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Brand Purpose The Ad Club of New York American Express

Amex CMO & Ad Club’s top marketer Elizabeth Rutledge puts customers & colleagues first

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By Hannah Bowler, Senior reporter

June 3, 2024 | 7 min read

Elizabeth Rutledge, chief marketing officer at American Express, has been named Marketer of the Year by the Advertising Club of New York. The Drum sits down with Rutledge to hear how she rose to the top of Amex's marketing ranks.

Elizabeth Rutledge

Elizabeth Rutledge

Elizabeth Rutledge has spent over three decades at American Express, and the last six of those as chief marketing officer. She is an advocate for customers, communities and colleagues.

This year, Rutledge has been named Marketer of the Year by the Advertising Club of New York (Ad Club). Here’s a glimpse into her story.

What are some of the career highlights that put you on the map for Ad Club’s Marketer of the Year?

There have been so many highlights over the years. I will share two:

First is launching the Powerful Backing brand platform in 2018. This platform clearly links to American Express’ overall vision to provide the world’s best customer experience every day, while highlighting our unique, differentiated customer-centric membership model.

Most importantly, this backing promise is for customers, communities and colleagues. We actually unveiled the platform to our global colleague base first, before we made it public, as our 77,000 employees play a crucial role in backing our customers every day. It was important for them to embrace it first, as they are our most valuable brand ambassadors, stewards of the brand’s trust, security and service.

Second is my role as co-chairing the talent development pillar of the ANA’s Global CMO Growth Council. It’s so important for to empower the next generation of marketers. We live in a world that is constantly changing around us, impacting the way we create meaningful customer value, the way we connect with customers, and the way we execute our marketing platforms. This change means we must continuously pivot and grow our skill sets.

The Global Day of Learning that the ANA launched a few years ago has been successful in helping marketers in these changing times through foundational skill development and exploration of new technologies and other advancements in our field.

You’ve spent your career at American Express. How has the business helped you become the award-winning marketer you are today?

I have been fortunate to hold many different roles at Amex over time – global, local, customer-facing, product development, business strategy, P&L management and others. And I have learned so much along the way.

The business puts customers, partners, communities and colleagues first. That means the employer brand is just as important as the customer brand – that powerful backing promise is a core component of our talent development programs, including Marketing U, which we recently launched to ensure our marketers have all the tools and capabilities to grow at Amex.

I am the marketer I am today because many of my leaders took the time to teach me the craft, give me direct feedback along the way and connect me to others in the marketing community to inspire creativity. I quickly learned that partnerships, including with our agencies, can’t be transactional. Trusted relationships are built over time, with authentic, transparent communications and a mutual focus on the customer. A spotlight on the KPIs that really matter to drive business growth will also help drive clarity and purpose for the team. And great creative always captures the mind and the heart of the consumer.

What advice would you give young marketers hoping to one day step into the CMO role?

Be curious. Curiosity starts with asking, ’Why?,’ or, just as important, ’Why not?’ You need to keep asking these questions, particularly seeking out opinions of those with different perspectives.

Speak up, even if you are new to your company, your function or your role – your voice matters.

Surround yourself with people who will inspire and motivate you. And create your own community of personal advisers, who can help you navigate through important career milestones, as well as give you practical advice in those everyday moments.

How has creativity and communications in financial services evolved during your time, and what are some of the biggest current trends in the space?

I’ve been with Amex through the information revolution, the great recession, a global pandemic, an uncertain macro environment and more, yet delivering the best customer experience every day has always been the North Star – as a matter of fact, for almost 175 years. Today that means focusing on Millennial and Gen Z consumers, and small business owners.

It is all about the experience, both in those everyday situations or in those special moments. Customers expect a brand to know them and deliver those experiences in frictionless, added-value and personalized ways. For Amex that’s about notifying customers about potential fraud with a seamless mobile [interaction] or unlocking customers’ dining, entertainment or travel passions. This can mean access to an Olivia Rodrigo concert, stepping into a Centurion airport lounge, experiencing the excitement of a Formula 1 race or getting a reservation at a coveted restaurant via Resy.

Supporting local communities is important now more than ever and Amex has been doing just that for many years, as evidenced by our 15th anniversary of Small Saturday in November of this year, a movement started to help local shop owners increase customer foot traffic and spend during challenging times. Today, with the increased digitization of B2B payments, Amex's Business Blueprint experience is the digital home for small business products – cards, lines of credit, checking accounts and more – all to help small businesses drive their growth plans.

What inspires you?

Great writing. I am often inspired and moved by the power of the written word, whether it’s a great novel, an inspiring mission statement, compelling marketing copy or a meaningful handwritten note!

I’m also inspired by my daughter, whose courage and determination has led her to experience some amazing, life-changing adventures.

What’s something – whether professional or personal – that might surprise people to learn about you?

I am a two-time breast cancer survivor – 23 years ago and just last year.

When I received my first diagnosis, I was juggling a young family, a new home and work at Amex. As I was going through my treatments, my Amex colleagues rallied around me in ways I never expected. My team gave me a box full of CDs the night before my first chemo infusion, with notes about the importance of music in each of their lives. They shared stories of personal struggles and triumphs, and it gave me hope when I needed it most. It also made me realize over time the importance of getting to know a team member on a more personal level – to listen and learn with empathy.

Find out more about the Advertising People of the Year awards.

Brand Purpose The Ad Club of New York American Express

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