For as long as most people can remember, CF Frost, aka Charles Frost, has been the mysterious name featured on the Amex card in all of its advertisements, whether print, TV or digital. But CF - a former real-life advertising executive with Ogilvy & Mather in the 60's - remains as spry as ever, if his recent adventures on Instagram are to be believed.
Since February 4, CF has been using the social photo sharing platform to leave evidence of his activities, on a daily basis. The effort is part of a campaign to demonstrate to a somewhat younger, hipper audience what it means to be an Amex member.
For platinum card member CF, that included a shot of a $600 bill at a tony NYC restaurant (which helps him earn membership rewards), a glance at first class tickets to Miami for a planned Valentines' Day trip with his sweetheart (which presumably membership rewards helped pay for), and a "Throwback Thursday" look at last fall's NY Fashion Week, an event to which being a card holder gave CF and his gal access. (American Express last year also helped sponsor a live streamed event in which it introduced Rebecca Minkoff's Spring 2014 collection.)
"We saw this as a unique way to tell our brand story with a different lens and tone," says Mona Hamouly, vice president, social media communications at American Express.
"People come to Instagram for insider access or a behind the scenes look that gives them insight into the brand. We wanted to show how we facilitate the passions of our members," she adds.
Some of the Instagram campaign's most popular posts, however, conjured more of a mood than a hard sell. For example, an artistic shot of New York's Flatiron building was the most popular shot with 553 likes at last tally. Another shot that appeared to resonate was a picture of the Miami skyline with 506 likes - perhaps reflecting many users longing for sunny skies amid an extremely long winter.
Posts with a picture of the card in them were also very popular, according to Hamouly, who says the company is pleased with the reaction to the campaign but did not have specific goals in mind in terms of engagement. "Whenever plastic is included, there is more engagement" she notes.
American Express launched its Instagram presence two years ago and has some 33,751 followers. Asked if Instagram is overshadowing visual platform Pinterest, Hamouly says that each social media platform is unique. "Pinterest is more a place where we would showcase great experiences and drive traffic to website campaigns," she notes.
Since the CF Frost campaign launched, the brand has attracted around 1000 new Instagram followers and the photos associated with the campaign, have earned around 6,000 Likes.
As for user reaction, some praised the brand for a classy campaign, the occasional person wondered who CF was - "are you on Square?" while others seemed oblivious to the fact that it was a coherent campaign, and simply responded to the picture posted. "I need that hat!! In each color!"
CF Frost's last post - a shot of champagne obtained via the Platinum Card Concierge perk - was seen on Monday, February 17. Who knows if he will be back.
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Mary Lisbeth D'Amico is a freelance writer based in Jersey City who frequently covers digital marketing, social media, tech startups, and venture capital. She has contributed to a wide range of publications including The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Red Herring, and Real Deals. Find her on Twitter at @mldamico.
March 19, 2014