How to do content marketing with value – lessons from Amex

19th December 2014

I blogged recently about how financial services marketing is using online video and content marketing to build trust. One such brand, Amex, has been a leader in this area developing relevant content and adding value for its audience. Here are 5 lessons that any brand can use to kickstart their 2015 content marketing campaigns.

1.   Valuable, relevant content

Amex Open Network is a content hub for small businesses where subscribers can receive operational, financial and marketing advice, ask questions and share tips. Rather than write all the content themselves, they pull in thought leaders, such as Pete Cashmore from Mashable, to share their expertise, adding value and increasing trust. In an interview asking how Amex were going to stay ahead of the pack in terms of content marketing, Scott Roen (Amex Vice President of Digital and Head of Social Media), said it was all about providing value to business owners.

And that is the success of this content. Although Open Network is clearly branded as part of Amex, the advice is genuinely useful to the target audience. This builds trust, and then hopefully card membership and brand advocacy.

2.   Events – Small Business Saturday

Small Business Saturday is now a huge event in the USA aimed at the audience of their Open Network – small businesses and entrepreneurs. They realised that small businesses may not have many marketing resources, and so they step in to help with marketing materials for the event, as well as encouraging people to ‘shop local’ every Saturday.

Video content leads for their UK campaign. They commissioned a short film by Heidi Greensmith called “Saturday” which focuses on three very different small firms, revealing the human side of business. The brand has also commissioned a downloadable poster by pop artist Peter Blake and a behind the scenes video also featuring model and spokesperson for the day, Daisy Lowe.

3.   Storytelling

In the Amex local stories series, they use storytelling techniques to engage the audience. Long form articles and stylish images are integrated with the video content to offer a comprehensive package. The emotional trust is won in the video, which is then backed up with the written articles.

Again the emotional, human side of business is depicted in “Voices of Detroit” which powerfully shows how businesses can turn a community around. Amex is helping to promote those small businesses, and position their brand as the SME champion – ending with the call: “Motor City built America. Will you return the favour?”

4.   Partners

For Small Business Saturday in the US, Amex partnered with Bing, Yelp, Fedex and Eventbrite – all of which could offer something to the target audience, such as free ads or event advertising.

Of course, not every brand can partner with such big players. However when producing content, you need to get it out to the right audience, and partnering with an organisation in a different vertical with a similar audience could extend reach.

5.   Social content adds value

Social media is well integrated into their Small Business Saturday campaign with the #shopsmall hashtag in the US. They encourage users to engage with the content by sharing photos and videos of their events on Twitter. In the video below, DJ and artist, Vashtie, shows her favourite spots for Small Business Saturday in New York:

Amex is helping their target audience to market themselves through social media, and so those businesses are keen to get involved with the brand’s social campaigns to help amplify their services.  Again, the content is offering value to the end users – not just filling a Twitter feed for the sake of it.

The Amex feed offers a variety of content from advice to competitions to fun hacks such as the one below. It is heavily branded with a strapline but feels more like a fun piece of content than an ad.


What can your brand take away?

The key takeaway is to create content that offers value to your target audience. How do you do this? Find out as much as you can about your audience through surveys, analytics and conversations. What are their needs? Where are they hanging out? What are they talking about? What interests them? What content could you give them which aligns with your brand story?

Then use a combination of content on different platforms to engage your target audience. A campaign must be integrated across channels to catch them at different points in the buying cycle. Video can lead the way to tell emotional stories which grab attention initially and can then be followed up with longer, more detailed information. Online video also helps to increase engagement through your social media and emarketing channels.

Distribution is key. If your audience do not see your content, you’ve wasted your time. It may be that you want to build up your own forum like Amex, or reach out to other existing networks. Either way, always ensure that you have the budget and resources to promote your content. Then it’s really valuable.

If you would like to discuss how content marketing could help your business in 2015, please get in touch using the contact details below:

– Call us: 01179 240773

– Send us an email:

– Tweet us: @hurricanemedia

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