#444: Circle K's Pokémon Go Partnership - An Award-Winning Game Driving Footfall

This episode is also available in video format on www.Loyalty TV.

Today’s episode features Circle K, one of the world’s leading convenience and fuel retail businesses which operates more than 14,200 stores in 26 countries worldwide.

Circle K recently launched a hugely exciting concept, leveraging the power of gamification, partnerships and cutting-edge technology, to launch a global concept which is laser focused on achieving the brand’s single biggest key commercial objective – to drive both loyal and new customers in store.

In addition to that innovation, Circle K Norway recently won one of the convenience industry’s most prestigious awards, when they were awarded the 2023 NACS European Technology of the Year Award.  

Circle K also has many of its senior marketing people – including today’s guest – in my home city of Dublin, so please enjoy this fascinating conversation with MJ Tierney, Head of European Marketing at Circle K.

Show Notes: 

1) Circle K

2) MJ Tierney⁠

3) 2023 NACS European Technology of the Year Award.  ⁠

4) Circle K pilots new Rewarded AR ads in Pokémon Go

5) Watch the full video interview on Loyalty TV⁠

Audio Transcript

Paula: Welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty, an industry podcast for loyalty marketing professionals. I’m your host, Paula Thomas, and if you work in loyalty marketing, join me every week to learn the latest ideas from loyalty specialists around the world.

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Hello and welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty and Loyalty TV. Today is perhaps one of my favorite episodes to record and share for a number of reasons. Firstly, Circle K is one of the world’s leading convenience and fuel retail businesses, operating in more than 14,200 stores in 26 countries worldwide.

Recently, Circle K launched one of the most exciting concepts I’ve seen. It leverages the power of gamification, partnerships and cutting edge technology to launch a global concept in multiple markets. And it’s laser focused on achieving the brand’s single biggest commercial objective to drive both loyal and new customers into stores.

In addition to that innovation, Circle K in Norway recently won one of the convenience industry’s most prestigious awards when they won the 2023 NACS European Technology of the Year award. As a final point, Circle K has many of its senior marketing people, including today’s guest, based in my home city of Dublin.

So, I hope you enjoy this fascinating conversation with MJ Tierney, Head of European Marketing at Circle K.

MJ, welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty and Loyalty TV.

MJ: Thanks a million for having me. Delighted to be here.

Paula: Great. You’re actually our third guest from Circle K, MJ. And I think the most exciting actually, just by sheer nature of the awards you’ve been winning and the extraordinary propositions and activations that we’re going to talk about today.

So with no further ado, as you know, we always just start this show to get a sense of our guests favorite loyalty programs. So as a loyalty and marketing industry professional, MJ, will you tell us what is your favorite loyalty program? 

MJ: Yeah, I, I’m going to have to call out to I’m a big fan of the adiClub, the Adidas membership program, I think, and hopefully we’ll get into it later, even with the Circle K program, personalization is key. And it’s probably one of the best programs for that. I like to try and, you know, exercise daily or, or as much as I can get out and Adidas to be my brand of preference, but from the point of view of rewards and personalization and early access to products, I think it’s a really fantastic program.

But then secondly, I’d probably give a local shout out to Dunnes. I’m a married man now and I have young kids and yeah, the shop, the weekly shop was probably one of the most exciting parts of the week, but it’s very simple to anyone that knows Dunnes it’s a very quick spend and, and receive mechanics. So the 25, which five or five to 25 back in the 50 spend 50 and get 10 back as it is a great program.

Paula: Absolutely. And I think our audience know MJ that I’m from Ireland. So, you know, for those who are listening that might not know the brand Dunnes stores is very close to our hearts.

MJ: Absolutely.

Paula: It’s an iconic brand. And again, we’ve invited them on the show. So hopefully at some stage we’ll have done stores as well. But we’re here to talk about Circle K, MJ. I noticed, as I said, all of the awards you are winning for one particular, I suppose, activation just in this summer of 2023, which has just so much going on.

It’s got partnerships, it’s got gamification, and it really is I think off the charts in terms of anything I’ve seen as a loyalty proposition. So I definitely, first of all, want to congratulate you on this extraordinary innovation. And I think I said to you in our preparation call, you know, we’re here to educate, to inspire, and to really learn about innovation. And I think today is going to be a masterclass. 

