After all, the Centurion card in particular has built a reputation for luxury and wealth.
From time to time, an article will appear on news websites about the secrets to the American Express Centurion Card. American Express continues to maintain this card as one for the elite spender, whose identity is fashioned off a notion of card holder members who are frequent travellers, affluent globalists and life explorers.
It maintains this identity by sending Centurion and Platinum card members with special magazines, a benefit that is not advertised or even widely lauded, even among card enthusiasts. It is after all just a magazine... but one that shapes perceptions among card holders themselves about having the card, and secondly shaping the brand associations an elite cardholder would naturally associate with, right?
Journal International Experience GmbH is the international publisher of the flagship magazines, Centurion for Centurion Black Card holders, and Departures for Platinum Card holders. In the United States, Time Inc. acquired American Express Publishing Corporation in 2013. Time Inc. and still publishes Departures, Black Ink and Executive Travel.
Here's the stats on what is known. Circulation figures for 2017 suggest that outside the U.S., there are about 400,000 Platinum Cards, and 84,000 Centurion Cards.
Source: Journal International Experience GmbH, CENTURION & DEPARTURES Media Kit 2017
In the United States, TimeInc reports that American Express Platinum Card and Centurion membership has increased 23% since 2010. In its 2016 Annual Report, American Express acquired ten million new proprietary card holders and grew card spending by 8 percent. There are probably up to 20,000 Centurion Card holders in the United States, with the remaining 84,300 in international markets (as described above).
So then, if card acquisitions are growing, why aren’t they growing astronomically for the Platinum Card and the Centurion Card?
In luxury marketing, Vincent Bastien explains that, ‘the function of luxury brands is to create dreams, not to answer to problems and needs.’ The relative obscurity of even elite cards like the Platinum Card and the Centurion perhaps shows that the growth in American Express cardholders and spending are those being acquired at entry level. If a brand or card is too commonplace, it’s just not seen as exclusive and not as appealing to the wealthy.
After all, the Centurion card in particular has built a reputation for luxury and wealth. Liu Yiqian, the billionaire art collector and entrepreneur bought an Amedeo Modigliani’s Reclining Nude on his Centurion Card for $170 million USD in 2015, with enough points to travel first class on any airlines for the rest of his life.
A key takeaway when analysing American Express is how an individual identifies with the product itself. People use luxury items as a statement of their own identity . Between the value-hunters and the status-aspirants, I probably straddle somewhere in between.
Wiedmann, K.P., Hennigs, N. and Siebels, A., 2009. Value‐based segmentation of luxury consumption behavior. Psychology & Marketing, 26(7), pp.625-651.