American Express, mall chain join forces Taubman, credit card company
link resourcesfor marketing, cash.

The American Express Mall?

Not quite, but the Taubman Co. of Bloomfield Hills said it has entered into a pioneering five-year agreement with American Express Co. to share customer information and marketing programs.

The deal, which Taubman said is the first of its kind, will allow the credit card company to promote its services in all Taubman shopping centers in exchange for cash payments and marketing assistance. It is similar to the kind of arrangement companies have had for years with sports venues.

Beginning next month, American Express will set up kiosks in 23 Taubman malls nationwide to solicit new credit card customers and offer existing cardholders perks such as free valet parking for using the card. By Thanksgiving weekend, all printed signs, brochures and directories at the malls will carry the American Express logo alongside the shopping center name.

"This type of alliance is truly unprecedented," said Denise Anton, senior vice-president of center operations for Bloomfield Hills-based Taubman. "We're terribly excited."

In return for a presence in the malls, American Express will use its database of customer demographic and spending information to plan coordinated mailings and other promotional efforts with Taubman, she said, and will also pay fixed annual fees and other cash compensation based on increased American Express card usage in the centers.

Anton said both companies benefit by pooling resources because their target customers are very similar.

"The profile of their cardholder is very simpatico with our shopper profile," she said. "The alliance agreement gives them exposure to solicit new cardholders on our premises, and a promotional venue to stimulate usage of the cards."

The agreement with American Express includes 17 malls owned by Corporate Property Investors, a New York real estate firm that runs upscale shopping centers such as Atlanta's Lenox Square. Overall, the 40 centers expose American Express to 80 of the 100 most-affluent zip codes in the U.S., Anton said.

Dean Bonham, president of The Bonham Group, a Denver consulting firm, structured the deal among the three firms. He said other Fortune 500 companies are eager to get involved in similar programs.

"This is a first today," said Bonham, who generally specializes in sports marketing. "But in five years these alliances between mall developers and major corporations will be almost as commonplace as they are in the sports arena."

Companies like the idea, he said, because it gets their name in front of consumers who are actively in a spending mode.

"The mall environment is much more conducive (than a stadium) to the type of customer decision that will benefit the sponsor," he said. "People are there to spend."