Credit to American Express for its "Shop Small" initiative

It's hard working in comms in the financial services sector. Between Dodd-Frank and #OWS, complications abound.

It's hard working in communications in the financial services sector. Between Dodd-Frank and #OWS, complications abound. The industry also consistently ranks lowest in consumer benchmark surveys, including the PR industry's own Edelman Trust Barometer.

In this environment, I must applaud American Express. It struck me this past November what a terrific brand it is and what an amazing job its marketing and communications teams have done to create such a positive personality for something as dull as a credit card.

At a time when Black Friday is marred by the worst of humanity - pepper spray-wielding bargain hunters - the next day, Small Business Saturday, offered a happy contrast. The company created the event in 2010 to promote shopping on "Main Street," or at small, independent stores and restaurants. It offered a $25 cash incentive to consumers and free business-promotion toolkits to companies. It also lent its own marcomms muscle to ensure the day's success.

The "Shop Small" promotion clearly ties back to the company's business goal of increasing the number of small merchants accepting its credit cards. Historically favored as the corporate card du jour, American Express hasn't always fared as well among smaller organizations. Small businesses, for example, are known to complain about the higher fee it charges merchants in comparison to Visa and MasterCard, so it's smart leadership that is tying feel-good, relationship-building brand communications to the bottom line.

Small Business Saturday represents just one more step the organization is taking to further its involvement in the entrepreneur, startup, and independent business communities. In 2007, it launched Open Forum, a website offering informational articles and discussion boards where small business owners can share ideas. It has expanded and updated the site significantly, making it a destination for the industry, which is no small feat for a brand-founded site.

Small Business Saturday is an incredible demonstration of partnership and coalition building. It has gained the support of elected officials, including President Obama, and large companies such as FedEx. While American Express has a multitude of stakeholders from investors to employees, consumers, and regulators, it has well applied the advice given by the participants of this issue's Consumer Roundtable: make your product or service an experience they won't forget and you will reap years of brand loyalty.

American Express will only continue to build its reputation in the small business community, as well as among like-minded consumers, by delivering further on these brand promises.

Rose Gordon is senior editor - special projects of PRWeek. She can be reached at rose.gordon@prweek.com.

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