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Amex Gives Millennials (and Others) Payment Choice With Pay It Plan It

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marketing pay it plan it to Amex Millennial cardmembers

Just as Chase announced its decision to abandon Blueprint, its credit card spending management program for customers, Amex brings high focus to Pay It Plan It, which allows Amex cardmembers to designate paying for purchases of all sizes in new ways that give the cardmember greater control.

The demise of Blueprint, which offered multiple payment options plus tools for financial management, may be due to its complexity and the resulting consumer dissatisfaction. As reported by Credit Card Review, “Many believe that it is due to low customer utilization – maybe even because it’s somewhat confusing to keep track of all of the features.” But there may have been other issues, as well.

In contrast, Amex’s program has the advantage of simplicity. Pay It is limited to selecting a small-ticket purchase for immediate payment.  Plan It lets cardmembers choose a purchase over $100 and pay a flat monthly fee with no interest while also earning rewards. The big-ticket purchase can be paid over a chosen timeframe, just like an installment payment plan. Both options use a three-step process via the mobile app. The program caps the number of items that can be paid on installment at any one time, and only certain Amex cards are eligible.

Program aside, Amex does what Amex always does best: marketing that is consistent, compelling and relatable, particularly as it seeks to reach and motivate the Millennial cardmember. Here’s exactly how the brand is marketing Amex Pay It Plan It to successfully launch and sustain the program:

#1) Amex brought back Tina Fey
After taking a short break from celebrity endorsements, American Express enlisted Tina Fey, spokesperson extraordinaire for the brand, to launch Pay It Plan It and then featured in broadcast and social media. Using a Millennial couple’s un-glamourous but trendy purchase of a “big-ticket” mattress, along with classic Fey interactions and humor, the effort whacks it out of the park.

The caption accompanying the video on YouTube read, “Tina knows you shouldn’t lose sleep over a big purchase, because Pay It Plan It from American Express gives you more ways to pay for the bed of your dreams. It’s a first-of-its-kind feature that lets you live life your way, and pay your way too. With Pay It, you can pay purchase amounts under $100 and still earn rewards. Or Plan It and split larger purchases up over time. With no interest and a fixed monthly fee, so your plan is clear right from the start. Terms apply. #AmexLife”

Comments from Millennial viewers demanding to know Tina’s sweater brand or what model of Adidas she is sporting attest to Amex’s skill at making passionate connections on every level between brand and target. (Note: Fey also had creative input, and it shows.)

#2) Amex reaches Millennials and connects with “Passion Areas”
With both knowledge and respect for insights about how the targeted cohort is debt-adverse, the new Amex campaign set out to reach 18 million cardmembers who are eligible for the program. Based on Millennial media habits and preferences, Amex uses what has been referred to as a “video everywhere” approach, running the spot and social cuts across platforms and across devices, including display, mobile and OTT (over-the-top television). With buys on FOX, NBC, ABC, CBS, AMC, Comedy Central, HGTV, Food Network and ESPN among others, broadcast choices also align with Millennial “Passion Areas”:

  • sports
  • home
  • food
  • travel and
  • late night TV.

Millennial cardmembers have been driving the program’s popularity with a reported 50% participation rate and 55% repeat users. Clearly, Pay It Plan It brings cardmembers along in their journey to not only trust the brand but also trust in their own ability – empowered by Amex – to manage credit card debt.

 #3) Amex commits in big ways
Amex is integrating Pay It Plan It into cardmember outreach.  A simple logification overlaid onto card communications and merchant partner offers keeps the program top of mind. The strategic decision to heavy up promotion seems to be in opposition to Chase’s support of Blueprint, which was, apparently, less than pervasive.  When Chase killed Blueprint on November 11, 2018, FICO Forum captured a stream of commentary from Chase cardholders, who received the news via a Chase text. Here’s one example from a perplexed Chase cardholder:

The Amex program also lives prominently on the brand’s website. From valuable home page positioning of a banner featuring Fey (well-connected to what cardmembers are seeing elsewhere) to detailed program explainer pages, Pay It Plan It is deeply embedded in the Amex ecosystem.

 #4) Amex finds appealing partner offer and incentives
Amex strikes a good balance between promoting the program in a stand-alone way and using it to promote partner offers for high-ticket items like travel. During the writing of this post, for example, I was serendipitously targeted with a Pay it Plan it co-promotion for a Royal Caribbean International cruise. The waived monthly program fee and no interest offer touts paying for the cruise over six, fixed monthly payments using Plan It: “Your Next Adventure Is Only A Plan Away” with Plan It a smart way to book and pay over six months with no Plan It fee and no interest.

In addition to Royal Caribbean, Amex is promoting offers via email* with Millennial-favored brands like Delta, Hilton and Houzz, where spending over $100 – the minimum eligible Plan It transaction – is easy to do.

 #5) Amex values and invests in custom content
To support Pay It Plan It, Amex launched its biggest ever custom content campaign on BuzzFeed, Vox Media and Bustle — shifting more spend into custom content: explainer-style articles, videos, content sponsorship and ads running alongside content.

In a paid partnership with Vox, for example, this Facebook ad takes a clever spin and looks at how “women’s pockets suck.”

The video uses a data viz company, The Pudding, to prove its point by measuring pocket sizes on 80 different brands of women’s jeans. The result is an unexpected way of embedding the program into custom content.

Amex is also producing an explainer video series and sponsoring both Eater’s The Kitchen Gadget Test Show (which lays out which kitchen essentials are worth their price) and Vox’s The Goods. On the branded editorial content at Vox, Amex Vice President of Global Media for Terryn Lance comments, “The Goods by Vox is a great content format to help our target audience navigate everyday buying decisions around when to save and when to responsibly spend with the power of Pay It Plan It.”

Similarly, Amex is tapping into the Millennial love of travel experiences with sponsorship of Tasty’s Friend in Town, which follows a host to different cities to visit friends and go on culinary experiences. The show’s host uses the Amex Pay It Plan It feature to settle the bill with a light nod to “choosing how I pay for it…”

Heading into 2019, expect American Express to move beyond reserving celebrities and heavy investment in above-the-line media strictly for big brand promotions. You’ll see more Amex products and services including Pay It Plan It – getting that same treatment.

In fact, the program is one of three developments featured within the American Express Company 2018 Investor Day Presentation, where Pay It Plan It is regarded as critical to how Amex “innovates to meet emerging needs.”  It is touted as industry-leading, heavily focused on the coveted Millennial segment and – by the way – significant enough to invest in Tina Fey and give her creative freedom, too.  A lot seems to be riding on the program, but if anyone can make it a success, look to Amex to do so.

* Email imagery sourced from Mintel Comperemedia, December 2018

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