#435: Driving Ancillary Revenue in Travel Loyalty Programs with Points and Plusgrade

Today’s guest is well known to everyone working in the travel loyalty industry globally.

Danielle Brown is the Chief Marketing Officer of Plusgrade – the global ancillary revenue leader in travel, as well as Points, a platform that specialises in loyalty currency retailing.

This conversation tells the extra-ordinary story that while global economic events over the years have had devastating effects on the travel industry, each of these crises somehow also created unique opportunities for innovation and evolution in travel loyalty programs, with the result that Plusgrade now delivers over a billion dollars in ancillary revenue for its partners every year.

Danielle shares some of their success stories and explains why currency retailing has become such a powerful driver of both short-term revenues, as well as measurable increases in longer-term loyalty from premium members of travel loyalty programs.

Listen to enjoy my conversation with Danielle Brown, from Points and Plusgrade.

This episode is sponsored by Plusgrade.

Show Notes:

1) Danielle Brown

2) Plusgrade

3) Points

4) Watch the full interview video at Loyalty TV

Audio Transcript

Paula: Hello and welcome to today’s episode of Let’s Talk Loyalty. Today’s guest will be well-known to all of you working in the travel loyalty industry. And it was at a travel loyalty industry event that I first met Danielle Brown, Chief Marketing Officer of PlusGrade, the global ancillary revenue leader in travel, as well as Points, a platform that specializes in loyalty currency retailing.

This conversation tells the extraordinary story of how global economic events over the years have had devastating effects on the travel industry. Yet, each of these crises somehow created unique opportunities for innovation and evolution. With the result, the Plusgrade now delivers a billion dollars in ancillary revenue for its partners every year.

Danielle will share some of their success stories with us today. And explain why currency retailing has become such a powerful driver of both short term revenues as well as measurable increases in longer term loyalty from premium members of travel loyalty programs. I hope you enjoy my conversation with Danielle Brown from Points and PlusGrade.

So, Danielle, welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty and Loyalty TV.

Danielle: Thank you so much for having me, Paula. I think we’ve had conversations throughout the years of possibly doing this, so I’m very, very excited we can make this work. 

Paula: Honestly, Danielle, you know, you have been an inspiration. I’ve seen you speaking on stage at a number of industry events, always so exciting. So delighted we’re finally here together to share the amazing story and journey that you have been on with the company. 

Danielle: So I truly appreciate that, Paula. Thank you. 

Paula: Not at all. Not at all. And I think we’ll allude to it later, but I think you’re better trained than most of us in terms of this public speaking gig. So so it’s very exciting. 

But listen, let’s get straight into it, Danielle. As you know, we always start this show trying to get a really good understanding from industry professionals about what it is that they’re admiring in the loyalty industry at a particular moment in time. So given the extraordinary number of partners and programs that you work with, I am super curious to know what is your personal favorite loyalty program?

Danielle: You know, because I do listen to you, I was anticipating this question and at 1st, it struck fear in my heart because I thought, how am I going to pick? It’s like picking 1 of your favorite children, right? Yeah, but then I really thought I would get real. And and it’s, it’s Air Canada. I’m picking 1 of our partners.

The Aeroplane program is my favorite. It’s situational for me in some parts because I am based in Canada. And so Air Canada is who flies me pretty much everywhere I need to go. And it’s also, I mean, for related to loyalty, I do have my super elite status in Aeroplane. And so my feeling of being taken care of the personal touches of being created by name, I just, I really just love the experience of status on Air Canada and every, the special feeling that that gives me as a loyalty program member. 

Paula: Amazing. Yeah. I think there is something about the one that we get to personally, you know, enjoy in our own lives. So I often talk about Emirates, as you know, and Skywards because I have exactly the same experience. I fly them all the time and they make me feel a million dollars.

Danielle:  So right. And I do think there’s just there’s something to also just really dissecting what they do so well. Mark Nasr and team there are just so fantastic at growing the program, growing opportunities, growing earned burn opportunities. And it’s just lovely to see. I mean, even their partnership with Skywards has really been a wonderful, a wonderful partnership as well. So I think they’ve got all those different pieces of a program that a member can really enjoy. 

Paula: For sure. And they’re due back on the show actually at some point, Danielle. So guys, if you’re listening in Air Canada, there’s an open invitation. We’re dying to get the updated story. So that’s incredible, Danielle. Thank you for sharing that. And I do appreciate it. It’s sometimes sensitive to answer about something when we work in the industry and we have our own favorites. So so that’s perfectly cool.