So before we get into those, specifically the Pokemon Go, the gamification piece I’d love to just get a sense of, you know, globally Circle K, I know, is one of the biggest fuel and convenience store retailers in the world. I think at last count, I saw 14, 200 stores.

So give us a sense of how loyalty is thought about given the scale of the operations globally, MJ, just how do you think about keeping your customers loyal? 

MJ: Yeah, it’s an integral part of who we are at Circle K and, you know, when you mentioned the, the Pokemon Go partnership we also for, for 10 years plus in some markets have been, have had gaming as part of a staple of our, our awards for customers program and, you know, in, in many markets, we, the thing at Circle K is for such a big global retailer, one of our strengths is how quickly we can get local.

And you know, our, our partnerships internally with our it teams, my own partnership with the loyalty team, both in Europe and globally allows us to take the tools and, you know, take the, the bones of what the program is and work with the local markets then to tailor that. And that’s where we get real success. That’s where it really comes to life. 

And I’ve plenty of opportunity hopefully today to, to check through some of those examples, but yeah, that’s, Yeah. Loyalty is an integral part of what we do. It does vary, you know, locally in terms of how we activate it, but the back end and the mechanic and the program, you know, and keeping that consistent is what we do quite well.

Paula: Yeah, for sure. And I do remember actually under your former brand name, actually, MJ, and I know you were part of the business when Topaz as an Irish fuel and convenience retail brand had already started, you know, with this whole concept of gamification. And I watched it closely with great interest and also wrote, I think a couple of articles about it.

So I think the thing that has stuck with me actually over the years, MJ, is the fact that both Topaz and obviously now Circle K have managed to transform something that really is a grudge purchase. I think, you know, there’s very few people look forward to going to refuel their car with the best will in the world, but you’ve managed to transform it into something that’s extremely engaging and welcoming and to create a fun aspect to something that people do literally, I suppose, you know, a couple of times a week.

So it seems the mindset of transforming your relationship with customers is something that underpins everything that you do. Would that be fair to say? 

MJ: Yeah. And I suppose you kind of have to take it from the point of view of, well, people might not love, you know, coming to fill their car. That might not be something you wake up in the morning and go, God, I can’t wait to do it.

People do love to get a cup of coffee. They do need to pick up a snack, you know, when they’re out at the weekend with their family, they do need to grab some lunches there as they’re traveling to work. And that’s where we really tap into our customer set and we really tap into loyalty and use loyalty for that.

And again, Pokemon go gave us an opportunity to do that. And through the loyalty program, to our experience and to our understanding of our customers, we, we really make that, or we try to make that as easy for customers as possible, as easy to get rewarded for what they’re coming to us for as easy, as easy as we can, you know, we use the program to put those new products and new categories in front of the relevant customers.

So yeah, it’s, it’s a constant constant job to keep it innovative and fresh. But yeah, we like to think we do a pretty good job. 

Paula: I think you are. I think what everyone listening and watching this MJ will hear is that I have totally drunk the Kool Aid because the results that I’ve seen again, and I want to get into it right now with you the activation and the partnership that brought this Pokemon proposition to life has had just results that are off the charts. And again, first of all, congratulations. 

So let’s get into telling our audience exactly what did you do? Maybe even starting with what was your objective? Because again, I think innovation is something that can be overrated. Because it does bring a lot of work and a lot of complexity into a program. But when it’s done well, I think it’s extraordinary in terms of the power of what you can do in terms of that engagement with your customers. So I’d love to understand the business context of this overall activation. And then exactly what did you do? So the audience can hear the details. 

MJ: Yeah, look, we touched on the top of the call, Paula, we’re a bricks and mortar retailer. So, you know, no matter what innovation comes in the digital sphere, we need to get people’s people to stores. And the background is we have been gaming and we, we through our loyalty program in Ireland had experience of it prior to being acquired by Circle K. But gaming, and I suppose the real nods in Circle K needs to go to the Scandinavian markets and primarily the Danish market.

They would have pioneered that about 10 years ago when it wasn’t as popular as it is today, mobile gaming. And that has exported from Denmark right across all of the European markets when we were acquired and we came into the family. And Circle K in Ireland, we would have rolled out the games and the results were astonishing.

