As we all know, credit card marketing is always fierce. As one banker described it to me “Many people stopped using credit cards during the Great Recession. Now the banks are using generous bonus offers to reel ‘em back in.” In other words, there’s a gold rush going on to grab customers. Not surprisingly, the banks are using some creative and rather bold strategies to make their cards stand out from the crowd.
Word of mouth buzz strategies
In the month of March, we saw a number of major credit card issuers run unusually large promotions for a very limited time to generate buzz in the blogosphere. Some have ended, others are still continuing.
- Capital One: They ran the “Double Miles Challenge” which allowed new applicants to earn up to 100,000 bonus miles. This offer recently ended but while it was active, all the personal finance and travel bloggers were talking about. Obviously it must not be cheap for Capital One to give away so many miles, but with the amount of publicity it created, my guess is they came out ahead. See their press release for more info.
- Chase: At the start of April they discontinued their 50,000 points promotion ($500 value) for their Sapphire Preferred card, but while it was going on, it had everyone talking. They’re still promoting lower bonuses on that card and others, but on my forum I have found that some people don’t like that. For example, some people have received $300 bonus offers in the mail for the Chase Freedom but then when they check online, the best offer they can find is only $200. As a result, some people won’t bite the online offers, because they want to hold out in hopes of something better arriving in the mail. Conclusion? Good PR, but the inconsistency can backfire.
- Citi: After Chase started the 50k points offers on the Sapphire, Citi got in the game with their own 50k points offer. Like Chase, they recently discontinued it.
American Express has been heavily focused on cross-promoting their cards with popular stores and brands. Here are a few examples:
- Link, Like, Love: Riding the coattails of the coupon craze, this is a Facebook platform where American Express cardmembers can enroll their accounts in various deals at featured retailers.
While writing this, that was the offer they had up. By partnering with popular brands and stores, its creates good publicity for both companies and most important of all, is an incentive for people to get and use American Express cards.
- Sync For Twitter: This was launched at 2012’s SXSW and they tapped Jay-Z to throw a free concert to promote it (obviously that was not cheap PR!). What Sync allows you to do is link your AmEx card to your Twitter account and take advantage of partner offers, just by tweeting hashtags. For example there was an offer (which I sadly missed) that gave $20 off a $75 purchase at Whole Foods by using #AmExWholeFoods.
These types of offers are a win-win for both parties. For American Express, it’s yet one more benefit they can offer people to use their cards, and in fact, I have heard from people who applied just to get these offers. For the company running the deal, they’re also getting great exposure and presumably new customers who they otherwise may not get.
What can you learn from them?
There are a couple concepts you can take from the credit card companies and possibly use to generate publicity for the business you’re promoting:
Point #1: Expensive incentives might be worth it for the publicity
When the best credit card offers are giving away a $500 to $1,000 value in bonus miles/points, obviously one has to wonder how they can still make a profit? My guess is that these offers might be more of a loss leader. Even though they cost a ton, the PR exposure and brand awareness they bring is worth even more.
Point #2: Synergistic cross-promotion opportunities
In the credit card world, there’s no denying that American Express is pioneering the marriage of social media and cross-promotion. By partnering with the hottest brands, both parties get publicity and reap the benefits of new customers. It’s surprising that more businesses don’t do this, as the “you scratch my back, I scratch yours” arrangement can create a PR powerhouse.
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