So let’s get straight into it. Points.com is the brand that I know best. I know, of course, there is a story we’re going to share today about the new company name that owns points.com. But the thing that really struck me actually, when we were preparing for this conversation was the extraordinary challenges that the world has faced and that you guys have translated into extraordinary potential, particularly for travel loyalty professionals. 

So do you mind just to go back to the very beginning, Danielle, tell us the origin story and how you guys have grown throughout all of these various kind of economical and market changes that have happened over the last 20 odd years.

Danielle: Yeah, sure. So Points of the brand has been around for over 20 years, almost 25 years. So we’ve been around for quite a while. And we started as points.com as a consumer proposition that was essentially an exchange platform for a bunch of different loyalty program miles. 

And what happened, I mean, if we cast our minds back to 20 years ago, was a catastrophic event in the world, really, and in travel in the way it manifested in travel was 9-11. And obviously really tragic when you think about it from a business perspective in travel, what we ended up seeing was all of our airline partners at the time, just with the complete inability to earn because we couldn’t get people weren’t flying. I mean, it wasn’t a possibility. 

So one of our partners at the time American Airlines came to us and said, listen, we need to find a way to be able to continue to generate revenue and still be able to deliver value for our members. And what we ended up doing was actually building our first loyalty currency, retailing white labeled storefront for American. And then that subsequently grew into more white label storefronts with more of our partners and completely flipped our business model because it allowed those partners of ours to be able to continue to generate revenue in a very bleak time in our history and in business, people aren’t flying. You can’t earn. So what’s another way that we can continue to generate revenue for the airline? 

Paula: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, honestly, none of us will ever forget that time, Danielle. I had just left Emirates actually at the time. And I remember being in Ireland and like everybody else. You know, remember that day vividly.

And at the time I was hoping to get a job back in the airline industry myself, but of course there was absolutely no way, but what I’m hearing coming through is something incredibly powerful. And actually it’s something that probably aligns with what this audience loves to hear, which is at the end of the day, what we’re trying to create are propositions where everyone benefits. 

And when I got into loyalty, you probably know it was in telecommunications and it was all about just purely retention. And that was a difficult business case to measure, to model, and to prove to senior management. But I think you guys came out of that another way, which is, as you said, here’s a way to actually earn some, dare I say it, cold, hard cash to actually sell something that I don’t think anybody at senior management level realized people wanted to buy. But obviously American nailed that for you guys. And it’s been an extraordinary success ever since. 

Danielle: You know, it really has, and now we look at a world where because of that and because of that pivot we’ve really matured the way we think about that loyalty currency proposition. And we have, when we look at the points of the loyalty suite of products, we have over 60 partners that we partner with on the loyalty currency retailing piece.

Now, with this acquisition by Plusgrade, we now work with over 200 partners in air, rail, hotel, cruise, financial services. So it’s really this rising tide floats all boats kind of mentality where we can, without cross pollinating loyalty programs, understand what members need and react to and can be emotionally connected to, which then drives an economic benefit for our partners as well.

And there’s something else that you mentioned there that I, that I really want to, that I really want to touch on, which is the important part of our story is that, yes, we had a product, but we co created something with a partner. And I think you’ll see, as we have grown and matured and through covid, the team in in both the points and Plusgrade business unit is that co creation with our partners. This is not we would never be successful if we said this is what you need. Programs know their members best. And so being able to either tailor or co create. In a completely new space is core to our DNA. And I think that’s what’s, what makes us so sticky with our partners because we’re sticky with their members. 

Paula: Amazing. Yeah. I love that word co creation and it’s something that we’re thinking about actually a lot as well as I suppose, content creators. It’s like, what is it that the audience wants? And for you, it’s exactly, you know, what is it that the programs want?

And, and I was specifically going to ask about COVID because, you know, as we all, you know, think back, I mean, it actually seems still quite shocking, I guess, what we all went through. I think we all kind of froze for a couple of months initially until we realized what we were dealing with. 

But again, a phoenix from the ashes story. I think in terms of again, points.com as a particular business. So tell us the experience of you and all of these partners at that particular moment in time from, I guess, 2020 up to where we are today. 

