Brand icon should be relevant

I finally “got it.”

In the American Express commercial featuring Ellen DeGeneres on a movie lot, there’s a man costumed as a Roman centurion who triggers Ellen’s memory: call American Express for concert tickets. What?

Then I vaguely remembered that American Express used the icon of a helmeted centurion. And I guess they’re bringing “him” back as an identifier.

American Express CardI don’t know why. In fact, I don’t know why they used it in the first place. What does a Roman soldier from 2,000-years ago have to do with America (discovered about 500-years ago)? He represents neither America nor Express. The winged messenger, Mercury, delivering flowers for FTD works fine. It’s not only relevant, it makes a point about speed.

But American Express should be represented by a minute man or an Indian scout, not a Roman.

The official logoThey have used a square with the words American Express for several years while the soldier took a back seat in their branding. I guess their research showed customers wanted something a little more personal. So someone remembered they had adopted a figure from the past in the past – never mind that it never fit the company – so let’s revive it.

This is the same short-sighted decision-making that causes the improbable line extensions Ries and Trout lambasted in their book, Positioning – the Battlefield for your Mind.

Oh, well. People do get used to improbable and disconnected brand imaging. With enough money, repetition and consistency, American Express will probably succeed with their historic Mediterranean icon.

And what’s up with that name for a global financial and travel services company? I’ll save that issue for another blog.

Martin Jelsema
303-242-5975

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