Social Facelift: What It Took to Redefine B2B for American Express



Learn how Amex is changing the B2B space and breaking through in the Newsfeed to connect with audiences in a whole new way.

Debbie Grishman, VP of Global Digital Brand at American Express, and Chris Marino, Director of Global Social Media Strategy, took the stage at Social Media Week to share insights from their team’s efforts to modernize AMEX’s look in the B2B sphere.

Redefining an iconic brand is a Herculean task, according to Grishman. “Our legacy is really important to us—it can be a good thing or a bad thing.” To get there, the team defined a central mission that guided and galvanized their work: to show up as a modern brand for businesses that understands you and your business challenges.

American Express took that charge to heart and changed the tenor of their social strategy accordingly. In the process, they learned some key lessons about the art, science, and kind of alchemy that helped to redefine this storied brand in the eyes of its B2B customers.

The Art: Campaigns Built on Conversations

Marino and Grishman are wholly cognizant of the role that social conversations played in their brand rejuvenation. As they searched for ways to redefine American Express, Marino noted that “empathy became really important.” It was especially important for their brand to connect with people because there’s so much emotion tied up in working with money. In seeking to understand the market they were targeting, they learned they were dealing with people who felt isolated and frustrated. “Our objective became to ignite a conversation in the market.”

From there, Marino and his team dedicated themselves to not talking at people, but talking with them. In hearing out the challenges of people, their objective was simple: truth and utility content. The result? Videos that shared a brand case study in 16 seconds. Short ads lampooning the frequency of meetings and useless jargon. GIFs that suggested alternatives to stuffy and alienating corporate speak. And relationships with customers that embodied the qualities that people truly connected with: trustworthy, but also friendly, innovative, global and, most importantly, human.

The Science: Funnel-Free Friendliness

Global Commercial Services, the corporate name for AMEX’s B2B arm, is typically not the sort of place where GIFs and sans-serif fonts tend to thrive. Grishman acknowledges the challenge this mindset shift presented in their spaces. Although the eventual goal was to drive reappraisal and consideration, the “Get Business Done” campaign took on a fresh look, feel, and approach that was more casual and conversational than in the past. American Express intentionally built in a light and fresh tone, responding to research and feedback from business customers. If any science came into play, it was social science.

All they needed to do was change how customers felt about the brand. To put it simply: this bold and risky redefine worked.

By the numbers, the “Get Business Done” campaign did this in huge measure. In wanting to perfect the art of conversation, a measurable change in AMEX’s perception also presented itself. Reach on social channels increased by 50 percent, with 16 million total engagements over the duration of the campaign. Social net sentiments hovered at 19 percent, versus a market average of 3 percent. And 50 percent of their site landings were driven by social engagement.

Some tips Grishman offered to maximize the time and energy on these platforms? Customize your content to use the strengths of each platform, create a clear call to action for each piece presented, and create opportunities to engage at all points without regard to the often-invoked “funnel.”

The Alchemy: Change from Within, Change the World

It was affirming to see that many of the strategies that the “Get Business Done” campaign was using to change the face of their customers’ businesses, were also changing their own world. Grishman shared the story of “jargon jars” in their offices, which came after the development of campaign pieces criticizing the alienating and infuriating language patterns of our offices. If the company was telling people to call “money” by its name, and not “financing” or “capital,” shouldn’t they? Uses of jargon in their own offices prompted contributions to jars. Although these jars proved great for paying for happy hours, they also provided a clear indicator that their efforts to redefine other organizations could also redefine their own space.

But in a larger sense, it demonstrated how powerful the ideas they were hearing, and working passionately to solve for their customers, fit their stated strategic imperative: we are in a moment of great change. To signal change, we must show up differently and let our audience know we are uniquely poised to meet their needs. Between prioritizing listening, solving common problems before asking for business, and changing the literal face of their organization, American Express showed its willingness to “Get Business Done” by changing so much about the way they work. And they want this feeling of fun and connection to inform the way you work, too.

American Express a global services company that provides customers with access to products, insights and experiences that enrich lives and build business success.


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