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244: Premium Brands and Business Marketing with AMEX’s Clayton Ruebensaal

Clayton Ruebensaal, EVP B2B Marketing at American Express

On this 244th episode of “Marketing Today,” host Alan Hart speaks with Clayton Ruebensaal, executive vice president of Global B2B Marketing at American Express. Ruebensaal talks about his experience developing brand strategies for premium brands and his vision for the future.

We start our conversation with a dive into Ruebensaal’s world-travel experience as a child, having grown up with a father in the foreign service. Ruebensaal discusses how his time spent in so many different cultures shaped his view of the world and brought about his interest in all people.

We then speak on Ruebensaal’s journey to the present day and the success that he has had with Ritz Carlton and American Express, where he works now, and attributes that success to his teams’ ability to refresh the brand. “We reached into that history and found truths that we could bring to life,” Ruebensaal claimed. He then breaks down the challenges that brands face when attempting to revamp and how “the difference between success and failure is the change management.”

We then discuss how not only COVID but the death of George Floyd changed the mission at AMEX. Marketers “sit at this intersection between what the business needs and what the consumer needs.” Ruebensaal sees that as an opportunity to make a positive impact on the world.

Highlights from this week’s “Marketing Today”:

  • Clayton was born in Georgetown to a military family that took him all over the world to places like Thailand and Israel. 2:19
  • With the traveling experience at such a young age, Clayton was still able to feel gratitude. 2:56
  • Clayton didn’t exactly have a path after graduating from college as a Creative Writing major. 3:45
  • After his first advertising internship at an advertising firm, Clayton knew precisely what he wanted to do. 4:30
  • Before going to the client side at Ritz Carlton, Clayton ran multiple advertising agencies, then ultimately moving to American Express. 5:10
  • At both Ritz Carlton and American Express, there was plenty of need for a refresh in the respective brands’ clarity. 5:55
  • Before Clayton arrived, the American Express brand and logo hadn’t been updated since 1975. 7:27
  • Clayton knew that with the arrival of the internet came the need to think bigger for American Express. 7:50
  • It takes effective change management to bring a brand to life after years of continuity. 8:47
  • Clayton and his team have spent time speaking to AMEX teams all over the world to understand how the brand could help them. 9:38
  • Having revamped two big brands, Clayton has found that it’s best to start with understanding the problem that needs to be solved. 10:59
  • Though the events of 2020 have accelerated things, they have not changed the fundamentals of marketing. 12:45
  • What started as a health crisis turned into multiple crises in the economic and cultural sectors. 13:27
  • When COVID broke out, Clayton and his team paused to examine where they could be of most assistance. 14:12
  • American Express launched its Business Class platform in an attempt to educated businesses on what they could do. 15:37
  • Every week, American Express tries to provide education in a different and attractive fashion. 17:16
  • Over the last 40 years, business has become sexy and something people love to be a part of. 17:58
  • It’s incredibly important for marketers to put out organic content that adds value to the company. 19:17
  • Useful does not have to mean uninteresting and useful content must be able to compete with everything out there. 21:06
  • After George Floyd was murdered, AMEX made sure they didn’t appear to be taking advantage of the moment. 22:34
  • AMEX started its 100 for 100 Program to provide education and mentorship to black female entrepreneurs and business owners. 23:40
  • The gap between the percentage of black-owned businesses and the percentage of revenue from those businesses is rooted in systemic racism. 25:28
  • Clayton attributes his experience in so many different cultures to his world view and interest in people. 29:03
  • Looking back, Clayton wishes he would not have stressed so much about little things. 30:00
  • The Lincoln Project is one of the brands that Clayton admires the most. 33:45
  • Clayton believes that marketers and their tunnel focus can be detrimental to their ability to change customer behavior. 35:45

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