The charge card's growth had been stagnant for several years amid fierce competition. But a long-promised turnaround began last June when AmEx broke an attention-getting $200 million global advertising campaign touting what had taken years to assemble: a diverse family of financial products including credit cards, co-branded cards, investment products and advice, travel counseling and other financial services, all under one brand.
The campaign from Ogilvy & Mather, New York, was driven by images of consumers in diverse lifestyles and activities around the world using American Express products under the highly adaptable "do more," line, which has been plugged into nearly three dozen TV and print ads.
"It's important that consumers still view us as enabling their life experiences in travel, cards, and financial services. The `do more' campaign has helped us to capitalize on this broader range of products and services American Express now offers, while still retaining the essence of the brand," says John Hayes, exec VP-global advertising, who shepherded the effort.
Another compelling factor in AmEx's success was its ability to link its award-winning Membership Rewards loyalty program at a time when airline and credit card loyalty programs were cutting back on perks.
Under the "do more" theme, AmEx pitchman comedian Jerry Seinfeld starred again in some of the company's funniest commercials ever. Last month, AmEx also signed golfing phenomenon Tiger Woods as an advertising spokesman; he immediately began appearing in print ads for American Express Financial Advisors under the "do more" theme.
AmEx's purchase volume increased 15.6% in 1996 compared to the previous year, according to credit card industry reports, exceeding the increases of archrival Visa with a 15.5% gain and MasterCard with 9.6% gain. AmEx's cards in circulation surged 9% in the U.S. last year compared to 1995, and 8% worldwide.