Recent research suggests that the credit card market is entering a
age. According to the Independent (23 September 1997) there are 24 issuers
of gold credit cards and the market is growing at an average rate of 45
per cent per year.
In August American Express became the latest company to go for gold.
Despite confidence in its product and in the strength of the brand, the
company required a strong, innovative approach to ensure its credit card -
as opposed to its charge card - stood out from the crowd.
To reinforce American Express’ presence in the credit card market. To
position the product to a younger audience as aspirational yet
In order to target both business and consumer audiences, the team
developed a two-tier campaign. Tier one launched the gold credit card to
personal finance journalists and tier two promoted it to the consumer and
The consumer campaign focused on identifying a sponsorship opportunity
which would support the card in an eye-catching way while being relevant
to a younger audience. It was also important to complement the company’s
brand values - American Express favours involvement with people and events
which are innovative and leaders in their field.
As one of the youngest ever winners of Designer of the Year, fashion
designer Alexander McQueen was an ideal brand fit.
American Express agreed to sponsor McQueen’s catwalk show at London
Fashion Week (26 September - 1 October). The company also commissioned
McQueen to design a gold trouser suit to be revealed at the show. Ten days
before, Hill and Knowlton announced the sponsorship deal and invited seven
lifestyle and personal finance journalists to attend. The agency also
placed a competition in the Guardian offering three pairs of tickets.
The show took place on 28 September. To fuel media excitement, the
location, a bus depot in Victoria, was not revealed until the last minute.
At the finale, McQueen took his bow accompanied by supermodel Shirley
Malman who wore the American Express gold trouser suit.
To date the American Express sponsorship of McQueen’s show has achieved
mentions in 20 national press cuttings. The Guardian competition generated
1,000 entries. The launch campaign as a whole has so far generated 82
According to American Express, the response rate for the gold credit card
has exceeded aggressive targets two-and-a-half times over. While this
success is partly attributable to a highly effective direct marketing
campaign, Douglas Smith, director of public affairs consumer services
group, says the PR campaign helped to build credibility and awareness.
Express deputy money editor Simon Hinde, who attended McQueen’s show,
describes the decision to sponsor the designer as bold and unexpected.
In terms of positioning, however, he thinks it will take more than the
McQueen sponsorship for the company to change its image from a big brand
name to something more trendy and cutting edge.
CLIENT: American Express
PR TEAM: Hill and Knowlton/In-house
CAMPAIGN: Launch of American Express Gold Credit Card
TIMESCALE: Tier one: June - August 1997. Tier two: September - December
COST: pounds 30,000 (excluding sponsorship)