John Hayes, the CMO of American Express, told a gathering at the 4As conference in Los Angeles that the industry has to some extent “lost sight of the value of interpretation” of major consumer and societal trends."
What he meant by that, Hayes said, is the ability to turn information into insights, which when interpreted correctly, lead to “differentiated marketing solutions that work.”
He cited the example of ZipCar, the car-sharing service that has grown sharply in a short time. That growth, in turn, has profound implications for the automotive category and its various sub-sectors. One study, said Hayes, has concluded that car sharing could reduce the number of vehicles on the road by 1.2 million by the year 2020.
Looking beyond just cars, said Hayes, the entire “sharing” sector is now a $3.5 billion industry, up 25% in the past year. Millennials, in particular, are more likely to share cars or homes. “How will this affect your business?” asked Hayes. “How will it affect your clients’ businesses?”
Sometimes, said Hayes, big new trends develop quickly -- like the rapid transformation of the American family, which is much more diverse than it was just a generation ago. Marriage rates are falling, so are divorce rates, he said.
Change isn’t just about technology, although clearly it has an impact on the way marketers interact with consumers. “The real driver of change is society itself,” he added.
Much like the agency business, American Express’ mission is to attract and service clients. In 2010, the company expressed the service part of its mission with a program called “Small Business Saturday,” designed to help jump-start small businesses that were reeling from the recession.
That program has since become part of the holiday season shopping ritual, nestled in between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. With the help of agencies, said Hayes, “we created our own lightning in a bottle.” That is something marketers and agencies need to do “again and again.”