Thursday, April 28, 2011

Tim McGraw Has Got it Right

Part of the benefit of being self employed is that you can do things on your terms and on your own time.  Which is why it was 10am Central and I was on an elliptical yesterday morning...  and The View was on the fitness room TV.  For some reason, I was distracted by their interview of Tim McGraw and that ended up being fortuitous for me - as he is the inspiration for today's post.  Here's why:

I know what you're thinking...  You're thinking I've taken leave of my senses if I'm including Tim McGraw in a post about business and/or marketing.  Nope...  Actually, he's done all of us a favor by reinforcing the point I made in my last post.

For it is Tim McGraw who can teach my old friend American Express a thing or two about staying true to what you are and what you are not.  In the last post, I bemoaned AmEx's departure from reinforcing its brand values its new "social currency" campaign.  The new spot reminds one very strongly of MasterCard's Priceless spots which can't have been intentional.

The reason why I liked this Tim McGraw interview is that he's not confused by who and what he is at his core: a country music star.  And it's that music platform that has given him access to other platforms and not vice versa.  Consequently, though he is appearing in more TV and movies, he knows it's critical to his authenticity as a brand to reinforce his core.  He's never going to NOT be a country music star and he's not ashamed of it.  Actually, he's thankful.

Don't Be Fake.

There's another reason why I don't enjoy the "social currency" spot.  It rather reminds me of junior high where there is so much pressure to be who you think others want you to be rather than who you actually are at the risk of alienating those who were always by your side.

So why all the pique?  This repackaging to present itself as other than what it always has been is kind of a disavowal of long time loyal customers.  Case in point: when Amir saw the spot, he immediately said, "Um.  What do they say to the people who've always used this?  Are we no longer good enough?"

And so, "social currency" doesn't sit right with me because I don't think it's entirely accurate.  All of the things it's saying you can now do are things you were always able to do if you have an American Express Card and if you are enrolled in Membership Rewards.  It's been years since we've been able to redeem points for travel, shopping, entertainment, etc.  That's not new.

It always was a "social currency" but this spot is using semantic plastic surgery with an overlay of social media to present the old as new.  No amount of throwing in Cityville or showing a woman using a smartphone changes what American Express and Membership Rewards were before and still are now.

Tim has got it right.

Because Tim isn't confused about who he is, his fans are not confused about who he is.  It's a simple formula for him to use his music career as the feeder for other things.  As he replenishes the music, the other things benefit in an almost waterfall kind of style.

And I wish for the days when American Express wasn't confused about who it was and I was a happy customer because of it.  And I wish for the days that AmEx also followed that simple formula like Tim does.

What say you?  I'm enjoying your comments and emails.  And, if you think your smart friends may want to comment, please share this post with them.

Parissa Behnia
Idea Chef

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