Credits cards are the original friends with benefits. There are lots of perks credit card companies offer to their customers, such as discounts on flights or rewards points that can be traded in to for free movie tickets. Since 1984, American Express has been offering Platinum Card holders exclusive access to a quarterly lifestyle magazine called Departures. We often think of content marketing as existing mostly on the web, but Departures is an example of content marketing that pre-dates the web.

Departures takes content marketing to new heights.

What Does the Magazine Offer?

Departures is a luxury lifestyle magazine/site filled with information about traveling, fashion, shopping and more. It’s not just a puff publication either; the magazine is published by Time and boasts section directors who’ve worked at major publications such as The New York Times. The articles range from restaurant guides to artist profiles to fashion trend reports. Basically, being an Amex Platinum Member gives you access to exclusive articles about a life of luxury.

What’s the Benefit for Amex?

A subscription to Departures comes free to all Platinum members. It’s another incentive for cardholders to become Platinum. But this magazine also encourages readers to spend money… lots of it. All the articles are about different things to spend money on: vacations, fancy meals, new shows. Each article is about a way to use put that American Express card to use.

Since Departures also exists as a website (not just a print magazine), there is added benefit for Amex. Readers can share articles with their friends, but those other people won’t be able to read the articles unless they are Platinum members. American Express can also link to articles on their various social media profiles. People who are unaware of this Platinum perk may be encouraged to up their membership so that they can read the magazine.

Most credit cards offer some perks.

How Can Other Businesses Copy This Strategy?

There’s a number of things businesses can take from Departures.

    • First off, people love exclusivity. Try to see if you can find a way to make your customers feel special for using your product. You want customers to identify as champions of your brands, so that they encourage others to buy in as well (just as someone might share a Departures article.) Companies do this all the time with rewards programs, exclusive coupons, and more. Think about ways your business can offer exclusive benefits that encourage customers to act, now.
    • Departures is a classic example of content marketing. The magazine offers useful, interesting, high-quality content to customers, while also acting as advertising. The content is connected to the brand on each page (every article is inaccessible unless you are an Amex Platinum member, but the content doesn’t specifically focus on the product it’s advertising. That is, Departures is advertising American Express, but all of the articles are focused on luxury lifestyle issues. Think about the sort of content your customers would want to read. How can you offer people useful content while tying it to your brand?
    • Departures also connects American Express to the idea of luxury. What do you want your business to represent? How do you want people to think about your product or brand? Think about ways tell sell these ideas to your customers. Red Bull links their beverages to action. Buick has been trying to target their cars to a younger demographic. Coca-cola tries to incite images of happiness and togetherness. You shouldn’t just be trying to sell your product: you should be trying to sell what you want your brand to represent. You need to build these connections in your customers’ minds.Whether you’re an Amex Platinum member or not, there’s no denying Departures is a successful and creative marketing strategy. Seriously, can you think of any other advertising campaigns that even got mentioned on The Sopranos?

Want to try an out-of-the-box marketing tactic like Departures and not sure where to begin? Try our free trial and we’ll help your company take off!