New AmEx Blue card gets campaign aimed at small businesses

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American Express Co. will break a new campaign this week to promote Blue for Business, a new version of its Blue credit card aimed at small-business owners.

The new card has many of the same features as its Blue card, including no annual fee and a "smart chip" cardmembers can use to secure online transactions. The chip works with a special card reader -- available free to members during a three-month introductory period -- that connects to the user's PC.

Blue for Business is targeted to the same segment of tech-savvy, entrepreneurial consumers as Blue, but it adds features attractive to small business people who want to take their businesses online, an AmEx spokesman said. Blue for Business will offer a line of credit of up to $50,000 and discounts and services from partner vendors who help cardmembers build Web sites and e-commerce activities.

`'As we introduced Blue in the consumer world, it was apparent that there was a segment of small business that was attracted by the Blue card," said Peter Vaughn, VP-advertising, small business services.


The business card will be backed by the same type of multimedia effort that launched Blue last fall. Print, online and outdoor ads from Ogilvy & Mather, New York, and direct response TV ads from Draft Worldwide, Chicago, break today, followed by direct mail from Draft and branding TV spots from Ogilvy.

AmEx also plans an event promotion in May, similar to the Central Park rock concert that introduced Blue last year. Momentum, New York, handled the launch event and will also handle the May promotion.

Print ads are similar to those for Blue, featuring lines such as "Take me to your server" and "Uses Net to land customers." The ads continue Blue's tagline, "Forward."

The similarity is intentional, since American Express is still in the midst of building Blue's brand identity among consumers, Mr. Vaughn said.

American Express would not disclose spending for this effort, but executives familiar with the campaign said it would be smaller than the estimated $75 million spent on Blue's launch last fall.

The Blue card was one of several efforts launched by AmEx in the late '90s to reverse a drop in share. AmEx's share of the $1.34 trillion U.S. credit card market dropped to 13.9% in 1998, from 25% in 1985, according to The Nilson Report. Observers chalk that up to the aggressive marketing and new features added by its main competitors, Visa International and MasterCard International.

The Blue card comes at a time when most credit card issuers are looking for ways to approach the online marketplace, said Bruce Brittain, president of market researcher Brittain Associates.

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