The TITANs come together (A little late) – AMEX, Kingfisher, Airtel

So what’s this thing about owning an American Express card? Whenever you flash your AMEX card, there are few heads which surely turn. I was one of the people who used to frantically gaze at the AMEX cards being swiped and I wonder why only the crème-de-la-crème have these cards, just to later realize that AMEX charges you annual fee (INR 5K) for owning a AMEX card when everyone else gives it to you free.

Why am I writing about Credit cards anyway when we get so many annoying calls for the same during the week? So the reason is because I recently got an AMEX card. Now why would I want to do that? Well, its not very difficult to explain. AMEX has maintained its class by not going the “Free, Free” way. They have a class and they stick to it. You are a privileged person if you possess an AMEX card. (or this is what they make you believe). And it ties with your lifestyle. Oh by the way we Indians want things free, so we would not take a credit card until you give us something. So Kingfisher and Airtel joined the bandwagon. On getting this AMEX-Kingfisher First Card you get 1 Kingfisher return ticket in any Indian sector free (off course you have to pay the taxes to govt), and you get the convenience of paying your Airtel bills automatically from this special card. Also, you get a free upgrade voucher for Kingfisher First flight. (Though this is not the first tie-up Kingfisher has tied up with other credit cards too {I think ICICI} for similar offerings.)

So, let me get the Maths correctly: If I buy a kingfisher return ticket, I generally pay INR 8K. 4K Tax + 4K fare. Now AMEX is saying we waive the fare for you; you only pay the Tax, and we give you upgrade vouchers to travel in Kingfisher First. Effectively if you like to travel by Kingfisher and you get this ticket without fare with an upgrade too, you are able to reimburse your 5K annual charge. Well seems like this deal was pushed more from Mallya’s team than AMEX. But sounds a win-win situation both for AMEX and Kingfisher. (What’s Bharti Airtel riding on? – I guess their bill payment will get regularized, though, the target audience would anyway be paying on time. And the perfect target audience for their MobileVAS services promotion)

I would want to personally congratulate the AMEX marketing team (though they are late in doing this) for the well thought out and brilliantly executed marketing strategy. This marketing strategy can only be a brainchild of a veteran. Though I would want to find out who devised it, but having said that, let me explain what could have gone behind it.

There was a time when AMEX was under pressure to expand the credit cards subscriber base and simultaneously there was this rat race among all other banks to offer free credit cards. There would have been a meeting where people who thought for years in advance and suggested, that we do not target masses. Our target audience is set of people who are HNIs (high net-worth Individuals). So giving Free…blah blah wouldn’t affect them. What would perhaps affect them would be the premier club that they join and the advantages that they can take.

What they wanted a sales channel which was low cost, a feel of premium brands being associated with, and the feeling amongst customers, that they are joining a premium club with facilities which only a privileged lot gets. And they wanted to still charge people for the credit card.

Strategy Components:

A Paid Credit Card – Amongst dozens of Free credit cards, AMEX positioned itself as the first paid credit card that too in a country like India where people just run to grab anything free. It was able to maintain its premium position and offered its strategic alliances the value for their investments with AMEX.

Sales Channel and Funnel
->They chose Email Marketing as the channel. Low cost, quick and direct response and effective tracking.
->The email campaigns across India generated leads which were passed on to a 25 odd team in Gurgaon call centre to qualify at level 1 of interest and net worth.
->The qualified leads were passed on to the sales reps / relationship executives on field for final closure.

Brand Association
->They chose Kingfisher as a brand to get associated with, again a premium brand with high equity.
->And finally they tied up with Airtel (oh by the way, Airtel offered Mobile VAS card free of charge, perfectly thought out target audience).

Service
->The brand distinction will continue with their high class service.
->They have tie ups with most of the major banks to make online payments for their credit card bills.

Sell More
->Obviously you won’t stop here; if you take a life time membership for 25K you then get a whole lot of benefits. So let’s say this year you enjoyed the services, you are bound to see more customers lining up though references as well as more renewals. But this is yet to be seen based on how the service promised actually turns out to be in practice.

Probably the next step would be promoting the offerings more over internet, mobile and some more email marketing.

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