Amex Mexico Increases Promotions

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MEXICO CITY - American Express has dramatically increased promotions to card members in Mexico during the last three years and boosted customer mailings by 260 percent. Most relate to new card programs.

"We are going towards a multi-product strategy," said Mario Sanmiguel, VP of consumer services at Amex Mexico. "I have a good number of clients who want to have several American Express Cards. And since we have a bundled pricing strategy, it costs the same to have several cards as it does to have only one."

Last November, for example, Amex launched a cobranded card with Aeromexico, the national airline, issuing both green and gold cards. It plans to launch a platinum co-branded card this month. While the cobranding concept is not new for American Express, this is the first time the company has launched a cobranded airline card in Mexico.

Amex Mexico oversees the promotion and sales, application processing, and other administrative functions for this partnership, while Aeromexico distributes product information, and has opened its channels to sell the card.

Features of the cards include 1.6 kilometers for each dollar, or its equivalency in pesos, in Aeromexico's Club Premier Program; free airline tickets for a companion when making the first purchase of a ticket with the Amex Aeromexico Card; and upgrade certificates.

Last month the company launched a card targeted to small businesses, an Amex first here. The promotion offers telephone or auto shop discounts to customers with fewer than 50 employees when they use their Amex cards.

Cards are not easy to get and require a lot of information, such as proof of income, residency, and other records often difficult to get through the mail, Sanmiguel explained.

Card members tend to be wealthy, making them a target for charities and other non-profit fund raising.

This spring the company sent a mailing explaining it had added seven Mexican charities to its membership rewards program.

Members accumulate points which they can donate to 13 Mexican charities American Express is affiliated with.

The program began a year ago and has been successful. "We are finding many of them would like to help some of their countrymen who are much less fortunate," he said.

Promotional mailings in Mexico, as everywhere else in the world, are prepared by the company's worldwide ad-vertising agency partner, Ogilvy and Mather, which has offices throughout the country.

Brazil's economic and financial problems have not hurt the company's Mexican operations.

"Fortunately, as Wall Street becomes more sophisticated - and differentiates within regions - it no longer says all of Latin America is in trouble. As a matter of fact [the downturn] has helped us," he said.

"It used to be that when the financial markets got nervous, they would ship the money back to New York, and wait awhile until they decided what to do with it. Now, we are seeing a lot of coming out of Brazil and into Mexico directly."

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