Fantasy marketing to those who fancy being at the top end of town

This afternoon I returned home from a day out doing various things Kaggle, and on the stairwell was a fancy black, clear wrapped package. I thought it was some fancy bit of nonsense for their frequent fliers points. Well it kind of was. It was their latest special card. I’d be chosen to be invited – this kind of thing doesn’t happen to just anyone as the bumph was at pains to insist.

Inside an aluminium sheet which was the cover was a black mock ‘Centurion card’.  Just think I could get a centurion card. Anyway, the brochure was about ten pages one of which appears to my left. Then read on. (below the fold) ground control had pretty much lost contact with Major Tom by the end of it.

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David Walker
13 years ago

From an early (1989) Michael Lewis essay, “Why You Should Leave Home Without It: The Growing Absurdity of the American Express Card”:

“Were American Express selling a normal good, the first thing it would do to meet the competition wold be to lower its fees. But the company maintains that it isn’t selling a normal good. ‘The card,’ as the booklet says, ‘is much more than a simple payments instrument…’ Oh really? How so? ‘[I]t is based on a membership principle.’ In other words, Amex is selling snob appeal, which has a logic all its own. And when you are selling snob appeal, trying to compete on price is not merely futile, it is self-defeating. An American Express card that cost no more than a Visa card would be worth even less.”

I haven’t checked Amex’s recent share of the credit market, but it certainly fell through the 1990s. This is a sales model designed for a different time – probably the early 1960s.