According to American Express’s just-published 2022 Shop Small Summer survey, 76 percent of small business owners say that rising costs from inflation is a great concern for them this summer. But the majority are also optimistic about their businesses’ performance, and most—87 percent—say that local community support will be integral to the success of their company.
These insights, among others, informed the brand’s new digital-out-of-home- “Shop Small” ad campaign featuring geo-specific QR codes—a first for Amex—that connect consumers in seven cities to small businesses nearby offering summer- and entertainment-themed goods and services, from restaurants to sunglasses to nail salons.
“With this campaign, and with all of our Shop Small efforts, it’s about demonstrating strong backing for small businesses and trying to drive more traffic into their stores, because we know that is an incredibly critical need for small business owners,” says Marianne Rausch, Vice President, Small Business Saturday & Shop Small, Global Advertising & Brand Management at American Express. We spoke with Rausch about the DOOH campaign’s interactivity, the brand’s overall Shop Small business strategy, and more.
Chief Marketer: What was the inspiration behind the campaign?
Marianne Rausch, Vice President, Small Business Saturday & Shop Small, Global Advertising & Brand Management, American Express: We know that people are eager and excited to be out and about this summer, in the communities where they live but also the places that they travel to. We wanted to find a fun way to engage consumers around shopping small, wherever they are this summer, so we designed these eye-catching digital-out-of-home creative units in high-traffic areas featuring fun GIFs that are meant to stop people in their tracks. Each one highlights summer relevance in small business categories, things like bookstores, restaurants and nail salons. We’re giving [consumers] a way to make small businesses central to that kind of summer fun and enjoyment.
CM: You’re using geo-specific out-of-home QR codes for the first time. What insights informed the choice to use that specific technology?
MR: At Amex, for Shop Small and beyond, we’re about delivering the right message at the right time at the right place. The customer experience is always at the center of all we do. So we wanted to think about current technology that could make it really easy and simple for consumers to find great local businesses to immediately support, right where they are. Hence the QR codes. The businesses served up when you click on a QR code in one of those summer relevant categories are geographically close to that unit so you can get right over there. And they’re all Amex-accepting merchants featured on our Shop Small map. It’s a curated list of businesses that are thematically linked to the creative and the digital-out-of-home unit, and then geographically close to where you’re located.
CM: What are the strategic marketing goals of this campaign?
MR: At the heart of every Shop Small campaign is raising consumer awareness about the importance of shopping small and the positive impact that they can have in communities when they decide to support small businesses. This campaign, and with all of our Shop Small efforts, is about demonstrating strong backing for small businesses and trying to drive more traffic into their stores, because we know that is an incredibly critical need for small business owners.
CM: How has your overall small business strategy evolved?
MR: Amex has a very long history of supporting small businesses and Shop Small is core to who we are as a company. It’s a powerful proof point of our commitment to back our customers, small businesses and their communities. We created Small Business Saturday way back in 2010, designed to encourage consumers to visit local small businesses following the financial crisis, at a critical holiday shopping timeframe, to ensure that people were making the decision to shop small during that busy holiday weekend.
Since then, Small Business Saturday has expanded and grown into a year-round and global Shop Small movement. It’s incredibly important for us to continue to support those efforts because we know that small businesses continue to need that backing. You’ll continue to see us sustain that commitment and roll out more campaigns to keep raising awareness about that importance of shopping small, and really honing in on some crucial seasons for small business owners, like the holiday season, the summer timeframe, and even during slower winter months when they might need some additional support.
CM: What research and insights have informed the campaign?
MR: We recently conducted our new 2022 Shop Small Summer Survey, and we found that 76 percent of small business owners are concerned about the rise of inflation. They’re also counting on their local communities to support them this summer, with 87 percent of small business owners saying that local support is going to be integral to the success of their business. That puts a fine point on the need for us to rally around small business owners this summer.
We also know that consumers want to support them. In that same survey, we found that 8 in 10 consumers say that they are prioritizing shopping small right now because they recognize that it’s going to have a positive impact. Insights like that solidified our need to continue to not only raise awareness of the importance of supporting small businesses, but also to find ways to make it easier than ever for consumers to find them.
CM: Lastly, what other interactive technologies do you plan to incorporate into Amex campaigns?
MR: We are always looking for ways to evolve, not only with how we can support small business owners, but also with how we can reach our consumers in new, fun and engaging ways. A great example beyond the QR codes is our 2021 Shop Small holiday campaign. We created 100 custom jingles for small businesses during the holiday season because we understood that those would help them stand out in a fresh way in a very crowded space. The great thing about technology, especially marketing technology, is that it’s always changing. There’s always some new insight about how consumers are taking in media or the next popular platform that’s emerging, so we’re keeping our eyes on what’s next and innovating on how we can better deliver for our customers and small business owners.