Danielle: Yeah. So, so we were tracking along and growing and getting more and more partners and I’ll tell this story from the point side of the business. Cause that’s where I was at the time. I was I had been at Points in 2014, left in 2017 and returned just in the nick of time in December 2019. So just got my feet wet again, just ready for, ready for COVID, ready for the pandemic. And I think just much like everyone, the disruption was unbelievable.

And again no one was getting revenue and, and one of the first things that we did again was to talk to our partners and say, okay, we’re going to help get some revenue in the bank for you. And obviously everyone was looking for ways to do that. And it was hard in different ways, right? That we sometimes forget to talk about people. We’re getting furloughed the effect of not having of not having that revenue coming in was really dire with our partners. 

And so we really looked to find ways to create revenue opportunities, not just for them but with them. And loyalty currency retailing was this really natural kind of way for people to maintain this connection with their members.

So we actually, after an initial downturn, while everyone had shock for the first few months, started to then see really actually climbing revenues quarter over quarter, pretty much after the 1st quarter and had several record quarters in there throughout COVID. 

One of the fascinating things to me, I think, in that development was as we push those those currency retailing sales, we also worked with our partners to survey currency buyers once they had made a purchase to say, what is the reason that you are buying currency now? Because you can’t immediately travel. These weren’t needs based purchases. 

And one of our major North American partners, I remember looking through the verbatim of this survey and reading several responses along the lines of this is my favorite airline. I want to make sure that I support them with this purchase so that they will still be around once this is all over. And just like the power of that in a time when we were all looking for something to be hopeful for. Yeah, this currency retail and was almost like I’m going to buy so that I can plan my trip so that when things are open again, it’s this hopeful. I’m going to be traveling again. And that was this is really powerful. 

I think aha moment for us all to just say, this is not just a one way we’re floating our partners here and making sure that we can deliver revenue to them, but also saying those members are engaged in that journey. And when we really start thinking about that relationship between emotional and economic connection in a loyalty program, to me, that was just this really pivotal understanding of the commitment that a member makes when they decide to buy currency. 

Paula: Yeah, that’s absolutely gorgeous, Danielle. Thank you for sharing that because I think for me, for sure, there was always this, you know, hope and, you know, selfishly that I would be able to travel quite soon. And again, we were quite lucky here in Dubai, but there’s one thing to be, you know, selfishly looking forward and dreaming.

But that selflessness that you’ve just articulated, I can only imagine, and I’m sure you’ve shared it with all of your partners, you know, and for that to be, I suppose, on the radar of the C suite, particularly who again may have in the past, not really evaluated or valued actually to more correctly, maybe didn’t value the loyalty programs within the airlines to the extent that I think COVID actually started to shine a light on what it could do both short term and long term. 

Danielle: That’s a fantastic point, Paula. I mean, one of one of our partners who we love working with because they allow us to be so creative Emirates Skywards. Again, this isn’t something I’m sharing out of school, but that James Curry from Skywards has shared with us before.

But at some point during COVID, this was May 2021, and we had done a flash sale on Skywards by Miles program for, I think it was like a 48 hour period. And the contribution of the revenue from the sale of those miles was 40% of all of the revenue on emirates.com. So you can imagine that conversation with the loyalty program and the C suite of the airline. The, the power of that, that COVID was able to highlight was so powerful. And I think not just from that, but just the different loyalty activities, you really started seeing this. We just felt like we and our partners had way more of a voice in their organizations in general. 

Paula: Which again is always super reassuring, I think, to this audience, because we’re the loyalty professionals. And I always used to say, I always felt quite defensive, actually, you know, trying to justify the investment in loyalty. You know, when I was building my first program and I didn’t have this language or this evidence or, you know, really, I suppose, specific case studies that you’ve just quoted from, from the Emirates example. So absolutely incredible. 

And you gave me a brilliant figure as well, Danielle. Last time we spoke about the cumulative value you’ve created for all of your partners. Do you want to share that amazing number? 

Danielle: Yeah, it’s pretty staggering. When we had a look at all of the value that we as Points and Plu grade as a whole are going to be delivering to our partners this year, it’s five billion dollars in revenue. So this is, I mean, between upgrades and seating and loyalty currency retailing, and curated member experiences. It’s a staggering amount of revenue that we’re able to deliver to our partners just through really incredible experiences for travelers and for loyalty program members.

Paula: Amazing. Amazing. Well, incredibly inspiring. And again, you know, at this particular time, if anybody hasn’t considered loyalty currency retailing certainly within the travel agency, pardon me, in the travel loyalty industry. Then absolutely, it’s the perfect time to do it right now. 

