American Express: Code of Conduct Communications Campaign

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My Company. My Code. My Life.

Employee insights, compliance strategies and campaign collateral design

By all industry indications, it would appear that the heightened scrutiny by the federal government and the increasingly complex organizational challenges of the past few years will carry over well into the upcoming years. Companies such as American Express continue to be held to a higher standard and accountability for their actions. For the American Express brand to remain relatively unscathed internally, as well as externally, it is critical for employees at every level of the organization to be reminded of the challenges and risks of the current marketplace.

American Express’ Code of Conduct redesign established a foundation for this vision. The MyCode campaign became a lightning rod for corporate ethics and compliance – and it’s overarching message of “I am the Guardian” became a call to action for over 60,000 American Express employees around the world. The strategic roll-out of the campaign helped Compliance and Ethics achieve unprecedented compliance never before seen at American Express.

Phase 1: Informed by research

In collaboration with k-nekt, we began the American Express Code of Conduct communications program with a kick-off workshop to identify inefficiencies and obstacles to employee engagement, risk management and compliance with mandated Code of Conduct training. This one day event included various project stakeholders and aligned departments – Chief Compliance Officer, C&E team, Brand Management and Executive Communications, etc. confirm and vet organizational goals related to the project, and to identify and vet KPI’s and critical success factors for the new program.

With business goals driving our thinking, we developed a research protocol to interview over two dozen employees around the world. Interviews included people from call centers to C-suite in order to better understand their relationship with the program. Investigation was aimed at identifying employees experience and feelings towards organizational expectations, the relationship of values to job satisfaction, effective communication channels, and identifying and innovating tools and resources to aid content retention, foster change, and speed compliance and training.

“The smartest group I’ve ever met. They broke into the C-suite faster

than anyone we’ve worked with.”

– American Express Executive

Upon completion of the employee interviews we analyzed the findings to identify opportunities in five key areas; 1. How to create and maintain user engagement, 2. Changing users behavior to better manage risk, 3. Efficient delivery channels and methods to maximize response rate, 4. Opportunities and methods to deliver customized and geo-targeted messaging, and, 5. Areas and opportunities for training innovation.

Commonalities in the data allowed us to identify four critical audience segments. These segments, or ‘personas’, provided American Express an unprecedented opportunity to quickly and easily understand where best to allocate resources, as well as how best to address messaging based on unique user needs and requirements. Used throughout the project, these personas continued to focus creative and compliance teams on those people critical to the success of the program.

Based on real world employees, we developed user personas of executives, line-of-business leaders, front line managers, and call center employees. Each had different interests, attitudes and opinions regarding the campaign and each required a different approach to the campaign messaging.

Phase 2: Turning insights into actions

Strategies for success.
The direct output of the user- and project-based research is that it allows us to quickly zero in on and innovate various strategies to achieving the stated goals and objectives of the program. The strategies we developed were simple to use and easy to implement.

1. Recognize that these are unique times and address how they affect employees.
Positively affect employee behavior by integrating American Express’ Blue Box Values and Code.
Develop method and tools for Leaders to evangelize program content and model behaviors.
Provide easy to use tools for busy line of business leaders to deliver messaging.
Identify and train program evangelists to maintain momentum and report success.

To sustain branded program messaging and ensure easy roll-outs in the future, we developed a two-year editorial calendar and communications plan. The graphical framework of the editorial calendar provided targeted messaging and timely content with strategic and frequent delivery touch points. The communications plan served as a working model and included numerous pre-written articles, as well as suggestions and ideas for organically creating new content and delivering it within the system. Content and copy prototypes were provided to maintain a distinctive brand voice and tonality.

A message for the people.
To help ensure the success of the program and affect positive change we realized early on that it would be necessary for all employees to not only understand the value of the program, but to know when, how, where and to who they must report compliance improprieties. To gain acceptance and help the Code imprint it was critical that employees felt program ownership, pride and had control over their actions. Paying homage to the brand legacy of the Amex Centurion, it was this objective that helped drive the creation of the program’s mantra, “I am the Guardian.”

To spread the word at a grass-roots level we developed a poster campaign focused on addressing employees hopes and concerns. Six foot posters placed in call centers around the world helped distinguish the Code program from other mandated training programs. Targeted and informed campaign messaging helped capture employee trust and campaign approval.


Phase 3: Designing Campaign Communications

My Company. My Code.
To distinguish the Code of Conduct program from other mandated compliance training programs we created a unique brand ‘love mark’. The vertical bars of the mark represent American Express’ eight Blue Box Values, and together with the Amex brand inspired typography and accompanying logotype “MY CODE” exemplify the employee  / brand values relationship.


The campaign brand identity was delivered in 12 different languages throughout the world,


My Company. My CodeKit.
To help ensure busy leaders could easily deliver sustained Code and values-based messaging we created “My CodeKit”. This informative primer provided Code updates and ‘timely topics’ and was delivered in two formats – a handy printed booklet as well as an interactive online tool on American Express’ intranet site.

The first, a printed and bound version was delivered to leaders and program evangelists and included topical Code talking points, personalized links between Code and Blue Box Values, as well as ideas on how to customize training and run meetings to introduce and reinforce Code mandates and processes. This useful tool set the stage for Code reminders during one-on-one conversations as well as team meetings.

Campaign resources. On demand.
The online version of My CodeKit included a link to the leadership toolkit where Code evangelists, executives preparing for Town Halls presentations and program leaders delivering content to direct reports, could customize program messaging on demand – at any time of the night or day, and in any part of the world.

Email. Timely and purposeful.
An email campaign was developed to support various compliance milestones and dates. A key success factor of the email campaign was providing one click access to the online training within all online communications. Email were provide to the C&E team to deliver a consistent brand message and aesthetic, as well as providing various branded email templates on the Code website and within the online leadership toolkit. Email templates were designed with all critical content in place and could be customized and personalized by users when delivering code messaging and calls to action.