The Art of ‘Brandmance’ for Customer Loyalty

I make no apologies for using the well-used analogy of comparing a brand’s relationship with its customers to that of a budding romance between two lovers. It’s a cliché, but it’s painfully accurate.

Although I admit I’ve never actually scratched the name of my supermarket brand all over my school desk, or doodled the logo of my frequently visited chemist on my bedroom wall, (all of which I may have done in the past, when faced with personal romantic issues).

With the exception of the major airlines, the brand loyalty communication business can be somewhat haphazard in Southeast Asia, particularly where I sit, in Bangkok.

Many global brands have shipped in and started up their loyalty schemes, but then failed to follow through with any type of ongoing brand romancing. It’s all rather like a quick holiday fling, and then a drifting goodbye.

So here are my five tips for getting a blossoming loyalty scheme right.

1. Don’t Be Tempted to Over-Complicate Things

It’s not always possible to get rich, accurate transactional data across every purchase point to give dynamic tiers and segments. So take things slowly and get the basics right, such as a welcome message, sent within a week of a join-up, and at least an ongoing quarterly contact. Nobody likes to be left hanging after a first date.

2. Involve Staff in the Romance of the Sign-Up

Well trained and incentivized ground staff can make all the difference. A bit like a big brother or sister, they can either make a relationship smooth and enjoyable, or make sure it never gets started. Make sure they know the ins and outs of the program, and keep interest by recognizing and rewarding staff who deliver quality as well as quantity of members.

Levi’s in Thailand, for example, recently revamped its in-store Loop reward program across more than 50 outlets.

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Not only was there a complete creative revamp both in-store and on e-communications, Levi’s also focused on rewarding their best performing shop staff on a regular basis. The combined result being a 400 percent increase in member sign-ups, and of course an ongoing “brandmance.”

3. Give Consumers a Warm Fuzzy Feeling

It sounds obvious – we should all make those we care about feel special – but more often than not, we forget. It’s not all about discounts and rewards. Sometimes it’s the little things that count (advice I have been on the receiving end of for the last two decades).

Make sure loyalty members are the first to know about important news, product previews, early chances to buy, launch party invites, etc.

4. Be Creative, Go for the Heart

Forget the baseball caps, the key rings, pens, T-shirts, and please keep the thermal mugs. These are lazy rewards, the equivalent of buying your girlfriend or wife perfume (guilty), a picture frame (guilty), or a diary (not guilty). Guys of course get ties (received), socks (also), and pens (many times) in return. None of this is romantic.

Try and think of rewards that will set your brand apart and hit an emotional chord. With some commoditized products or services such as fuel, or travel, the rewards have to work even harder.

There are many loyalty relationships that offer start-up gifts, which by virtue of economics, are less than exciting. What if instead of a lackluster gift, a small donation could be given to a charity, and then ongoing rewards could be donations to that same chosen charity? This might provide the kind of emotional relationship attachment commoditized brands find hard to create. People like to feel good about doing good things.

5. Consider Your Channels

You’re married, but if you don’t communicate, things can go wrong pretty swiftly. Maybe you have the right things to say, but the message is literally just not getting through.

We can push messages out via a multitude of channels: email (probably around 80 percent remain unopened), SMS (not very creative), or direct mail and telephone (both expensive). Try and marry budget with impact. Mix around the channels to maximize the chances of getting the message through. Consider using Facebook’s target audiences product to reach consumers who didn’t open their emails. At the end of the day, keep communicating, or it could be a silent divorce.

Happy brandmancing!

Homepage image via Shutterstock.

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