We see about 30 to 40 percent and redemption rates in our games in Europe, hugely, hugely impressive numbers in terms of customers coming to store. So that’s the foundation and how our program works, our own game works is when we switch it on and you can see I’m championing the summer game, which is live at the moment across all of our markets in Europe and across our US and Canada markets as well.

Customer plays the game and it’s scratch and win or spin and win normally a very straightforward mechanic and they get a prize. The prize that they get, they then make a decision somewhere within the week, sometimes on the day, some of the numbers, especially across certain demographics are staggering for how quickly they’ll come in to redeem the reward.

They have 2 to 3 days on average to redeem the award. The reward, they come into store, they redeem it. And most of the time we’ll see either those players will come back more within the next six weeks and or they’ll add something to the basket. With the Pokemon partnership, it was kind of a coming together of, I suppose, a lot of just where we were at the time in the world.

Pokemon is the biggest free to play mobile game in the world, the most successful and the biggest and most downloaded. Hugely coveted game, Pokemon Go, for any partnership. They launched in 2016, and even internally, a lot of the discussion was, you know, how popular is it now? How relevant is it now in 2020? When we started discussing with Niantic.

2020, not to, not to bring it back to maybe doom and gloom, but it was the height of the pandemic. The only, the only thing you could do, and again, for, for global listeners or watchers, it’ll be fully relevant. But in Ireland, it was really, really restrictive. You could only travel within five kilometers.

Most people just look forward to getting outside in the day. It was a perfect time for Pokemon Go because, you know, the numbers that they had 2020 since launch was their biggest year. And so we had, we had made, or we, we made the introduction. We work closely with Mediacom, our global partners in media, but not only on the media buying side and the advertising side, we work closely with them on kind of social listening, cultural innovation, and we’re trying to stay, I suppose, ahead of the curve on what’s coming and what’s happening.

And they brought the details. Tell to us and the, you know, the numbers and the statistics to us around how Pokemon go was performing. And they, they made an introduction to Niantic and from there, then we saw, as I said, you, you win a reward in our program, our own, our own game, you make a decision to come to the store.

I think we’re coming with a platform where. It was built on the real world. Customers were passing our stores every day. And we had an opportunity whilst they were there to be able to give them rewards. It was a perfect marry for what we do. Plus it gave us an opportunity to really extend our game and our rewards programs into another world and into into their world.

So a lot of, a lot of, I suppose, the factors came together at the right time for us. Notwithstanding, it was our first ever global partnership. So there was a lot of, a lot of work in getting it up off the ground and a huge, a hugely enjoyable time for everybody involved. 

Paula: Indeed, indeed. And I’m sure the complexity, the, just the inspiration and the enjoyment about what can you do with a brand as powerful as Pokemon Go.

I did look at their latest numbers as well, MJ, because again, like all games, of course. You said, they’re unbelievably successful at launch. I think actually was their most successful ever. I saw figures in 2016 of 232 million. So it did explode as I think very first augmented reality experience that anyone certainly me had ever heard of.

But even now I’ve. seen their numbers again, off the charts, 79 million people play Pokemon Go. And again, like I haven’t done anything in the world of augmented reality, but I almost feel like I need to, given what you’ve seen as, you know, such extraordinary success. 

So will you talk through the mechanic, MJ, because, you know, Niantic, obviously, and your, your agency, as you said, brought these various parties together. You I think are crystal clear in terms of the need to drive people from their mobile device, which are probably playing at home or maybe on the bus but to drive them into store. So tell us about the mechanic that you built in order to achieve that objective. with the Pokemon Go audience, as you said, you were already doing that with your own audience.

So I guess he knew how it was going to perform, but how did it work with the Pokemon audience? 

MJ: There’s a lot of things in the background. And again, when you talk business objectives, we have clear customer demographics and profiles globally. And Niantic, you know, from the very first day we started discussing with them, what we were looking to do were very, very quick to bring their demographics, their audiences, match it up and marry it with what we were trying to do.

But the game had, I suppose, a couple of basic activation or execution opportunities for us that the main one being our Circle K locations, Niantic and Pokemon Go is mapped on the real world, so our, our stores exist there, but other locations then in their game became points of interest in the form of focused ops or gyms.

I think I’m not sure if it was all fair or we touched on on the top of the call, but one of the things we wanted to be sure of, and we’re always cognizant of when we’re looking at our partnerships, we’re looking at gaming or we’re looking at maybe verticals that were not hugely present or, or, or you know, popular in.

