redesign of the OPEN Forum Web site, providing resources to help small businesses cope with the economy, as well as social networking features such as Connectodex, an online tool that enables small businesses to set up profiles to connect with customers and partners.

Shinder and her team also made extensive use of social media tools such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and blogs to connect with small-business owners and drive them to the OPEN Forum site. She herself has more than 2,000 followers on Twitter, and she uses the network to tweet about small businesses and provide resources to entrepreneurs. So far, Twitter has driven more than 50,000 users to the OPEN Forum site.

“We call it "earned media,' ” Shinder said. “We put something out there that is so valuable, people share it on their own.”

Since its relaunch in July, the OPEN Forum site has attracted more than 2.1 million unique visitors, and more than 1,000 small businesses have set up profiles on Connectodex.

In addition to social media, OPEN is using traditional media to drive its message, such as an integrated campaign called “Anthem.” The effort, which includes TV and online, features small-business customers and highlights the important role they play in an economic recovery.

“We continue to use all traditional channels,” Shinder said. “Different people like different types of channels. Some people like direct mail; some people like being at a trade show; some people like online; some people like video. So you have to be where they are.”

This year, American Express introduced a new brand identity for OPEN that is being used in all its communications. “As part of that, we have a commitment to creating content,” Shinder said. “So anything you see from American Express, regardless of the channel, is news you can use.”

Another big initiative for Shinder this year was forming partnerships with organizations that are advocates for small businesses, such as the Women Presidents Organization and Count Me In for Women's Economic Independence.

“Our success is rooted in our brand promise, which is to help our customers grow their businesses and be resilient in these tough economic times,” Shinder said.

—K.M.

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