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Carroll School of Management

ceo2015-03-31

Kenneth I. Chenault

Chairman and CEO, American Express Company

“The Power of Brand”

"A real brand represents a rational and emotional connection between a company, its products, and its customer," American Express Company Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Chenault told the March 31 meeting of the Boston College Chief Executives Club. “This is a lesson we learned the hard way at American Express in the late ’80s and ’90s,” Chenault acknowledged. “We assumed a brand name, particularly our brand name, mattered more than the product itself. But our customers’ expectations had changed. They wanted value, not just image. Because of their historical relationship with our brand, our customers gave us time. And instead of being damaged by all of this, our brand actually strengthened.” Roger Berkowitz, president and chief executive officer of Legal Sea Foods, introduced Chenault.

TAKEAWAYS

“A brand is not what I, as CEO, believe it to be. A brand is what the customer believes it is….Over the years, we’ve learned [that our brand] has flexibility and depth, but only if we listen to our customers, because they are the ones who ultimately control it.” TRANSCRIPT AND VIDEO »

“While, at the end of the day, I value our partnerships [with Costco, for example], here’s what I don’t value—I don’t like to get into deals where I don’t think they are sustainable as far as the economics are concerned.…It's very, very important to have aligned partnerships and relationships, and I think it's why American Express has been one of the most successful companies relative to our co-brand relationships.” TRANSCRIPT AND VIDEO »

“[Small Business Saturday] brought other companies under the tent to support small business, so it's not just us.…It's big business supporting small business, and it’s having our economy and our overall ecosystem working together.” TRANSCRIPT AND VIDEO »

PRESS COVERAGE

Bloomberg Business “AmEx CEO Says Firm Has Learned the Dangers of 1990s-Era Elitism” ARTICLE »

Boston Business Journal “American Express CEO defiant in defense of Costco divorce” ARTICLE »

Boston Globe, Business “American Express CEO says firm will survive loss of exclusive deal with Costco” ARTICLE »