American Express OPEN Plum Card – How To Launch a Product

American Express OPEN launched its new Plum Card yesterday at the Inc 500 event, with “ooh and ah” elements of suspense and drama.


The suspense began on the first day when you entered the sponsor hall at the Inc 500 event. You saw a booth space completely enclosed by tall solid plum-colored walls. A digital clock, counting down by seconds, was projected against the blank wall. Just that countdown clock — nothing else. You couldn’t help but be curious.


Then, on the second morning, while the attendees were in the main ballroom hearing the program of speakers, a crew of workers assembled the Plum Card booth. I happened to be conducting an interview in the lobby while this was taking place, and snapped this shot of the booth assembly as I came in:

Assembly of the Plum Card booth at Inc 500It might be hard to see, but the countdown clock on the laptop shows 1 hour, 15 minutes left before the announcement.

Meanwhile, back in the ballroom, Susan Sobbott, the President of American Express OPEN, announced the card simply by saying, “Introducing … the Plum Card.” It was all understated but dramatic — just her appearing on stage against a backdrop of plum-colored lights and a few images projected on a giant screen.

All Inc 5000 attendees are among the first group eligible to receive the card. Along with the card, they received leather cases attached underneath their chairs. The leather case was to hold the complimentary iPhone that each Inc 5000 honoree could later claim and receive. Nice swag, huh?

At the next break in the program, the attendees emerged to see the Plum Card booth open, and looking something like this:

Plum Card booth at Inc 500

The Plum Card website says the card is limited to 10,000 recipients right now. Even the website is dramatic and has an element of suspense.


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.

14 Reactions
  1. As I read your post, I was disappointed when I saw the finished booth. It’s very ordinary.
    So this is what the sixth color of AmEx?
    Still hard to beat the classy black card.

  2. Hi Going Like Sixty, the booth was not the glitziest I’ve ever seen. Instead, I would call it understated and elegant — what the Japanese call shibui.

    The photograph may have given the impression that it was a tiny booth, but I captured only part of one side. There were four sides like the one I pictured, plus “wings” that splayed out, with great lighting that brought out the rich color. Remember, I am not a professional photographer and so the picture quality does not do it justice. I just happened to have my camera with me for personal reasons and thought some pics might bring my article to life. 🙂

    It seems to me the booth did what it was designed to do: accommodate 1,400 people coming up and claiming their iPhone and card information, without confusion and with very little wait. But I would have to agree it was the orchestrated build-up to the announcement that made the big impression, rather than the booth itself.


  3. Hi Anita!
    Fantastic job reporting this story. YOUR post was a great tease, also.
    I couldn’t wait to find out more about this card.
    Think about it:
    An introductory event that concerns a 2 cent product that can make AMEX huge amounts of money. Amex did a class job. Nice website, too.
    Thanx a lot for sharing this cool story.
    Joel Libava
    The Franchise King Blog

  4. Nice website AMEX…very, very PLUM. I think AMEX did a pretty nice job. Would have liked being able to attend the kick-ass party…I bet it was just that.

  5. It would have been a nice touch if the countdown timer later changed to reveal the number of applications still available out of the 10,000 initial release count.

  6. Correct – the booth needed to:

    1 – Be transformed from tease to reveal mode in just an hour or two (while the President of OPEN was announcing from the stage)
    2 – Accomodate 1,400 iPhone transactions
    3 – Offer space for small business owners to ask more about the card

    All of this was to happen in a 20×20 space in the ballroom. Thanks for the kind words. The entire project (including iPhone loading, speech components and evening reception) was concepted and executed in a matter of weeks so it was quite rewarding when things went as planned.

  7. I thought the launch & concept was great. Very interesting segway into the small business sector. I can’t wait to receive my new AMEX “Plum Card,” being one of the 10,000 first members. I can only hope to aspire to the ultimate AMEX “Black Card,” but for know it’s satisfiying enough that my clients have them.

    Who would have thought that “ownership” of a credit card…….could feel so good!

  8. While some of the posters here may be disappointed by the size, location or color of the booth, please don’t forget the 2 percent reduction if you pay you bill in 10 days of receipt. On a million dollars of charges, a 20K reduction means more than the size of the booth.

  9. Yea like craig said, that 2% is huge