American Express Direct Mail Secrets Revealed

This year I started taking note that my husband and I have been bombarded with direct mail from American Express. It seemed like once a week the pieces were coming in and there was typically a slightly different twist on the offer.

So I started saving each piece to compare the approaches. While some of what I saw was direct marketing 101, it was helpful to be on the receiving end and determine what we can learn from a company that clearly has direct mail down to a science.

Envelope: American Express started selling on the front and back of the envelop. Each envelope was used to highlight the offer, and even provided a call to action.

Different offers: Each direct mail piece offered a different incentive to become a customer from cash back, to gift cards and travel bonus points. Since American Express doesn’t know what offer we might respond to, they change the incentive each time with the hopes they will eventually hit our sweet spot.

Consistency: Within a 3-month time frame, we have received at least five mailings. American Express has consistently stayed in front of us and their approach is working. In fact, I just asked my husband the other day if he thinks we should get an American Express card.

Multiple pieces: Each mailing included at least 2 pieces of mail, the majority of them actually had 3. It is certainly harder to ignore more components. Plus it demands a little more of the recipient’s time to sift through the pieces.

Scanable headlines: No matter the offer, each piece had scanable headlines, bullets, sidebars, bolded copy and all capital letters drawing attention to the benefits and offer. In less than 5 seconds the recipient can get a quick overview.

Clear call to action with a deadline: All the pieces have various calls to action. “Apply now at …”, “Apply today and bring on the rewards,” “Get a decision in as little as 60 seconds, visit…” Also, each direct mail piece had a different deadline associated with it so the recipient was encouraged to act sooner than later.

P.S.: Every letter had a “P.S.” at the bottom.

Trackable results: Each letter contained a different toll-free number so American Express can track what offer the recipient is responding to. Also, a unique RSVP code was provided on each letter.

Next time you need some ideas for your direct mail campaign, look no further than your own mail box.

Jennifer Manocchio


After starting her career with Edelman in Chicago, Jennifer joined Sweeney and quickly established herself as an exceptional industry innovator. In 2004, she opened Sweeney’s first full-service office outside of Cleveland and quickly rose through the ranks to become agency president. Jen leads by example and without fear. She has been critical to agency growth throughout the past decade and continues to lead the agency into the future.