Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Your Brand's Currency

Hi!  Please watch this...

As I've mentioned before, I spent some post business school salad days at American Express...  It was a tremendous way to learn about marketing real time and in real life.  And I truly got the sense that the company was an institution that was grounded in its identity but at the same time embraced the new and the different -- within the boundaries of what its customer base and its brand would allow.

So, I must admit to a bit of confusion when I first saw this commercial.  Well...  not confusion so much as something that feels like disappointment because I've always thought AmEx does marketing so well and so true to its core.  And this commercial rather feels like a sellout to me and I think it hurts the brand.

Memory Lane

In this post, I talked about how I thought there was a distinct overlap between Esurance and Progressive.  To me, it's a brand no no when your customers/prospects are reminded of your competitor's marketing.  And in the case of this commercial, here's an example of what I'm reminded of every time I see it:

Friends, I think of MasterCard's Priceless campaign.  Everything that's wonderful and aspirational about the  AmEx spot takes me right to what is wonderful and aspirational about the slew of MasterCard Priceless spots that have come before it.

It's a shame.  Not only because of the points I brought up in my Esurance-Progressive post but, more importantly, a legacy brand with lasting legacy brand values (e.g., Don't leave home without it!) has a former employee thinking of the competition.  If I'm thinking of MasterCard, what is the rest of the viewership thinking of?  That can't be good.

I know what some are saying...  They are saying that credit cards are commoditized, that it's unfathomable that I would get upset by this and that this is no tragedy.

Ah, but it is.  

The tragedy is that AmEx should have enough faith in its products to have them stand on their own two proverbial feet.  The tragedy is that there are palpable AmEx brand attributes that live to this day though you may not now nor ever carry one of their cards...  and they've all been squandered away by a "me too" commercial.

Any time a brand deviates from its core values, it feels like its center of gravity is off.  We instinctively know that something is "not right" and we're fixated on the "not right" part.  No amount of knowing what's still "right" can shake us of the "not right" part nagging us.

And, for me, the "not right" part is that I'm thinking of MasterCard when I should be having loving thoughts of American Express.  What say you?  Please share your thoughts...

And...  in our next post, we'll talk about the other "not right" part of this spot...  Stay tuned!  Oh, I should mention that if you've liked this post, share with your friends and colleagues.

Parissa Behnia
Idea Chef


1 comment:

  1. Amex ad flat for me. Having been in marketing on the Retail, B2C side of the business, when marketers shift campaigns they run the risk of losing a good thing. It also sometimes happens when brands shift agencies.