Amex’s new campaign with Farhan Akhtar marks the brand’s entry into mainstream marketing

Manoj Adlakha, CEO, American Express Banking Corp India, talks about how the brand is geared up to go all out in terms of advertising & marketing, millennials being the target group and more

by Tasmayee Laha Roy
Published - Nov 7, 2019 8:29 AM Updated: Nov 8, 2019 7:05 PM

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Manoj Adlakha, CEO, American Express Banking Corp

American Express is coming up with a new ad campaign with actor Farhan Akhtar for their Platinum Charge Card. In a first for the brand, they will be launching a product campaign too.

Manoj Adlakha, CEO, American Express Banking Corp India, spoke to exchange4media about how the brand is geared up to go all out in terms of advertising and marketing, and getting Akhtar on board being the first step in that direction.

He also shared insights about the campaign, increased use of credit cards post demonetization and targeting the millennial group.

Tell us about the campaign? Is Farhan Akhtar on board only for this one campaign or is he the face of Amex in India now?
The upcoming six-week campaign is to drive awareness about our new product - Platinum Charge Card. Though it is an old product we have refreshed it with a new look and new features. Farhan Akhtar will promote the product for us - be it on television, print or digital. The target audience for this product is someone who is a resolute achiever, is 40-45 years old and is accomplished. The prospects we are targeting are affluent people, looking for experiences that money can’t buy.

Akhtar represents everything we stand for in terms of our target audience. He is not here just for the six-week campaign. We have a longer tie-up with him and there is more in the pipeline with him.

Every card these days come with added benefits, loyalty club programme and other facilities. How is your Platinum Charge Card any different from the other cards in the market?
First and foremost there is no pre-set limit to this card like the usual credit cards. This is a charge card. While we of course look into one’s past spending patterns and credit history, this card lets you spend without putting an upper limit. Secondly, we are focused on travellers - be it domestic or international. We have unlimited access to about 1,200 lounges across the world. We have something called FHRP, which is the Fine Hotel and Resort Programme, wherein we have 1,100 properties globally with facilities like guaranteed early check-in, late checkout, complimentary meal credits, upgrades etc. There is also the Global Dining Selection where we do reservations for high-end restaurants and have other added benefits like chef interaction etc. To sum it up, we offer everything experiential.

Now that you have decided to go all out on advertising and marketing, tell us about your marketing mix. Will you be getting a creative agency on board? Will you be calling for a pitch? Tell us about your new marketing plans.
A third of our total spends will be on TV, another third on Print, and a third will be going to digital. We have not invested so much in marketing in the past but we've started to do so. So you may not have seen too much of us in the past in advertisements but you will now. We did a global brand campaign in 2018 and India was a part of it, but this is the first time we are doing a product campaign and with a mainstream Bollywood face to it. The move is indicative of our desire to be visible and to reach out to more and more premium customers looking for experiential luxury. The campaign will create awareness and we are hoping it will translate into consideration and acquisition.

As for calling a pitch, while it is too early to talk about these we can say we would do everything that it takes to reach more and more people.

Amex has always been associated with HNIs and a select premium clientele. But your new Smart Earn Credit Card is more for the millennial customers. How are they driving the growth of Amex offerings?
So firstly, we already have an identified target audience that is in affluent and premium. We have a leadership there and we want to maintain that, but at the same time we want to build scale and relevance and that is going to come from the pre-affluent or the emerging affluent section. This is where the millenials come in.

Millennials represent nearly 34 per cent of the Indian population and are amongst the chief wage earners in Indian households as well as the biggest spending generation. They live in an interconnected world, avidly partake in shared economy and are digital-first natives. Analysis of our cardmember feedback also shows that millennials’ expectations of service and experience are most similar to the affluent segment. Both have a positive mindset, are open to new experiences and have high expectations.

Basis our luxury spend analysis, our millennial cardmembers contributed to one-third of the luxury spend over the last five years. Compared to GenX and Baby Boomers, their spending grew the fastest at 27 per cent. They contributed 42 per cent of the spends on luxury dining, 35 per cent in luxury apparel and 32 per cent in luxury lodging.

Interestingly, 55 per cent of customers we have acquired in 2018 are millennials. With our Smart Earn Credit Card, customers can experience what it means to be a member of American Express franchise early on in their life.

There is a lot of focus on the cashless economy at present. How is that building up at your end?
So, at an industry level, a key statistic over here is going to be what is called the private consumption expenditure. That number is about one half-trillion dollars and of that, about 10 per cent or 160 billion dollars of that in 2018 was between credit and debit cards.

There are about 850 million debit cards in circulation as of now. Anyone who opens a bank account gets a debit card and typically a debit card is used as ATM withdrawal. But interestingly, the number of credit cards has gone up a lot since demonetization. So right now, the credit cards in circulation are 52 million. Right after demonetization the economy shifted focus to digital payments, e-wallets and credit cards. The second event was the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax. These formalized the economy and the government’s thrust to move towards less cash. This has given an impetus to digital payments, which are growing at about 25 per cent. This is where credit cards come in and this is where more and more customers are coming into the franchise. So before demonetization, at an industry level, approximately 500,000 new credit cards were being acquired on a monthly basis. Now that number has gone up to 1.4 million a month.
So, while there is a long way to go in terms of numbers we definitely have had a good start in that direction.

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