Amex boost physical and mental availability

A trip to fill up the car with petrol prompted me to think that American Express is a great example of trying to grow by boosting "physical and mental availability". This is the concept of growth proposed by Byron Sharp in his book "How Brands Grow", which is the basis for the most talked-about and controversial blog posts we've ever done.

1. Boosting mental availability

The first key to growth is to be recalled and relevant at the point of purchase. One of Amex's problems is that people still think they can use Amex only in a limited number of places, and for expensive items. The gas pump advertising is part of a campaign that includes also radio ads to communicate that Amex is accepted in lots of places, like petrol stations, and can be used for small purchases, not just biggies.

This sort of communication has two benefits:

– It gets existing users to use the card more often, and so get more utility from it

– It removes a barrier for non card holders: perceived lack of places accepting the card

2. Boosting physical availability

The Amex communication on using the card for smaller items of course has to be accompanied by a big push to get more retailers on board.

I've been talking a lot about how important extending your physical availability is to driving growth. This is hard work and it aint as sexy as social media. But its one thing that we know for sure really works. If you are sold in more places, you will sell more stuff. Especially of course if this is linked to point 1 above, being recalled and relevant at the point of buying.

3. More sausage to add to the sizzle

The other interesting thing about Amex marketing is how they seem to have a better balance of product sausage and emotional sizzle. In the past their advertising has been very lifestyle focused, portraying celebrities to create aspiration. The idea being that people aspire to be like these stars, and so want an Amex. But this sort of campaign failed to address barriers of physical and mental availability, and didn't give any real product benefits.

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The new campaign of recent years has been about "Realising your potential", and is backed up by some quote cool features such as special access to concert tickets, or earning Air Miles as you spend. They also continue to offer great insurance on items you buy with your Amex card. This seems to be more effective.

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In conclusion, the key to growth is driving mental and physical availability as Amex are doing. If you're a consumer goods or services brand spending budget on sexy image advertising, as Amex used to do, it might be time to follow their example and re-think.

You can catch up on the other posts on How Brand Grow here and here.