Our view and my own personal view, and I’m a gamer myself, hands up. I’ve been, that’s it. An honest admission, you have to compliment the user experience. So you have to be conscious to try and compliment it versus just badging and just, you know, turning up because, you know, as, as opposed to maybe a, a musical audience or a movie audience who see a branded product.

Gamers are really, really, you know, the community is very, very specific and they don’t like that. They tend not to like it. So what we try to do is make our locations pop up as seamlessly as possible in the game. So Pokestops and gyms, any Pokemon Go players will know that’s where you go to, to train your Pokemon and or get rewarded and or find new Pokemon.

So customers are coming there or sorry, players are coming there with a positive attitude in the game anyway. And then when we became locations in that gym or in that Pokestop, we then became a rewarded icon in the game. So not only were you training your Pokemon, you were getting a free K Freeze or a free Polar Pop in the U S.

Or a free coffee, and we also brought some vendor partners in throughout the partnership as well. So you’re getting some free, you know, new, new and unique products within the game. So that was one of the main staples, but they also gave us access to their social audiences and gave us access to early releases of what would be called legendary Pokemon.

And rare Pokemon in the game through legendary raids, we got access to community, community days. So there are specific days to Pokemon Go community, and we got an access to the customers and to the audience in advance of that. 

So, the one thing I will say in terms of Niantic as a partner. It was new to them. That was their first ever global partnership, a partnership of that scale. It was new to us. And what you really need in that regard is a flexible partner and a partner who can work with you. And, you know, from the off, we made our objectives very clear. Niantic support leavers were very clear. There was flexibility on both parts, you know, and data sharing and info sharing was very regular.

We had weekly catch ups, we’d monthly deep dives with Niantic to go through what else we can do. And right up to the, you know, we, we worked with Pokemon and we were working with Niantic specifically for a year. And right up until the tail end of the partnership, they were coming with new innovation and they brought in a new, a new innovative AR in game reward themselves or in game add themselves.

And gave us, you know, first run a trialing, a product launch in it. So that that’s, I think that’s key and that’s what made it a success for us is the flexibility that was always there within the partnership and the, the willing to innovate. 

Paula: Amazing, amazing. And I feel like I do need to go and learn all the new language about PokéStops. And you’ve mentioned a couple of things there, training your Pokémon. So I will confess, I am not a gamer. But in simple terms, with my consumer hat on, MJ, I’ve seen some of the visuals and of course, we’ll make sure to to link to the various incredible press releases and, and to be able to show people again, watching this exactly what the experience looked like, even if again, they’re not playing the game, but what I loved was that you did focus on, which I’m guessing is a hero product, which is the Circle K Coffee.

And you did obviously bring that to life within the Pokemon world. The augmented reality version and then again, you had this objective to drive people into a Circle K store. And I think it was the same mechanic. You said they would essentially get their free coffee within, I think, a 72 hour period. Is that, is that fair to say?

MJ: Yeah. Yeah. And I suppose again, to extend upon it, it, it, it mirrored in another reason why we would have gotten, gotten involved and partnered with Niantic. Niantic came to us. So store by store, region by region, country by country, Niantic were able to give us the demographics of their players in that region.

So as we moved through the partnership, we tried tons of things. We tried one product in a country. So that was the offer in that country for that week. We tried different products in different demographics. So where you might’ve had a skewed to a more younger audience. We might’ve tried maybe a younger product like a K Freeze where it was a slightly older audience.

We might’ve tried a coffee. We even, you know, in certain and through the partnership. So Pokestops and Jim were one mechanic. There was another mechanic called sponsored billboards. So they’re like, as you traveled through the game, they’re sponsored opportunities throughout the game. We even trialed recruitment in certain areas where we might’ve had a station where we knew we needed. Maybe specific staff like weekend staff or evening staff, which would tend to be maybe a college student or a secondary school student if, if they were looking for some work. So we would have tried different mechanics just to, to, to maybe learn from the game. 

And it’s actually evolved now into where this summer, so just live in Sweden and in Norway in, in this summer game, we’ve integrated AR into our own mobile game in the form of a scavenger hunt. So you, you open up the Circle K mobile app within the store in those markets. You scan your phone around the store and these AR products, pretty much learning from the Pokemon Go mechanic will pop up within the store. So the learnings are, you know, the learnings are continued to be applied for us.

