Elizabeth Rutledge, CMO of American Express
Elizabeth Rutledge
Chief Marketing Officer

American Express CMO On Why Campaigns Need To Connect with Employees, Not Just Customers

Elizabeth Rutledge urges brand marketers to "listen to your customers and follow your instincts." It's this combination that helped her and her team at American Express evolve the brand's long-standing ad campaign with a fresh new take, grounded in consumer insights and gut instinct she acquired from her 29 years at AmEx. Here, Elizabeth shares two very personal life experiences that helped shape her career and the most memorable moment from her Brand Genius win - launching the campaign to more than 60,000 AmEx employees.

What have you been up to since receiving your Brand Genius award? 

A lot has been happening! We have continued to roll out our new global brand platform, “Powerful Backing,” to more markets around the globe. I have also been focused on ensuring our marketers have the right set of tools, development opportunities and inspiration to continuously innovate, particularly with a focus on agile methodologies. And we’ve launched several new initiatives to help back our customers & employees including joining the AdFellows program; celebrating PRIDE with a global employee and customer campaign, and partnering with Wimbledon to delight our card members with unique fan experiences.

What’s one memorable moment in winning the Brand Genius award?

There have been so many special moments along the way, as we launched a global platform of powerful backing that is now in 60 countries and counting. One that sticks out is the day we launched the campaign internally at American Express to our 60K+ employees – the ultimate brand ambassadors. The pride of our employees was just overwhelming on that day. This is all about human connections, and the power of those “I got your back” moments. Our employees are responsible for delivering those special moments every day. It was so important that this platform spoke to them, as much as to our customers.

Elizabeth Rutledge launching the "Powerful Backing" campaign internally during The American Express Global Employee Town Hall

What makes for a successful relationship between brand and agency?

It is important that we nurture those relationships, ensuring our agency teams deeply understand our customers, as well as our mission to provide the world’s best customer experience every day. And it’s all about enterprise collaboration. Egos need to be checked at the door. We are one team, serving the needs of our customers.

Any noteworthy experiences in your life that have helped you get to where you are today?

Two experiences clearly stand out. The first is my time as a ninth-grade biology teacher early in my career. In that role, I learned how to think quickly on my feet and concisely present lots of information in ten minute moments – as you can imagine, a ninth-grader’s attention span around botany and genetics is not that long. The second is my cancer diagnosis. While I am now healthy, I never anticipated this news. It has made me truly appreciate the smaller, everyday moments and has given me the ability to embrace the unknown, with a “glass half full” attitude.

Looking back at your career, is there anything you would have done differently?

Speak up more frequently with confidence and conviction.

What one piece of career advice would you offer brand marketers today?

Listen to your customers and follow your instincts.

When you’re not creating genius campaigns, where can we find you?

I love to read and walk, run or bike by the beach. Occasionally, I will cook a big meal for my family and make a mess in the kitchen!

What is your favorite quote? (or book, movie, podcast – something to pass along to our community)

“To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield…” -Ulysses, Tennyson

My father shared this quote with me a long time ago…it still inspires me every day.