best western awardsIn the world of sports, it’s very difficult for any team to successfully defend its championship title.

In the world of customer loyalty marketing, it’s equally difficult. But, at Monday’s second annual 2015 Loyalty360 Awards, Best Western International successfully defended its title in the prestigious 360-Degree category for North America. Best Western, as it did last year, captured the Platinum award in the 360-Degree category for North America.

“It shows we’re focusing on the right thing, the customer,” Glen MacDonell, Managing Director, Best Western Rewards told attendees at the Loyalty360 Awards luncheon that was part of the 8th annual Loyalty Expo presented by Loyalty360 – The Loyalty Marketers’ Association, which will be held April 27-29, 2015, at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando in Orlando, Florida. “We’re trying to get our normal business travelers to also stay with us when they’re on vacation. It’s an absolute privilege to receive this award.”

The 360-Degree Award is given to the company that earned the highest cumulative score across the five categories evaluated: Loyalty or Rewards Program; Technology & Trends; Customer Experience & Engagement; Customer Insight or Voice of the Customer; and Creative Campaign.

Besides taking home the 360-Degree Award for North America, Best Western snared a Platinum Award in the Best Customer Insight in Loyalty Marketing category, along with a pair of Gold Awards in the Best Technology & Trends in Loyalty Marketing and Best Creative Campaign categories.

Here is a list of all the award winners.

Loyalty360 CEO Mark Johnson talked to Loyalty Expo attendees about how there is a “clarion call” for simplicity in loyalty programs where brands are trying to truly listen and understand their customers and create that simplicity.

This point was exemplified by Best Western International.

“The goal is to make it extremely simple,” MacDonell said. “We’re one of the few that don’t allow your points to ever expire, letting our customers know we’re there for them in the long run.”

More than 60 of the world’s leading CPG, retail, travel, hospitality, restaurant and financial services companies entered to win this prestigious industry award. The winners were selected from among five categories of excellence and for two overall North American and International 360-Degree Loyalty Awards.

This highly selective list of winners was chosen from almost 100 entries and narrowed down by a panel of 15 high-level marketing professionals. Assembled by Loyalty360, these judges based their decisions on a wide range of strict scoring metrics to ensure the most comprehensive, accurate, and objective assessments possible.

In the Best Loyalty or Rewards Program, Air Canada took home the Platinum Award for its gamification-dominant “Earn Your Wings” program.

“Earn Your Wings” is a leaderboard-focused competition that offers digital badges and points (or “Wings”) for completed tasks. Some of the tasks were relatively simple (visit a specific airport), while others were more involved like the Pacific Coast Badge that was earned by hanging out in “at least three of these cities on the West Coast: YVR, YYJ, LAX, SFO and SEA.” At the end of the competition, the top Wings earners will be rewarded with a portion of 10 million Aeroplan Miles.

Now available exclusive for Air Canada Altitude members, if a member lands in one of the coveted Top 20 spots on the leaderboard, he or she earns a share of 10 million Bonus Aeroplan Miles. Members earn wings for all flights with Air Canada. The more badges and wings a member earns, the more Bonus Aeroplan Miles they receives.

“When we started this program, gamification was a new and novel concept,” Howard Brackman, Manager, Financial Services and Loyalty Partnerships at Air Canada told attendees. “The game itself is unique and what makes it unique are the people who participate. Gamification creates engagement.”

MacDonell summed up what many consider the inherent driving force behind any successful loyalty program in any industry.

“It’s not about the points or miles,” MacDonell explained. “It’s about having an emotional connection with your customers.”

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