American Express : Creating interest with its history
A 'double whammy' combining a strong history section with a nice piece of reputation management.
American Express, the consumer financial services group, has a sub-section in the About Us section of is website headed Our Story. The overview page features This Day in American Express History, which includes an illustration and a short piece of text. Today (30 November) the picture is an old photo of the Liverpool office, and the story is that this is the date when the office opened in 1896.
Our History is an eight-page section taking the company from the express delivery service in 1850 to the loss of life on 11 September 2001. Thumbnail images, which can be enlarged, accompany the story. A notable ‘chapter’ is Trying Times, which describes debt problems and merchants’ resistance to high fees 10 to 15 years ago. The chief executive is quoted as saying “If not for the strength of our brand name, American Express would have collapsed by the late 1980s”.
The web is the obvious medium to describe company history, given its capacity to store words and images. The popularity of history-based tv programmes and books suggests that such content would be well-read, yet few companies are willing to give much space to it. They are, it seems, more interested in appearing ‘modern’ than making their websites interesting.
US companies are less likely than Europeans to have this hang-up, and American Express scores twice by combining a strong history section with a nice piece of reputation management. Many of its customers will remember the merchant boycott of the group because of its fees. American Express could have ignored it, but has chosen not to. By putting the incident in a historical context, it is saying both ‘Look how open we are’ and also ‘We’ve learned from our mistakes’. Add well-written text and good use of old photos, and you have a section that works well in many ways.http://www.americanexpress.com
First published on 30 November, 2004