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We recently talked about the importance and success of Record Store Day, an annual event that promotes the culture of the small, local, independent business. Now, let’s discuss a similar event: American Express’ Small Business Saturday.

About Small Business Saturday

American Express created Small Business Saturday in November 2010. The event celebrates smaller businesses and encourages consumers to shop at local, brick-and-mortar retail establishments. The goal of Small Business Saturday is two-fold:

  1. 1. Increase patronage for smaller retailers
  2. 2. Entice small retailers to work with Amex instead of other credit card companies

Promotional Strategies

In its first year, Small Business Saturday was the subject of a national radio and television advertising campaign. Amex currently promotes Small Business Saturday through advertising, public relations, and social media outlets. Amex also created a dedicated website for the initiative, and Small Business Saturday has its own Twitter hashtag and Facebook page.

Any small business can participate in the Small Business Saturday campaign. It’s an important promotional opportunity for any store – not just for Amex’s most valued or largest customers. Amex provides all of the marketing materials and any qualifying retailer can opt-in and promote the event locally. Opening the event up to any local shop helps to contribute to the success of the event across a huge number of businesses.

The Results? Favor with Retailers.

Amex’s main goal for Small Business Saturday was to gain favor with retailers, but the company got more out of the initiative than it originally anticipated. The perception of Amex among small businesses improved dramatically after the company began promoting Small Business Saturday. But this brand-driven retail event has also helped Amex gain popularity with consumers.

As we have discussed in a previous post, many modern consumers are willing to pay a premium in order to enjoy unique shopping experiences with local retailers. Because Amex’s Small Business Saturday encourages patronage of these retailers, many consumers who prefer smaller retailers are developing a preference for Amex as well.

Lessons for Other Brands

Brands can learn a lot from Amex’s story. First of all, Amex was able to drive consumers to specific retailers using a relatively simple marketing idea. The success of this initiative is likely due to the strategies Amex used to promote it. To get the word out about Small Business Saturday, Amex utilized a variety of advertising outlets including social media, websites, radio, television, and public relations. But above all, Amex involved its retailers by providing them with marketing materials to promote the event at the local level.

The success of Small Business Saturday is also tied to the purpose behind it: promoting the local retailer. Because Amex was driving business to local retailers, Amex gained favor with these retailers. Furthermore, the goal of helping local business is shared by many modern consumers. As a result, consumers not only patronized local retailers, but they also became more likely to choose Amex as their credit card provider in the future. Not too shabby!