American Express CMO: 'Go From Disrupting To Empowering'

Claire BennetAt Thursday's ANA Brand Innovation Conference in New York, the focus was digital media. Kind of.

Claire Bennett, SVP/Advertising, Marketing and Media at American Express, threw down a gauntlet at the outset: digital, traditional, grassroots--it doesn't matter if consumers don't want it. Paraphrasing Einstein, she said any marketing fool can overwhelm consumers with meaningless information, but it takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.

Her message, delivered through a rundown on her own company's efforts, was that the opposite direction means moving from intrusion to invitation. "Are you making something better for your customer or intruding on an experience they are having?" she asked, rhetorically. "We want to be invited in by the consumer: from transaction to relationship; from disrupting to empowering."

She said the proliferation of new media not withstanding, Amex's media spend remains evenly spread between traditional and non-traditional outlets. "None of the old media has gone away," she said, adding that Amex's marketing activity is shaped by its service-company vision: to become the world's most respected service brand.

Bennett highlighted a recent execution within the company's longstanding cardmember campaign featuring the likes of Serena Williams, Tiger Woods, Tina Fey and Martin Scorcese. The 60-second TV spot, featuring designer Diane von Furstenberg, was part of a larger sponsorship/promotional campaign around Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York.

"A lot of our programs tend to be in New York," she said. In terms of new media, she said the company is expanding efforts in mobile media, "and, from a travel standpoint, the online member community is new as well. We are always looking to make sure sponsorship of events is participatory. So we are looking for any media that will let us make that experience better."

Bennett said the point of the campaign, which launched during the Academy Awards broadcast, was to use traditional and non-traditional media and the event itself to reinforce the service vision by offering card-members an entrée to fashion. The company also created an online video media channel that ran live web casts of the show.

She said that this year the company delved into social media with "Members Know," a travel-centric microsite populated by content from Amex-owned "Travel and Leisure" and that lets card members give advice, chat, and generally share content and give advice.

The company has also increased its sponsorship commitment to the U.S. Open tennis championships in New York, with a program that includes a number of free-to-member events, programs, and amenities.

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