If you’ve traveled anywhere popular and touristy—Rome’s Colosseum, London’s Piccadilly Circus, Machu Picchu—and looked around, you’ve no doubt seen more than just the sights. You’ve probably also noticed throngs of tourists clutching dog-eared guidebooks along with their SLR cameras.
Travelers have been using those fact-filled volumes for centuries, and for good reason: When you go someplace, it may be your one chance to really know it. The depth of your knowledge of your destination becomes one metric by which you judge the trip. The thing is, guidebooks do have some built-in limitations: They can only point the way. They can’t ensure a great experience.
With London squarely in the spotlight in the summer of last year and millions of our Cardmembers descending on the city, American Express saw a fantastic opportunity to bring together all the services and value that American Express provides. Visitors could get the most out of having an American Express Card while merchants that accept our Cards would see even more value in their relationship with us.
American Express’s Realize the Potential of London initiative created a new spin on the age-old concept: a travel guide that comes to life, that not only points the way but also opens doors. This new form of content—a hybrid of travel journalism, on-the-ground concierge, and insider access—not only delivers useful service but also builds on it, pushing aside the velvet ropes to enable experiences that make the journey more memorable.
Here are six principles that we follow to create great, useful content for consumers:
Our initiative was built around London in the summer months, simultaneously a huge attraction and a potential game-changer for any traveler, with its potential for logistical snares and sold-out hotels and venues. The program’s logo was a London cityscape at night, with lights twinkling. We meant for the metaphor to be unmistakable: American Express was there to help illuminate the London experience
We partnered with the UK national tourist agency Visit Britain and London’s Telegraph newspaper to nail down exactly what American Express Cardmembeers would most need and want to know while in London. A joint initiative between Amex and the Telegraph, which we called “In The Know,” gave readers the opportunity to ask any question that would help them get the most out of their time there.
Guidebooks and their ilk have a flaw: They get outdated, sometimes quickly. Rather than a static, bound volume, Amex developed a program that was built on a dedicated website with integrated iPad and iPhone apps. Everything was updated to the day.
We didn’t wait for people to stumble upon what we were doing. Within three hours of using the American Express Card in the UK, many Cardmembers received a welcoming e-mail explaining all that was available to them while they were in town.
We started with essential knowledge about the nuts and bolts of getting around. We created a free phone number at which London experts would be available to answer questions and recommend places to eat and things to see. Then we filled our site with offers, travel information, and editorial content accessible across every digital platform. We even provided tables at two service centers, at two London hubs—the National Theatre and Westfield Stratford—and staffed them with teams that provided information about all that was going on, and the various experiences available to them, including events, concerts, and unique dining opportunities.
Of course, right? Visitors created their own content at photo booths and “check-in to win” opportunities that allowed them to beam their experiences back home via social media.
Pia Beesley is a Vice President of Marketing for American Express.