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Do badly chosen American Express promotions cheapen their brand?

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I accidentally started a mini-debate at Flyertalk yesterday when I criticised a new American Express promotional offer.

If I take a look at my American Express Platinum account online, two new cashback deals have appeared:

£20 cashback when you spend £100 at Premier Inn (expires 16 December, 5000 cardholders only)

£50 cashback when you spend £100 at Thistle or Guoman Hotels (expires 16 December, 10000 cardholders only)

These offers follow on from the classic:

£10 cashback when you make any transaction with Ryanair (expires 31 October)

Whilst I have these offers on my Platinum card, you may well find them showing under your BA or SPG Amex account.  The Thistle / Guoman deal would probably work on a large bar bill or a restaurant meal, depending on how it is processed by the hotel, and for one of their regional hotels represents a pretty decent deal.

The issue I raised at Flyertalk was this – ‘Is Amex diluting the Platinum card brand with offers like these?’

Or, looked at another way, is offering someone a discount at Premier Inn really a good way of convincing them that Amex understands their Platinum customers and that their £450 fee is well spent?

I booked two nights in an upmarket hotel yesterday using the American Express Platinum ‘Fine Hotels & Resorts’ programme.  That is the sort of benefit that I expect and appreciate from Platinum – it got me free breakfast and a guaranteed 4pm check-out, which I needed.

Let’s be clear.  I don’t have anything against Premier Inn (I stayed in one last year and was very positive about it) or Ryanair, who I flew many times when they used the airport nearest my parents in law.   I stayed in enough dingy B&B’s when I was younger to appreciate the revolution in low-cost lodging that Premier Inn, Travelodge, Holiday Inn Express etc have brought about.  I also grew up in an era when flying was too expensive for the average family, and I admire Ryanair’s part in changing that.

What I don’t understand is why American Express fails to understand how deals like this distort the Platinum brand.  You could argue that ‘the more the merrier’ – Amex should throw out as many deals as it can negotiate and if the majority are irrelevant to your lifestyle then so be it.  However, you can also argue that Amex should be presenting me with a carefully curated set of offers.

(Here is another way of looking at it.  If Ryanair or Premier Inn attempted to advertise in Vogue or GQ, they would be told to go away.  Publications like that understand that their advertisers help the set the tone for the whole package and need to be curated in the same way as the editorial.)

The irony, of course, is that – as a card company – Amex knows exactly where its Platinum cardholders shop and is better placed than any other luxury brand to serve up promotions which hit the spot perfectly.  But they don’t ….


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Comments (82)

  • Andy says:

    Although they are in the same group as Thistle and have a niche rewards scheme, I would have thought Guoman properties are very much the stereotypical Platinum Card demographic:- 4 and 5-star hotels like the Royal Horseguards and the Grosvenor.

    • Rob says:

      They are a bit nearer the demographic although substantially better options available in those areas. The Guoman brand is about to be dumped (and about time) because it has gained absolutely zero traction with the travelling public.

      The best thing about the launch of Guoman was that you knew which Thistles were rubbish – ie all of them. Because the refurbished ones were ‘promoted’ to Guoman!

  • SingingDwarf says:

    It is now possible to redeem MR points from a USA issued American Express in McDonald’s. 400pts for a Bacon & Cheese Quarter Pounder.

    Cheapening the brand?

    http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-10-14/now-you-can-redeem-american-express-rewards-points-at-mcdonalds

    • grex9101 says:

      I don’t think it cheapens the McDonald’s brand at all. … :’)

    • squills says:

      “We want to be ubiquitous,” says Leslie Berland, executive vice president for digital partnerships and development at American Express. “We want our customers to think about using their American Express card in places they haven’t thought about before.”

      There you go – their marketing strategy isn’t too complicated.

      Ultimately it doesn’t really matter to Amex if SOME people think it cheapens the brand: in the grander scheme of things, those people really don’t matter too much.

      I draw an analogy with BMW. You can now get relatively cheap BMWs in the smaller engine size categories (and the Mini). A few years ago, BMW wouldn’t have dreamed of doing that. It’s been a massive success, financially & strategically. I doubt if they lost any serious money customers @ the other end (luxury) because they were doing the cheap stuff, too. The people buying the luxury stuff are on the whole bright enough to get it.

      Going back to Amex, anybody reasonably savvy is going to understand why Ryanair and Premier Inn exist (and are successful in their own right) – and savvy people aren’t going to see Amex promoting their relationship with Ryanair/ Premier Inn as a bad thing.

      • Rob says:

        That is a different point though – justifying why Amex is offering the Nectar card, for example, as well as its expensive charge cards. I assume that purchasers of the most expensive BMW models receive different perks from their dealership.

        • squills says:

          Since you’re there Raffles & anybody ;-)…

          I just renewed my vehicle tax on my decrepit, ancient 4WD lol – £230 gets you 3 litres of turbodiesel power on the road, taxed, if the truck’s old enough!. I could have saved £2.50 by paying with a debit card but I paid with MBNA Visa linked to Amex, in the dim hop I’m going to get 465 Avios out of it.

          Q: did I do good or am I going senile?

  • Andrew says:

    Primark is already here 🙂

  • Singing Dwarf says:

    No Tracking Stats for that merchant.

  • Alan says:

    Slightly OT but original thread now closed for comments. I registered for the WH Smith offer and then made multiple £3.79 (meal deal) transactions over the course of a few weeks. I’ve now tripped the £30 threshold and within a day or so of doing so found a £10 credit on my a/c, so as per the T&Cs it doesn’t need to be all spend within one transaction – in this case at least, YMMV for other retailer offers, some of them (e.g the Hilton offer) were clear about it needing to be in one transaction.

    • grex9101 says:

      We have now found someone who has survived multiple consumptions of WHS “meal deals” and is still alive. Science may have found its man.

      • Alan says:

        Hahah 😀 Yes, sadly working in a hospital this is one of the better offers available food-wise 😮

    • squills says:

      Alan: that’s a really interesting bit of learning for future promos, I guess you’re right it depends on T&Cs.

      • Alan says:

        Indeed, I was sure I was going to have to chase the credit up via Amex CS but wasn’t necessary 🙂

  • Adey says:

    JQ “The questoin is do Centurion cardholders also have this offer?”.

    Nope, not been offered these. Infact, there are no offers available for me right now (just checked online). I

    did just take up their offer of a free night at one (of a list of ~20) hotelsfrom the “fine hotels and resorts” group. So not all bad 🙂

    Adey

  • thechiefexecutive says:

    I also used the Ryanair deal for my first ever flight with them (Derry) for a wedding this weekend. Used it for 2 x singles in and out so £20 saved across 2 cards. I will probably also use the Premier Inn credit although we’ve already booked Christmas with them to visit the inlaws (at £25 a night in the sale). So yes we like all these ‘downmarket deals’.

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