Small Business Saturday: Amex's Smartest Marketing Effort Yet

IMB_SmallBizSaturday_Amex This morning as most Americans will wake up after the busiest "Black Friday" shopping day of the year, a weekend of buying and saving is likely to continue as people start to catch up on buying things they need and things they don't. This year, however, Black Friday will be followed by the newly named "Small Business Saturday." Heavily promoted by American Express* along with thousands of partnering small businesses, this is an integrated effort to get more Americans to choose to shop at smaller establishment on one day. Aside from being exactly the kind of promotion anyone should love to see from a big company like American Express, there are a few other points that make this a marketing effort that could easily be one of the most inspired from a company who has some of the best marketing and communications of any brand in any industry. Here are a few things I love about this concept (and lessons you can take away from it):

  1. Put your money where your marketing is. Instead of just promoting this day as a feel good moment in time, Amex is also offering a $25 statement credit to anyone who registers for the promotion and then shops at a participating small business. In addition to the emotional incentive of helping a small business in your area, this credit demonstrates that Amex is willing to put some real money behind helping small businesses and giving back to those which use and accept American Express.
  2. Integrate your promotion. Though I heard about Small Business Saturday quite some time ago, I also saw TV ads for it, full page print ads, Facebook advertising and heard about it on the radio. Of course, this is advice that any marketer would love to follow if they had the same budget as Amex has to spend on all these channels – but taking this type of integrated approach really helps to cement the idea in the minds of Americans and make sure as many people as possible know about Small Business Saturday.
  3. Create a social hub. All the materials and information for Small Business Saturday exist on a Facebook page that gained well over a million fans in less than three weeks. From this page, you can not only learn about and register for the effort – but also download signs and banners for your business to use online or in real life to show that you are participating, and also get access to extended tools and information to help your small business (such as the Open Forum website which I am also a contributor to). In another effort to put their money behind this promotion, Amex also offered free Facebook advertising credits for small businesses as well.
  4. Stand for something bigger. Perhaps the most important lesson from not only Small Business Saturday, but also all of Amex's efforts to connect with and support small businesses is that it allows a brand that could be just another credit card company using Vikings in TV ads to try and sell their latest credit card to stand for something bigger. Amex is the champion of small businesses, and small businesses are the "backbone of the US economy" (as the often repeated cliche in business goes).
  5. Demonstrate real results. While Small Business Saturday is just happening today, the last piece that will complete this promotion will be Amex reporting back to the country and media on the impact that the entire effort made on the US economy. How many dollars people spent with small businesses, how many times their statement credit offer was redeemed, and how many small businesses participated. With this last piece of the puzzle, this campaign could turn out to not only be among the finest that Amex has ever done – but also be converted into a marketing case study that business school students will study in the future.

* American Express is a client of Ogilvy, my employer, and I have worked on marketing campaigns for Amex in the past as well as contribute to their Open Forum website. I did not work on the Small Business Saturday program, however, and this post was not solicited or paid for in any way.

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