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Is Amex’s The Social Currency™ Social or Spin?

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Is Amex’s The Social Currency™ Social or Spin?

Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish between what is truly innovative versus what is a bold marketing spin, particularly when one of the world’s best marketers, American Express, is involved.  Case in point, American Express recently re-tagged and promoted Membership Rewards Points, the currency of the successful and long-lived Membership  Rewards, as The Social Currency ™.

Amex consistently delivers the new and the innovative: from striking a deal with the USPS to sell Amex gift cards in post offices to launching their Foursquare partnership during SXSW or developing “Serve” the next-gen digital payment platform that may someday do away with cash and card payments. With this outstanding record, naturally The Social Currency ™ piqued my interest.   I wondered, “What does that mean?  Can Amex deliver on branding a rewards currency with such a loaded and overused word?”

Paid sponsorships on venues like Serious Eats and Imperfect Parents and blogs like Make Her Up and Lil’miss got the word out during the launch….

Everything we do these days revolves around a social network. American Express Membership Rewards is getting in on the act with an updated points program that will really give your friends on Facebook something to “Like.”  You’d think a rewards program that’s been around 20 years would be set it in its ways, but not American Express. Membership Rewards points are your currency for real-life social connections with friends and family. Don’t just tweet about life; get out there and enjoy it with products and experiences for which you can use your points.

A deeper dive uncovers substance behind The Social Currency ™ claim:

  • A dedicated Facebook tab promotes using MRPs for weekly featured deals and features bloggers who suggest ways and places to redeem MRPs
  • The opportunity to “share your story” –  how you use your MRPs — via a Twitter feed  integrated  onto Facebook and the MRP microsite
  • Redemption options for Zynga virtual currency allows cardmembers to buy limited edition real and virtual merchandise — a purple cow for Farmville will set you back 540 MRPs.  Note:  Citi soon followed with their own Zynga deal involving Thank You Points
  • Amex touts redemption at Amazon and Ticketmaster thereby broadening the redemption options beyond the MRP platform

But how can Amex further The Social Currency ™ claim?

  • Although they encourage the “share” by giving bonus points for referral to friends – this networking opportunity is limited to the MRP microsite and an occasional wall post could go far towards “member get member” efforts.
  • The currency remains highly focused on the traditional earn and burn — spend a dollar and earn MRPs and burn MRPs for travel, merchandise and gift cards most redemption is transacted on the MRP site.  Hopefully, Amex has plans to broaden the value of MRP as a virtual currency through more retail partnerships with retailer Facebook storefronts.
  • Redemption for “deals of the day” while promoted on Facebook transact only on MRP rewards site.
  • The copy pay-off  for The Social Currency ™ …”real-life social connections with friends and family”….” giving your friends on Facebook something to Like”…. is weak and  I’m empathetic here as to how a copywriter can solve for a challenging concept.

Take a look this Social Currency ™spot and be the judge:

Sometimes, marketing spin is just that; but sometimes it’s true innovation.  I’ll be keeping an eye on what’s next as Amex – the marketer and the innovator – adds more substance to its social spin.

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