So I was struggling with what to call this. As most of you know (who know me), I have a HORRIBLE attention issue. I think it is called ADHD. I have the attention span of nearly 5 minutes and really try to work within those confines. Hmm, maybe that speaks to issues I am having with my SON! The apple doesn’t… Never mind back to the story. I wanted to make this poignant, yet punchy and fun.

I decided I want to write something that fits my style as many people want to hear from us (me) as we are seeing some cool and exciting things. What we are seeing and hearing continues to increase in number and potential uniqueness. But long winded diatribes -- although useful -- are hard for me to pen, so I thought this would be easier to commit to on a weekly basis.

I want to opine as to what we are seeing, hearing, and hopefully this will be an introspective piece for the market, myself, and a responsive opportunity for you. I am hoping that you (the readers) will enjoy reading this as much as I like writing it. It is not going to flow, or necessarily be filled with erudition. It is going to be the Mark Johnson way; last minute and driven with passion (Go Broncos – oops!). The goal is to write a little bit each day regarding interesting insight we are seeing, hearing or “what we thought we heard” and present it to you in this manner. We really welcome your feedback and comments. I want to hear what you think, what you are hearing.

I was actually speaking with the CMO of a large data company last week and he said that is the direction a lot of its marketing efforts are headed for the remainder of 2013. So maybe I am on to something here.

LOYALTY? My Take….

It is an interesting time to be a marketer and an even more interesting time to be a loyalty marketer. Many program providers are updating their programs to make them more “timely, relevant, and engaging.” We have had the pleasure to be a resource to a number of top brands who are redoing their programs and have used us to request information from our community.

Some of them are changing the “reward” component to program in an attempt to influence, augment, or change consumer behavior. Others are looking at “buying” loyalty when not really being focused on the data driven engagement strategies that create measureable and unique customer experiences that boost long-term loyalty. It seems that every program is looking more at creating unique, responsive relationships with consumers, while others have capitulated and believe that throwing more rewards at them is the way to go? Why is that?

Is 5% the number?

One of the interesting areas of the “loyalty” industry business is that it is so focused on understanding a current expectation and behavior of the customer by using a diverse and complex dataset to glean insight about the state of the consumer. But humans are irrational and becoming moreso. All of us want to be treated in a unique manner and it looks like a number of the travel, and (some) retail programs, are fixing/limiting the earning potential and creating a “one size fits all” experience. And they settled on 5% for all purchases? What happens to aspirational loyalty? What happens to the service side or the experience side? How did they settle on 5%?

Experience or Loyalty – the chicken/egg conundrum of 2013.

I recently had the pleasure of resuming the reading (dictating) of podcasts for the State of the Industry articles, as well as the Featured Columnist series for Loyalty 360. Many of the esteemed speakers, authors, and visionaries I know personally and have a great depth of admiration, respect, and possibly a little envy (as many are significantly brighter than I will ever be). Having the opportunity to read (I suggested you do the same as well) these amazingly in-depth pieces, I used them as reflection on the “current state of the marketing industry” and somewhat of a harbinger of things to come.

We read about the challenge of gleaning insight from the consumers, we read about the challenges of high opt-out rate for email and other electronic medium, we read about the abundance of surveys that consumers are affronted with (I mean confronted with). We read about how consumers are going to use their cell phones to ALWAYS use coupons and discounts and may rush to leave a bank, store, or retail location after one, let me repeat ONE horrible experience. Really? Customer experience is very important in a brand’s ability to create a loyal consumer, but individuals are forgiving; if said brand should choose to apologize. 

Did you leave after that one bad experience?

What is the consideration set of importance to your audience and can you afford bad experiences? How many times have you been to Kmart, Walmart, or your local convenient store and had a HORRIBLE experience? 1, 10, 100? How many times have you, your spouse (life partner) been back since? 1, 10, 100 times?

A lot of this depends on how many experiences (positive, negative, or neutral) you have had with that brand up to that point and the equity and utility that you receive from each experience? The metrics by which individuals place import and value on what they want to engage in and why is very unique and challenging. Yet brands need to be able to have in place effective VOC programs that can actively listen to and address the short-term customer experience issues and WIN them back. How many of us have had challenging experiences with our wife or life partner, and did not leave and are still loyal?

The Challenge of an AMAZING product…perspective?

We at Loyalty 360 continue to see a proliferation of amazing products, services, and ideas from the market. For every product that is really unique and can have measureable behavioral impact, a few are not. Meeting the expectations of individual customers can be fraught with challenges; yet designing a product that the market truly wants, needs, and is willing to pay for is MORE challenging now than ever before (see Crowdsourcing or the Wisdom of Crowds).

Developing a product is “easy” but truly understanding the market need is even MORE challenging. We all think we have great ideas for new products that the “market” would LOVE. But some of the products people are developing are a bit off the mark. So how do you know when the product is interesting or amazing?

To call oneself or your product a visionary?

It is amazing to me in this age of data centricity that we are seeing more visionary and revolutionary products in the market than ever before? What does it take to be visionary and revolutionary? If a product is called that in your marketing materials, is it such? It is interesting that there are more truly revolutionary products in the market than ever before, yet not every product can be such?

I wish I had a dime (well maybe just a penny) for every time I have heard revolutionary or visionary. 


Written By:  Mark Johnson, CEO, Loyalty 360 - The Loyalty Marketer's Association

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