Tell me then what’s the opposite, Danielle? Why, why would there be people perhaps listening to this who mightn’t have done it yet? What kind of concerns are there? Cause it seems to be self evident to me again, as a, you know, fascinated observer. And again, as a, a customer, I think I told you, i bought my husband Skyward Miles for his birthday last year. So fully drunk. So, so what kind of concerns do people have when you start working with them initially? 

Danielle: So what I would say is most of the programs that we work with do before we start working with them, have some sort of a loyalty currency retailing program that they would generally be executing themselves. Right.

And so what we see is invariably with every program that we start working with within the first 12 months, we’re able to increase their revenues by 400%. It’s staggering. And it really is because of our approach to data science and analytics in the way that we work with personalization.

So I want to get back to that. But I’m just going to tell you. I’ll, I’ll, I’ll hop backwards to your original question and say, one of the other I think difficulties, and you’ve talked about this a bunch on your show is just that relationship. I think with revenue management and understanding that when you are selling currency, and especially if you are selling currency, not just at your baseline price, but actually promoting an either bonus thing or discounting, it’s really looking at how you make sure that you don’t devalue that currency and how you make sure you’re managing your program economics so that you have a balance of volume and yield. And you that’s till have a healthy value per point or mile that you need to think about. 

And so going back to my other point on on really needing to make sure that you take a personalized approach, it’s super important to not jump in and say, great, we’re going to run a whole bunch of promos. We’re going to run a mass offer, a hundred percent bonus. Everyone’s going to get the same thing. What’s going to happen to your yield, your yield is not going to be the most fantastic. When you look at it at the end of the day and you’ve got a classic loyalty and revenue management fight on your hands here, which no one wants to get, get into the middle of.

And so when you then think about how you need to structure your miles retailing program, it becomes very important to think about that balance of volume and yield and thinking about what is the transaction size that I need in order to trade off between volume and yield. 

And also, thinking about, okay, what are the different thresholds that I need people to push at? What are the minimum purchase limits that I need in order to make for me, for my program those currency sales important and advantageous. And of course you can’t do that if you’re not running personalized offers where you’re trying to push and stretch people and include and increase your conversion on the offer. Increase the amount of miles or points purchased, and at the same time, make sure that you’re selling those with the least amount of discount or bonus possible in order to gain all your program economics. 

Paula: Yeah, that sounds like a very fine line, Danielle. Absolutely. Enough to get people excited, but not enough to upset the people in revenue management. So yeah, I can see where the expertise comes in and I can see exactly as you said, there’s plenty of programs in existence, but actually doing it with expert help and advisory. And I think you have a pretty extensive team. You mentioned of analytics people to support that kind of planning. Don’t you? 

Danielle: We do. Yeah. The team is about 20 people now from for we have data scientists and analysts, and I’ll actually tell you a story about how we how we first kind of started jumping into this more advanced analytics world. This was, I want to say 2014, probably back end of 2014. And we were working with a partner.

And at the time, I think our analytics, our personalization was not very sophisticated. If I’m, if I’m pretty honest with you, it was more of a pretty blunt instrument database management. And what we provided to our partners was the rail. So we’re going to give you the technology, the debit and credit miles from someone’s account.

And what we ended up realizing was we had this 1 partner who said, listen, I’m fighting with my marketing team. I can’t give you enough communications channels to be able to push out your your offer or our joint offer. And so, here’s a fun challenge for you. You will only get 20 percent of the size of the list that you were previously getting, and you still have to hit the exact same revenue target. Your face, as I can see it right now, is exactly what my face is. And you can imagine what the team said. 

And we had a data scientist kind of floating around on the engineering team. And she said, I just need to borrow you over here. What I need you to do is build me a really basic response model to be able to say, if I could only talk to 20 percent of this loyalty programs members, who am I going to target? And, and that was the first kind of more sophisticated response model that we built. What we have done because we saw the success of that is say, okay, no, we’re not going to go out to all of your members. We are going to start making sure that we’re valuing your communications. 

And I think that happened with all of our partners across the board, and then we started layering on and saying, okay, well, what if on top of being able to predict who was most likely to respond? What channel are they most likely to be able to respond in? What offer? What product are they most likely to be able to respond to? And what it started doing with snowballing into this kind of machine learning and AI machine that allows us to predict a whole bunch of member behavior and allows us to then make sure that our communications with those members are relevant and they’re profitable. So you are not wasting touch points, which is, I think, what the old model really was. It’s more, it was more of a spray and pray. 

