AMEX bought me a steak, Visa made me walk around an airport

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, Current Affairs, Internet, Marketing | Posted on 09-08-2012


I had a striking experience this week seeing old and new marketing clash head on in a battle between two of the world’s largest companies: Visa and American Express.


I’m at Heathrow Airport waiting for my flight back to the States after watching my mate Ben St Lawrence run for Australia in the 10,000 meters final at the Olympics. With some time to kill before my flight, I decide to buy a Tshirt from the Olympic store to mark the occasion. I line up for 15 minutes, get to the counter… and can’t pay. The Olympics only accept Visa.

I only have a few coins left in my wallet, so have to trudge around the airport, pull out 20 quid from an ATM (with a foreign penalty) and go back to the Olympic store to buy my shirt. I curse Visa under my breath the entire flight home.


Every Monday a few of my mates get together for a steak night. I check in on Foursquare, as is my habit. Immediately I’m notified that American Express has a $5 off deal in the restaurant, because I’ve signed up for Amex Sync.

I tell all my friends about the deal, they check in and get a discount too. We all pull out our American Express cards instead of cash to pay the bill. American Express save us $20, and we have a positive conversation about their brand as we walk home.

I tweet about the #steakscore, and when I wake up I see a tweet @ me from Amex:

American Express bought me a steak and made me smile. Visa made me walk around an airport and frown.

This post says it best:

If you want people to like you, give them something. If you want people to hate you, take something away from them. 


Comments (4)

Totally agree. Visa is a brand I admire and use, but it has squandered all the goodwill it should have had for being an Olympic sponsorship. Instead of people admiring it for helping to ‘give’ us the Olympics they now just see greed. I heard lots of people complaining in the Olympic park. To add insult to injury are the signs saying “proud” to accept Visa, when any right thinking person would think if you offer less choice then you should apologise.

I can’t understand how Visa can get away with this. We went to the Sydney 2000 Olympics and the same “you can only pay with Visa” rule was in place.

I would think (read: hope) that current Federal legislation in Australia, enforced by the ACCC, would have prevented this stupid rule if the Olympics were held in Sydney in 2012.

If anything, I think that the annoyance factor would probably put people off getting a Visa …

… on the other hand, consumers have short memories, banks suddenly send you a new card that’s no longer a MasterCard but is a Visa … and then you find yourself with a Visa.

But it is still a stupid inconvenient annoyance

I guess for Amex, their brand (and the customer experience) is hugely important as their customer base is the wealthier end of the market.

Visa ultimately are just looking for market share, so I guess they just don’t care as much what your experience was, as long as you used their card!

As a brand / digital strategist, I’ve come to learn that a company’s touch points are only as good as the core values of the organization. AmX seems to have a company culture that integrates the values of customer service and innovation at its core.. which can’t be faked in an ad or sponsorship.

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