Paula: Amazing. And again, just for anyone not familiar, AOR, we’re just talking augmented reality. And because I suppose jargon is something that comes through, I suppose, the whole world of marketing all of the time, I guess for me, it’s just incredible to see like moving beyond, you know, metaverse and AI and all of these very hyped ideas to hear it working in a way that drove footfall.

And I want to also mention the statistics again in the press release and we’ll make sure it’s in the show notes as well for our listeners and for our audience MJ but an engagement rate again on the Pokemon partnership of 76 percent and an average completion rate of 95 percent. So I mean I would just love to know like in terms of your expectations pre launch again a very worthwhile and collaborative relationship but did you have any idea would be that successful?

MJ: None at all. And again, that specific example is the rewarded ad and that the kind of innovation that Niantic would have pioneered. We couldn’t have known, nor really could they, how well they were going to perform. And like, hands up there was, you know, throughout the year, there was tons of things we tried that didn’t work.

Paula: Okay, thank you for saying that.

MJ: You know, it was, there was, there was a lot in terms of it is obvious. So customers will always prefer a free product over a discounted product. Some customers just wanted a single product. We tried multi products. As I said, we tried recruitment kind of pop up ads in certain locations. So there was, there was loads we tried within the partnership, you know, that had kind of differing, differing redemption rates, but that was all.

You know, we went in eyes wide open and as did Niantic with helping us to learn in that regard. As I said, on the week, on a weekly basis, we had a working group again, our first ever global working group where we have our gaming leads from each market, data and analytics support team as part of that group.

We had, we had the Niantic team. So Niantic would have obviously taken part in those weekly meetings as well and shared a lot of detail with us on their side. Okay. New, new features, new builds, you know, new detail there and and we can, and the PR team as well from our side, anytime there was, you know, maybe a legendary raid happening or something unique or we surpassed the milestone, but yeah, throughout the whole partnership.

Can I say we expected the success it was probably not because we weren’t sure how successful it would be. We based everything off our own mobile game. And so that was our kind of benchmark going in. 

But again, sorry, I left out a hugely important partner in those weekly and monthly catch ups. So MediaCom would have been part of all of the work with Niantic throughout because we would have evaluated a lot of the engagement statistics and a lot of the click through rates based on media metrics. So we would have had them integrated as well. So yeah, I think they were all the success criteria if you want to call it that. Putting together the right people. 

Sorry, I know I’m probably rambling on a bit but one point I think is important as well. We would have throughout the program we’re an organization of 100, 000 plus employees globally but we would have throughout the program reached out to the organization because you might have, and gaming is such a, I suppose, such a varied, you know, there’s such varied audiences in gaming.

There’s the console gamer, there’s the mobile gamer, there’s maybe a casual social gamer playing a game on Facebook that pops up. So we reached out to our organization and some of our business to business employees and some of the younger demographic reached out to say, yeah, we, we game and we’d be interested in coming into some of the brainstorming sessions.

So I think reaching out to your org, and not holding it within any specific, you know, function or discipline was something that we, we had success with as well.

Paula: Nice. I actually liked that you’ve brought in the definition MJ of gamer as well, because as you said that I remembered actually, I do play a word game on my phone. So yeah. Yeah. I’m definitely not the console person, you know, never looked at Roblox or, or Pokemon or anything like it, but I think you’re right. I think we probably, or I certainly, I will say have quite a narrow definition when I think gamer, but I think gamification, I think it really opens up exactly what you’ve identified.

And as, as we’re talking today, all I can think MJ is, you know, there are so many loyalty professionals again, who I think feel a little bit jaded with the, you know, over reliance on, on points, coupons and particularly I think in markets like the U S like, you know, I think consumers are also quite jaded as well because those mechanics as reliable as they are, can be hard to innovate. So I think you guys have just gone in a totally different direction and created something again, based on combined expertise. And I love the fact, actually, in terms of your KPIs, you also alluded to the media value, because again, we talk loyalty here. And that’s something that, you know, has narrow definitions and broader definitions. 

But it really feels like you’re really thinking about just engaging customers, like not necessarily, you know, focused on, you know, just purely a transactional relationship, which is, you know, considered, I suppose, the most profitable behavior, but you’re looking at every single outcome of this particular activity it sounds like. 

