To Break Through Loyalty Clutter, Ask the Right Questions.


Chitra Iyer

June 26, 2023
Let's Talk Loyalty

Consumers may not have multiple cards in their wallets anymore, but the digital equivalent is even more crowded. On the screen, brand apps jostle for space with gaming apps, banking apps, wellness apps, your kid’s learning apps, and if you are like me, multiple Scrabble word checkers and thesaurus apps. 

It’s fairly easy for loyalty program apps to disappear into an app drawer. Staying connected with customers on an everyday basis is hard for all brands. But it’s especially hard if you are not an everyday brand. 

For example, HP’s freemium Print Learn Centre, which offers customers (parents) surprisingly well-designed learning resources for kids, kicked off during the pandemic but has continued even after, because of the everyday value it delivered to customers. 

Vitality Insurance offers a whole stack of rewards to improve multiple aspects of a customer’s lifestyle – not when they buy more insurance but counter-intuitively, when they perform actions related to fitness and wellness.  

Nike’s Run Club is not just about earning points to purchase shoes and accessories, it’s about tuning in every single day and engaging with a mutually shared vision of fitness and wellness.

If none of these are products you buy every day, why is a loyalty program even justified? 

The answer, suggests Jason Foo, founder and CEO of London-based agency BBD Perfect Storm, lies in the question you, as the leader of loyalty marketing, should ask yourself.

Do you ask, “How can I make my customer more loyal, aka buy more, spend more, refer more?”

Or do you ask, “How can I make my brand more useful  to my customer, not just in their interactions with me, but in their life?” 

As Foo puts it, “How can I shift my approach from a ‘share of wallet’ to ‘a share of life’?”

While there’s no doubt that the world does not need yet another loyalty program, there’s always room for meaningful, purpose-driven relationships. And loyalty marketers are in the perfect position to create and deliver those. 

But creating and sustaining an irrational, emotional, preference-based relationship when one of you is a business – decidedly rational and transactional by your very nature – is challenging. Getting budgets to create such relationships is even harder.

This is where Foo suggests it’s crucial to start with the brand, not with the loyalty program.  Too many loyalty programs take on a too-strong identity of their own, and the relationship between the brand and the customer becomes secondary.  

In fact, says Foo, the core relationship should be between the brand and the customer, not the program and the customer. This approach may even make getting budgets easier.

What decides loyalty is the answer to the question, “Are my customers loyal to the loyalty program or to my brand?” And perhaps even more important, “How loyal am I to my customer?” 

Get the full episode with Jason Foo here 

👉 Am I missing anything? Share your experiences with irrational loyalty below. 

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About the Author

Chitra is an experienced marketer turned freelance B2B content creator. She writes about CX, martech, sales tech, ad tech, retail tech, loyalty tech, and customer data and privacy. Of her two-decade-long career, Chitra spent the first half in senior corporate marketing roles in India. She’s led communications, digital marketing, and marketing ops teams for companies such as Timken Steel, Tata Play Satellite TV, and Procter & Gamble (P&G).

She has served as the editor-in-chief for the pioneering martech site Martech Advisor, which she led through a successful acquisition by Ziff Davis. She also conceptualized and co-hosted three seasons of one of the earliest Martech podcasts, The Talking Stack, with renowned Martech experts David Raab and Anand Thaker.

As a freelancer, Chitra creates original, thought-provoking content for senior B2B audiences, and has authored over 500 articles, white papers, ebooks, guides, and research reports about Martech and CX for clients around the world. She writes monthly columns for CX publication CMSWire and HR tech publication Reworked; and teaches a course on freelance B2B content writing in association with the Himalayan Writing Institute in India.

Chitra holds a Master’s in global media & communications from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and an MBA in marketing from the Institute of Management Development & Research, India.

In 2011, Chitra opted out of the city and moved to a farm in rural Punjab, in the north of India, where she and her husband breed thoroughbred race horses, grow organic food, and homeschool their two boys.

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