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American Express Manufactures a Holiday

Early in November, I saw that American Express was starting a holiday for the Saturday following Thanksgiving—a very gutsy move. I haven’t seen the birth of a holiday since Sweetest Day was promoted in the 1980s. I was curious to see what it took to make a holiday work—and to see what would work. Right now, I get the day after Thanksgiving off of work, but I haven’t always. And anything that promotes the holiday status of that day after Thanksgiving is a great thing in my book.

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Why, though, would AmEx want to create a holiday? And why Small Business Saturday?
I can think of a few reasons. First off, many small businesses I shop at have declined my AmEx in the past—my understanding has been that the merchant fees for AmEx are a barrier to them. It has gotten to the point that if I’m dealing with a small business, I don’t present my AmEx anymore. So by AmEx promoting this holiday, and engaging their cardholders to promote it (for a $25 statement credit), they can put pressure on small businesses to expand their payment offerings. That’s a smart move by AmEx.

Secondly, AmEx wants more small businesses to accept AmEx. Getting AmEx cardholders to push for acceptance is smart, and hosting an event like Small Business Saturday is a good move too. According my contact at AmEx OPEN, AmEx logged more than 100,000 point-of-purchase promotional materials downloads from their Small Business Saturday Facebook page, and over 10,000 small businesses signed up and received advertising on Facebook through this program. That’s a wonderful expansion for AmEx into a market they’ve been limited in before.

Thirdly, this campaign was really amenable to social media tactics. In response to my inquiry to @AskAmex, I found out:

  • 1.2 million people joined the movement and helped spread the word by “liking” Small Business Saturday on Facebook. American Express had pledged a significant donation to Girls Inc. tied to the number of “likes” on Facebook, and based on the popularity of the Facebook page, Girls Inc. will receive a $1 million donation for programs to empower young women to become entrepreneurs. Nearly 30,000 tweets were sent using the hashtags #smallbusinesssaturday and #smallbizsaturday. This includes consumers spreading the word about the national movement and business owners promoting offers they created specifically for the day.
  • 41 elected officials declared November 27, 2010 “Small Business Saturday.” This includes the governors of Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Utah as well as the mayors of Boston, Boulder, Lincoln, New York City, Phoenix, and Topeka.

That’s pretty neat. It makes me wonder what other kinds of holidays might be appropriate for my industry—or for any specialized area. Perhaps those founder’s day parades of my youth weren’t so silly after all. American Express is apparently happy with it, as they’re continuing small business marketing efforts with their Make a Small Resolution campaign for 2011. If AmEx can use social media this effectively, you probably can, too.

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  1. Avatar auto transport company

    This would be a great way to promote AmEx for small businesses. Visa and Mastercard logos are the only ones I see in small stores. And even I, get the notion that they won’t accept other cards aside from those 2 very popular brands, so why bother trying to pay with it? AmEx needs to put more advertisements next year because it did not sound that much the first time it was launched.

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