MJ: Yeah, we’re looking both sides. We’re looking at how we close that loop and the example I give you there, Paula, is so the game you can see behind me, as I said, Denmark, I think Denmark, Scandinavia pioneering it 10 years ago, the game for pretty much as long as it has existed in Europe has been, we would have played it and it would have featured through a web link.

Through a clickable web link. And we would have iframed it in our, our mobile app across all of the European markets. In the background and in the last kind of 24 to 36 months, we’ve been working towards, we would have had a lot of true, true legacy, true acquisition, true, true different things. We would have had a lot of different mobile applications actually featuring in market to the customer. They may appear as kind of the one user in some instances that isn’t, they didn’t. In some instances, there were, there were separate apps. So not really a cohesive experience with the customer, but a huge amount of work to connect all of those systems into one single CMS and to, you know, transfer those customers over.

This summer in Europe, and we’ve launched it in the U S we’ve launched our global mobile application. So a single CMS on the back end, seamless user experience, but bringing all of our services like pay with play. So you can pay with your registration plate in some of the European markets, subscription, carwash, and for the first time gaming into the app.

So everything is, is in the app and we’ve switched it on this summer. And we’ve seen huge, huge increases in our loyalty members coming in to play the game. Now we would have had a large cohort of them anyway, but they’re anyway, but we’re now opening that up to far more loyalty members who would never have played before.

So they come in, they play the game, they get a reward. Equally the gamers who would have played just through the web link, who maybe weren’t aware of subscription, you know, coffee, or who weren’t aware of subscription carwash, in Europe or other offers are now coming in, playing the game and getting exposed to all of these other things that we can offer.

And as it was to close the loop within the game, we also offer an ads platform for our vendor partners. So you might see Coca Cola ads or Pepsi ads within our game. Because we’ve got a huge, huge amount of dwell time in our game. We’ve got the free to play or sorry, the, the immediate free to reward game.

We’ve also got social games where, you know, you can play against me and there’s a points and a leaderboard system within that environment. We then pop up say a Coca Cola ad, you know, you know, and, and add it and it’s localized per market. So the local Irish team will work with their vendor partners to put up the ads specific to the Irish customer.

So we’re, we’re transferring those eyeballs. And that dwell time and that media value, and we work with partners to, to get involved there on the local side as well. So trying to close the loop. So not only advertising our game externally, say on Facebook, you come in and play it, download the app when you’re in there, then, you know, we’re serving you a potential ad or award. Sometimes the, the vendor partners will add a bonus, bonus prize or bonus reward into the game. So again, just trying to keep that, that loop going with the customer. 

Paula: And dare I say, that sounds like a revenue opportunity and I’m sure you can’t get into any details about that, MJ, but you know, I think loyalty programs as a media platform is still a huge area of opportunity and grocery convenience retail is definitely where I think there is the most maturity, at least in terms of those relationships directly with brands. So it sounds like that is something that’s already working, as you said, giving something directly of value to people who are engaging in the app. 

But I think what I like most is, there’s so much, I think, app fatigue, you know, in terms of, you know, that, that job to be done about how do you actually get people to download an app?

So it sounds like you guys again have a laser focused strategy, like just make it absolutely indispensable. So I love the pay with plate. I think that’s something that has won some awards as well, if I’m not mistaken, from my research. As you said, you know that the gamification piece is in there and it sounds like you’ve successfully migrated people again from what might have been maybe an acquisition play with with Pokemon and transition them into the Circle K world, both virtually and physically.

MJ: The key for us is once they’re there and having exactly, as you mentioned, all of those different types of Reward systems, if you want to call that we see our loyalty program as well. We would see it as one of the best, but a free membership program. It doesn’t cost anything to partake with, with loyalty at Circle K.

But when you get in there, loyalty, your way is what’s key to us. And as you’ve just mentioned, whether it’s car wash subscription that you’re interested in, sorry, pay with plate or car wash subscription or gaming, you can get rewarded in all those different, in all those different ways, but equally we’re focused on and we’re laser focused on and all and integrating everything into one app and collating all that data in one place allows us then to ensure if it’s coffee you’re coming for, why try and reward you with, you know, with food offers or equally if you put a food item in the basket once or twice a week, why not give you a food offer to come in and entice you into that part of the program and part of our business. 

