Amex CMO Says Agencies Must Focus More On 'The Value Of Interpretation'

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.”

3 comments about "Amex CMO Says Agencies Must Focus More On 'The Value Of Interpretation'".
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  1. Peter Scott-Smith from FiveSight LLP, March 18, 2014 at 5:06 a.m.

    If Mr Hayes is correct in his belief that the ad industry has to some extent “lost sight of the value of interpretation” of major consumer and societal trends", I suggest he and other ad professionals visit the rather useful

  2. Alison Lyne from Persado, March 19, 2014 at 12:18 p.m.

    Solid analysis of how "trends develop quickly" thanks to 1. the shift of power towards the consumer and 2. the proliferation of Big Data. Brands (big & small) that make investments in digital strategy today, will have the competitive advantage 10 years from now. Customer-centric thinking CMO's like Hayes have the power to drive their brands in the right direction, making moves to create positive outcomes for customers ie. "Small Business Saturday."

  3. Jafet Ramirez from PM Publicidad, March 19, 2014 at 12:55 p.m.

    For all I have seen from my agency and peers in the multicultural side of the ad business, the attention to the value of interpretation is not only real but necessary. We have to cross both demographic, cultural and psycho-graphic differences and how the introduction of new product categories, such as the Car-Sharing industry you mentioned, affect other product categories short and long term vis-a-vis the impact other market segments, including the general market do. Even as we address the value of a new proposition and its long term consequences to a brand and the part multicultural consumers play in those changes, in many occasions our arguments are under valued. Great topic to expand on.

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