This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.
As a marketer, I read a lot about branding and advertising trends. As a brand marketer, I also read a great deal about customer service and customer experience because I truly believe that is at the heart of any brand I am charged with. As a casino marketer, I read even more about loyalty programs that are used across different industries because they often give me a great insight into what I could be doing.
Last week, I read Lois Geller’s latest contribution to Forbes: Why Doesn’t Apple Have a Real Loyalty Program? Before I read the first word, I already had my answer. Apple DOES indeed have a loyalty program. It’s a clear and solid brand that is operationalized and translated throughout the organization (Jules Rules #3: Operationalize Your Brand). It’s called a good product that is consistent with a brand promise that is delivered time and time again. I am not an Apple worshiper. I know Apple worshipers and I know I’m not one of them, but I appreciate my Apple products and I find them consistent with what I’ve been promised. Therefore, I can assume that I’ll upgrade or buy a new product sometime soon, and isn’t that the whole goal behind a loyalty program…to drive repeated visits and purchases?
Then I read an article about loyal Krispy Kreme customers in Advertising Age where the CMO says
“The chain has a loyal fan base often willing to drive more than 30 minutes to one of its 240 U.S. shops for what CMO Dwayne Chambers calls a “kind of reward, a simple indulgence.”
Try as I might, I can’t find a Krispy Kreme loyalty program unless it’s warm melt in your mouth goodness.
Loyalty programs are structured marketing efforts that reward, and therefore encourage, loyal buying behavior that is potentially beneficial to the firm.
So, now I’ve read these great articles and I think about casino players card programs. Some call them “loyalty programs”. I tend to call them “players card programs” because while they are indeed structured marketing efforts that are rewarding and encouraging buying behavior, I believe (based on thousands of hours of research) that they are not actually driving loyalty to the business but to the offers and rewards. It’s a bit like competing on price, which we all know is a short-term strategy.
How can we get break the bond to the offer and build one for the business? Think Apple. Think Krispy Kreme. Solidify and operationalize your brand so that you don’t have to keep buying or discounting business. Use the card to get to know your customers better and better with each visit or purchase. Think brand. Think long-term.
The keys to discovering customer loyalty strategies that will build true brand loyalty may lie in the answers to these questions:
How do we exceed customer expectations?
How can we give customers a bigger voice – and a bigger stake – in our business?
How do we make the lives of our customers better?
How can we make it so that customers feel better about themselves as a result of doing business with us?
What can we do so that customers would feel proud to recommend us to others or feel proud of being publicly affiliated with our organization?
Once you can stop thinking offers and start thinking loyalty, you’ll find the answers to your brand questions.