Where Your Loyalty Program Should Stack Up in Your Retail Brand Identity, Part One

Jul 24, 2013

As several US Supreme Court decisions lay out, corporations have certain rights like those of individual citizens’. The court’s logic: corporations are made up of people and it would be a violation of employees’ first amendment rights not to allow them to organize, think and act collectively.

But corporations are like people in another way: each has its own identity. Sometimes it’s the identity of a charismatic founder like Steve Jobs. Other times that identity evolves from the diversity of many individuals that make up the corporation.

In the last few years, as loyalty programs have proliferated, there’s been growing recognition among retailers that here, too, identity is as important as the original brand promise. Loyalty programs must be imbued with corporate culture from day one.

Recently I sat down with Pamela Sullins, Kobie’s Director of Client Services, to discuss this issue in depth. We also discussed loyalty programs’ overall health and which brands (and verticals) are doing loyalty well. What follows is a condensed version of our conversation as part of Kobie’s ongoing Executive Insights commentaries.

Based on your experience, what are the greatest challenges currently facing loyalty programs? And how do these relate to brand identity?
Many of my colleagues at Kobie have discussed the need to have C-level buy-in – too often there isn’t the necessary engagement from the top of the corporate food chain. But even with today’s broad spectrum of marketing channels, there’s the reverse problem too: not listening to customer desires, not addressing their feedback and not carefully sub-segmenting which marketing channels offer the best per-channel engagement.

Especially in light of recent data which suggests many consumers have a lukewarm appreciation for loyalty programs, even the ones they’re technically members of (though not engaged with), it’s more important than ever for brands to quickly and efficiently incorporate customer feedback into their programs. Sometimes a simple digital survey with a basic question – “does our loyalty program, look, feel and act like an extension of our brand identity?” – will go a long way toward ensuring their level of cohesiveness.

Is there a specific vertical you think is doing a great job with its loyalty programs, ensuring program and brand identity are synonymous?

Retail is probably one of the most effective verticals doing loyalty well as related to upholding brand promise. Retail and loyalty programs seem like a natural fit and make up about 40% of all loyalty program memberships. Entertainment as a vertical, too, works well because of its customer interaction potential. Just like pre-movie trivia questions or Sprint’s “Dream Maker” for your phone that drive engagement during a theatre visit, a loyalty program, possibly with gamified elements can be a fun and exciting way to make going to the movies an even more immersive experience.

Consider AMC. AMC is a brand that does a very good job incorporating its overall marketing strategy, its loyalty strategy, and the criteria for success, holding true to the brand promise of an amazing theatre-going experience. Just like any type of brand marketing, AMC looks at different strategies, different channels and different approaches to their brand marketing and partnerships. They’re also very persistent about measuring customer feedback and response as well as asking internally what those metrics are to begin with and how/if they’ve changed. It also helps to create a more natural flow and relationship in the loyalty program that helps you identify how you acquire, service and retain your best customers. Ultimately, this supports overall enterprise objectives and the loyalty program.

In the second part of Where Your Loyalty Program Should Stack Up in Your Retail Brand Identity,Pamela and I delve deeper into the importance of enterprise-wide buy-in for loyalty programs today and into the future.

Did you enjoy this post? You might also like the following Executive Insights commentaries from Joe Easley, Kobie’s Director of Global Product Strategy, Loyalty Program Challenges, Channels and Best Practices, Part One and Part Two.