NEW YORK — Technology and lifestyle are factors changing the way direct marketers do business, according to John D. Hayes, chief marketing officer at American Express Company.
He made these observations delivering the keynote address yesterday at the DM Days New York Conference & Exhibition.
“Technology and lifestyle are also changing at a pace that makes it extraordinarily difficult to keep up, let alone stay ahead of the game,” Hayes said. “Throw in an ever-changing geopolitical environment, and the degree of difficulty in effectively communicating with your constituencies is staggering.”
When he entered the business more than 25 years ago, industry professionals were marketing in the “lean back” society, a term he used to describe their mindset and physical position. They waited for networks and advertisers to entertain them.
“At the end of the day, we had a very captive audience,” Hayes said. “[But] we’ve made the transformation from a ‘lean back’ society to a ‘lean forward’ one. Consumers are looking for what’s right for them. The consumer has taken control in the ‘lean forward’ society.”
The name of the game today, Hayes said, is engaging customers.
“Consumers don’t want to be the object of a transaction,” Hayes said.
He explained how American Express was a primary sponsor of “The Restaurant,” an unscripted drama series that debuted on NBC last summer. The show offers a behind-the-scenes look at rising star chef Rocco DiSpirito.
As a sponsor, “Open: The Small Business Network from American Express,” launched an integrated marketing campaign that included TV and radio advertising featuring DiSpirito and a Web site, www.openrocco.com, where he chronicled his experiences as a business owner. The campaign also featured print ads and direct mail pieces.
DiSpirito was shown during the series using the products, tools and services provided by the Open Network as he manages his business.
“We saw this as a weekly series, but at the same time as an infomercial, to demonstrate how Open serves its small business customers,” Hayes said.
He also discussed a series of Webisodes — small Web-based movies that American Express produced with Jerry Seinfeld in which he is shown cavorting around New York City with an animated Superman.
One Webisode ran as network programming. American Express also used public relations to promote it, and a few 15-second teasers ran on American Express’s Web site, www.americanexpress.com, to build traffic and awareness.
Since running the Webisodes on americanexpress.com, more than 2 million people have visited the site just to watch.
“The Webisode was and is a business building proposition for us,” Hayes said. “The idea was to create a medium that drives dialogue to American Express.”