So it’s all about getting the customer in, but when they’re there and when you talk about indispensable and you asked me at the top of the call, my favorite program, it’s Adidas because it’s personalized to me.mWhen brands get that right, that’s the, that’s the app you keep, you know, that’s the program you engage with most and, and the cadence of communication. It’s all, it’s all connected. 

Paula: Yeah. I feel like we’re going to need to stay very closely in contact MJ because you guys are just operating at seemingly the speed of light in terms of testing trialing.

I know you mentioned all fair to me as well on our last call. That you are working with these propositions again in key kind of activation periods again with Niantic, a key partner last year. And if it’s okay with you, I wanted to give one shout out actually as well to our mutual friends in Liquid Barcodes, because you did mention Car Wash Subscription and I worked for a number of years with the guys. So an incredible team. 

And again, building loyalty propositions that I think are world class. And I think Circle K, of course, is doing exactly that. So on all fronts, you guys are definitely leading the world with new ideas and new innovations. So I guess my final question then, MJ, is what can we look forward to next?

MJ: Yeah, there’s I can’t give away too much, but I was only off a call this morning. Actually, I’ll give a shout out to a couple of colleagues, but a specific colleague of my own, and that they, the pioneers and those who are leading gaming for us globally and are the reasons we continue to grow and evolve and have success in this area.

Suzanne in my own team and in the European team and myself were discussing this morning, three or four of the new innovations, you know, we’ve integrated the game into the app in the summer. We’ve added in all of these different and new benefits that I’ve mentioned in terms of our, put them all into one place.

We’ve evolved the gaming experience into a 3D game experience just, just this summer. And we’re already discussing the next two or three innovations and that, that we’re looking to put into the winter game. That’s where we’ve, we’ve managed to, you know, hold onto that user base, continue to keep our redemption rates at the level that they’re at, continue to grow the unique players that are coming in playing each summer. It’s the passion and the innovation and the will to continually evolve the program from those who are leading them in each region. And that’s, you know, I’m probably luckiest to get to to get to say I work with on a daily and weekly basis is people like that who are constantly going.

What about, can we, you know, new innovation or new opportunity? Would that make sense for Circle K? Let’s put it through the evaluation and see. 

Paula: Yes. Yeah. And again, from the little I know from an external perspective, you have an extraordinary amount of yeah, collaboration and autonomy. So it almost feels like the perfect blend of globalization and localization, because I think we all know what the brand, the size of Circle K, you know, there’s no such thing as one single approach.

And I do think you, you seem to have nailed a combination of what it needs in order to take something as powerful as a global partnership implemented in local markets, and you’ve given some great examples in terms of how it was customized at a local level to create these extraordinary results. So, as I said, I’ve totally drunk the Kool Aid.

I’m very inspired by what you’ve done. I have no more questions today, MJ, but is there anything else that you wanted to mention for our audience before we wrap up? 

MJ: Yeah, just a really important point. And it wouldn’t be right. I mean, not to call us out, but as you mentioned, those local partners, so Pokemon Go was a success because we took something that we knew we could make work through, through our own mobile game.

That was kind of the burning idea that we had. We’ve got local marketing leads in each market and local digital marketing leads across the globe in, in, in every business unit that we, we have in the world. And they’re the reason it becomes a success because they take the nucleus of the idea, they take, you know, the, the innovation of what Niantic are bringing and they bring it to life in each market.

And I’d just like to say a huge thanks to all of the global marketeers across, across Circle K that helped bring this to life. You know, that’s the reason it was a success. And those marketers are the reason my job is, is so exciting and interesting. You know, every time we bring something new to the table.

Paula: Well, undoubtedly it is one of the most fun concepts and again, delivering business value, MJ. So as you said, closing the loop in terms of, you know, big ideas, big ambition and big results. So with that, I want to say MJ Tierney, Head of European Marketing at Circle K. Thank you so much from Let’s Talk Loyalty and Loyalty TV.

MJ:Thanks so much Paula.

Paula: This show is sponsored by The Wise Marketer, the world’s most popular source of loyalty marketing news, insights, and research. The Wise Marketer also offers loyalty marketing training through its Loyalty Academy, which is already certified over 500 executives in 38 countries as certified loyalty marketing professionals. 

For more information, check out thewisemarketer.com and loyaltyacademy.org

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