What American Express and Marriott Have Learned From Their 50-Year Partnership

From launching a rewards program to delivering the optimal customer experience

Timpone, along with American Express CMO Elizabeth Rutledge, took part in the talk moderated by Adweek editor Lisa Granatstein that focused on customer experience.
Sean T. Smith for Adweek

CANNES, France—Marriott International CMO Karin Timpone didn’t make it to Cannes in 2018. She was sitting in “a windowless room” with her IT team working on the launch of Marriott Bonvoy, the customer rewards program that brings together 30 Marriott brands.

“It was a nail-biter, I’m not going to pretend it wasn’t,” said Timpone at Adweek’s first Terrasse Talk luncheon on the rooftop of the J.W. Marriott in Cannes.

“It was really awesome to have a couple key dates to align around,” Timpone said of her role in marketing the massive project, where agility was also key. “It sounds like the opposite of being agile, but it actually helped people become more agile.”

Timpone, along with American Express CMO Elizabeth Rutledge, took part in the talk moderated by Adweek editor Lisa Granatstein that focused on customer experience, which leads to customer loyalty.

“At American Express, our vision has been focused on the customer,” said Rutledge. “I think why we are such great partners with Marriott is [because] we want to deliver on that best customer experience every single day.”

“We’re delighted we have a co-branded card,” said Timpone of Marriott’s partnership with American Express, which goes back 50 years. ” … But these are partners we call when we’re having a situation, when we encounter questions. It’s really good to have someone to bounce it off of, and we’ve enjoyed that for many years.”

Both high-powered CMOs also had advice for the luncheon crowd, which totaled to around 170 Cannes attendees.

“Try to get no more than seven or eight people in the room,” said Rutledge. “And you’ve got to have the UX/UI manager, and you’ve got to have the copywriter, and you’ve got to have the lawyer in the room. It works well when you have to be reactive to something, but proactive as well.”

As for what’s next for both brands? “[Making] sure our customer’s travelers know what brands are in our portfolio,” said Timpone.

For American Express, Rutledge is keeping her eye on the tennis ball. “We signed a great partnership with Wimbledon,” she said. “We are hyper-focused from a personalization perspective.”