Many times brands fall into the trap of trying to shout too loud, and in doing so, they stray off course trying to find a consumer base that may or may not be right for them in a hyper competitive marketplace. It is easy to try and be many things to many people; it is hard trying to do that right and still maintain and remember who your consumer is, and more importantly, how you best serve them.
One of those brands is American Express. AMEX has its challenges as an elite company with a massive legacy, and in a time where consumers want more for less, they have their challenges in maintaining a level of excellence while chasing an audience that is much more in the moment. Personally, I enjoy the legacy of American Express, and the benefits that are presented, whether I can use all of them or not. They are a smart, dependable company in a day when change is the norm.
That being said, AMEX still has to find ways to cut through the clutter and engage consumers in unique ways. This past week, during the NBA Draft (and coinciding with their expanded deal with the NBA that was announced) was a great example of cutting through the clutter in a simple and impactful way for their card members. They held an event at the PlayStation Theater in Manhattan with two athletes who transcended sport, and were picked one and two in the NBA Draft, Alonzo Mourning and Shaquille O’Neal.
The three hour event was not overstated and loud; it was pretty understated and simple; open bar, high end food, low lights, simple swag, and most importantly, an engaged and open conversation with two legends and one of the best, an most underrated, storytellers in the media in ESPN’s Doris Burke. Most importantly, the two NBA senior statesman seemed genuinely happy and engaged to be there. There was no lid music with massive entourages rushing them in and out, there were no huge lines of autograph seekers, it was a simple look inside the business of the NBA and the lives of two mega stars in their own voice, a rare look-see into that space for an engaged consumer.
Of course given the personalities and the narrative there were even some great soundbites that came through. They included:
O’Neal: “My favorite shoes are #TOMS; they said they couldn’t make 1 pair so I ordered 1,000.”
Alonzo Mourning: “I’m still on spin bike & eating #hummus.” O’Neal: “I go to McDonalds, I’m retired Doris”
O’Neal: “2 most important things learned after getting drafted; #FICA & income tax.”
The two played off each other so well that even when there were technical glitches they kept the conversation going, and even started taking impromptu questions from the crowd as Burke went off to fix her sound issues.
Was it scripted and without controversy? Yes. However as a high end reward for both a casual and die-hard basketball fan, it was a well done appetizer for what quickly became a basketball feeding frenzy with the NBA Draft on Thursday. The talent was a great fit for the brand; the mood and the flow worked well with what AMEX stands for, and in the end it seemed like the consumers genuinely enjoyed their time, and left wanting to know, and do more.
It certainly is a fine balance of delivering mass value and still connecting with your core, and it’s a fine line that every mature brand wrestles with. For AMEX they continue to find that balance, and for hoops fans, they certainly delivered on a humid Tuesday night in New York.