CAMPAIGNS: Amex targets the young with Blue - Product Launch

American Express is the world’s largest card issuer, and the Blue Card was set to be its biggest launch in the UK for ten years. However, in the 12 months leading up to the launch in May 1998, 21 new credit cards came on to the market, so a campaign was needed to make the Blue Card stand out from its competitors.

American Express is the world’s largest card issuer, and the Blue

Card was set to be its biggest launch in the UK for ten years. However,

in the 12 months leading up to the launch in May 1998, 21 new credit

cards came on to the market, so a campaign was needed to make the Blue

Card stand out from its competitors.



Amex carried out research into the credit card market and found that

23- to 35 year-olds in particular associated its products with an older,

more business-focused generation. Hill and Knowlton introduced Amex to

cultural psychographics analysts Synergy to identify ways to target this

market.



Objectives



To generate widespread coverage of the Blue Card launch in consumer,

lifestyle and personal finance media. To set the Blue Card apart from

other credit card launches and to support Amex’s efforts to target a

younger market.



Tactics



Synergy estimates that 50 per cent of the UK population will prioritise

lifestyle over career, or be ’inner directed’, by the year 2010. Using

this research to determine a target audience, Hill and Knowlton

distributed a bespoke media pack containing tailored press releases,

product details and research highlights, and a broadcast task force was

set up to encourage radio and TV coverage.



A number of sponsored events were organised over the launch weekend to

attract target audience attention, including an aerobatics display. A

number of planes were branded with the Blue Card ’Do Blue’ logo, and

were taken to every major air show in the country over the summer

period. Tailored messages directed at the personal finance media

highlighted the benefits of the product itself. These included a one per

cent money back offer on all credit card payments, which would be raised

to five per cent during the month of November.



The marketing media was targeted with a heavyweight pounds 5 million

advertising campaign by Ogilvy and Mather, and key marketing journalists

were given advance access to Blue Card advertising before the official

advertising launch. H&K established sponsorship for leading fashion

designer, Alexander McQueen, during London Fashion Week in September.

Blue lighting and seating were used at his catwalk show, and McQueen

designed a limited edition card with a print run of 500, which was

distributed to celebrities. A number were made available to the public

exclusively through Harrods, and one card was displayed at the British

Design Museum.



Results



The campaign exceeded its objectives. The one per cent money back

message generated 24 national press items and the limited edition card

was the subject of features in titles such as Vogue, Elle, Tatler,

i-D and the Face. The issue was covered on Reuters and the PA news

wires.



Synergy used lifestyle issues rather than demographic profiles to obtain

results, and the research findings generated comprehensive features in

the Times, the Guardian, the Independent, and Sunday Business. The

McQueen show, including an interview with the designer against an Amex

blue backdrop, was broadcast on TV stations worldwide. The limited

edition card was hailed as being ’so fashionable it hurts’, and the

Design Museum decided to maintain the Blue Card exhibition for the

foreseeable future. Applications for the card have exceeded

expectations, and the average Blue Card member is five to ten years

younger than regular Amex members.



Verdict



The Blue Card campaign has given Amex a new, younger lease of life. The

money back offer appealed to the target audience more than the reward

schemes offered by competitors, and the association with McQueen played

a major role.



’We broadened the campaign beyond a product story through our

association with McQueen and by delving into the lifestyle issues of the

target audience.



This meant a lot more, and a lot broader, coverage than we ever have

before,’ says American Express director of PR, Douglas Smith.



Client: American Express

PR Team: Hill and Knowlton

Campaign: American Express Blue Card

Timescale: May 1998 - ongoing

Budget: pounds 70,000



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