American Express Targets New Demographic with ZYNC

After six years in the merchandise rewards business at American Express, Mary Hines recently took charge of product marketing for ZYNC, a new card from American Express. Hines spoke with eMarketer’s Lauren McKay about ZYNC, the card’s target demographic and her research of “pause and purchase” buying behavior.

eMarketer: ZYNC, the newest credit card from American Express, targets those in their 20s and 30s. What is special about this demographic and their credit card preferences?

Hines: We spent a lot of time with that age group to understand what they were looking for in a card. We found they were looking for collaboration, control and customization. They want to have a say in what goes into their card—not just in the creation, but on an ongoing basis. They want to ensure their card won’t put them in debt, won’t charge interest and will help them make strong financial decisions. And, finally, they are looking for a card that fits their lifestyle and needs. They don’t want to be force fitted.

eMarketer: Where did American Express see an opportunity to fulfill their needs?

“Because this generation is nontraditional and takes many different paths in life, money is an enabler to do the things that they’re passionate about.”

Hines: Because this generation is nontraditional and takes many different paths in life, money is an enabler to do the things that they’re passionate about. When we looked at our portfolio, we saw an opportunity to give people in their 20s and 30s a chance to customize their experiences. With ZYNC Packs, which are bundles of benefits, cardholders can choose a card that fits their lifestyle choices. Through an online community called the ZYNC Tank, we keep an ongoing dialogue with our cardmembers. We also have a Facebook page with over a 130,000 fans who provide feedback and engage in discussions with the American Express team.

eMarketer: How have you marketed this card differently from American Express’ legacy products?

“We want to be where the target is, so social media has been a critical channel. When you look at people in their 20s and 30s, social media is part of their daily—if not hourly—life.”

Hines: We’re trying a variety of things. We want to be where the target is, so social media has been a critical channel. When you look at people in their 20s and 30s, social media is part of their daily—if not hourly—life. In addition to our Facebook page, we are heavily involved in sponsorships. So that everyone can get a taste of ZYNC, we aim for our outreach to be really scalable. For example, we have hosted concerts, and because we want more than just the 3,000 people at the venue to get to experience the event, we live-stream it on Facebook or YouTube.

eMarketer: American Express recently released “The New Era of Pause and Purchase” (PDF), which outlines new consumer spending habits. How have you responded to these trends in ZYNC?

“Consumers are thinking about the environment, the brand’s contributions to society. They still want to get the best deal—but they want it to be accomplished in the right way.”

Hines: Collectively, the research shows that we have a much more conscientious consumer. They take the time before they make a purchase to make sure that it’s the right one, not in terms of just quality, but in terms of overall impact of that product. For instance, consumers are thinking about the environment, the brand’s contributions to society. They still want to get the best deal—but they want it to be accomplished in the right way. With our Eco Pack, we are rewarding people when they shop at green merchants—more than 5,000 merchants deemed green by our partner Greenopia. Based on feedback, cardmembers not only appreciate the rewards points, but they appreciate that they have the list of green merchants they weren’t previously aware of. Those things resonate with the target market.

Another trend, which we call “give-a-nomics,” is prevalent in consumers shopping with brands that allow them to give something back to charity. Our research shows that 83% of consumers look for brands or products that support the community. The ZYNC Give Back Pack rewards cardholders with bonus points for volunteering and donating to charity.

The next trend we call COBS—co-created brands. ZYNC Tank is a great example of it, where people are actually getting involved in the design process in helping create their end products. You first started to see this come to life with shoes. Nike, for instance, allows you to design your own sneakers. With ZYNC, we took that to a new level where you could create the card that most meets your needs in terms of rewards and benefits.

eMarketer: How are the other American Express card products—the Green card, the Gold card, the Platinum card and the Centurion—evolving to incorporate some of the facets that ZYNC includes?

“The American Express Facebook page bridges all of our card products. We’re leveraging social media, really, throughout the entire company.”

Hines: Our efforts in the digital world, such as InSite, reach across all of our cards. The American Express Facebook page bridges all of our card products. We’re leveraging social media, really, throughout the entire company. ZYNC is unique in that its benefits and rewards are customizable, but we plan to take the learnings from ZYNC to our other products where applicable in the future.

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