Paula: And, and what I, am I right in understanding, Danielle, that you guys then do that piece, you do that segmentation. So we, cause I think what, what happens with so many brands is they totally get personalization as a principle, as an intention, nobody wants to spray and pray.

But when we come to our planning and ops, actually on the CRM side, it can be super hard to kind of do that analysis, pull the right list. So it sounds like you guys are doing that piece for them. 

Danielle: Yeah, we absolutely do that. And I think that’s one of those value added services that we that we do provide just as part of our relationship.

All of our different partners are comfortable with sharing different levels of data with us. I think the less rich or robust the data is that shared, the less we’re able to kind of fine tune and instrumentalize our personalization. The more that we can share, if we can share kind of transactional level data on a member basis on what that member does in the program and with the airline or hotel in general, then we can really get robust at being able to predict those different buyer behaviors and who’s going to be more responsive. So I think it is something that we that we do, and it is something that is core to our DNA and that our partners say time and time again. Look, this isn’t something that I can get resources to do internally.

And I think we know that one, of the one of the difficulties that our partners have outside of their relationship with us is you have your loyalty program data and that’s segmented. And then you have, you just have all these different siloed sources of data. And one of the things about working with us is being able to then say, okay, we’re going to give you access to this relevant data. And we then create these models on behalf of our partners. 

The way we execute them is sometimes we do that communication for our partners. Of course, sometimes we give them instructions on who should receive what offer when they show up at the storefront. So there it’s pretty much how we do it or how it’s delivered to the member is different depending on the partner and the partnership agreement and their comfort.

Excuse me, comfort level, but the nuts and bolts behind it and the collective intelligence that drives our understanding of these models, again, without mixing data sets, because it’s really important that every partner has their own member base, very we keep that pure. But it’s just that understanding of how members react in different geographies with different types of carriers at different types of hotels becomes really important to just running a, the program that’s robust and really considers all facets of program economics. 

Paula: For sure. And, and the obvious question I’m guessing, and that you get asked a lot is also, I guess the privacy piece, which I’m totally guessing is just a given at the program is responsible for that. You guys, again, the intelligence, the, you know, the rails, whatever else. But they control all of that. 

And I guess, you know, in terms of reassuring their own legal people, because it’s probably the first question, I guess, most loyalty professionals will get asked if they, you know, cause I can see very clearly, you know, there is of course, you know, that wonderful points.com page when I do go to kind of buy points or whatever. So, so I guess you leave that fully in their control and just support them behind the scenes. 

Danielle: Yeah, so so essentially, they can set their parameters of who we can talk to. Obviously, there are a bunch of really stringent regulations that are different all across the world, right? Super. So we we that that’s we definitely follow along with the with the programs, plans and comfort levels that said, our security clearances. And what we do, because we do, we do handle member data through a transaction is we are, we have the strictest security and privacy protocols that all of our partners work with to make sure that they’re comfortable with.

So it is it’s paramount. I think anyone who works in the technology space has to really treasure any of that data and make sure that it’s safe and secure. So we, we do spend a lot of time thinking about and planning for the safest and most secure environment. 

Paula: I love that word treasure. It’s it’s gorgeous actually. That’s exactly the intention. And again, this audience doesn’t need to be convinced, but I think the more that we can as an industry use that kind of language with our colleagues. I think then they really take it seriously that we’re not being complacent. And again, whoever we partner with also is taking that same level of care and due diligence. So so a beautiful word, Danielle, thank you for that. 

So tell me the plus grade story because we’ve alluded to it. You’ve mentioned the new company owner. I’m guessing it’s still, I guess to some of the audience, perhaps very familiar because I know there’s a lot of ancillary revenue channels out there, but I wasn’t familiar with it. I haven’t worked in travel loyalty in a long time. So tell us about the Plusgrade story. 

Danielle: Yeah. so, this was a really this was again during COVID, I guess the anniversary of our deal was we announced at the end of June. So it’s been almost one whole year and Plusgrade acquired points. So we are now one big happy ancillary revenue family. 

And the really exciting thing about this deal to us and this part was that, the view of this positive ancillary and that together we could build an ancillary revenue powerhouse that had the member and the traveler experience at the center and really at the forefront of the way we approach our partnerships. And so we have points with our loyalty currency retailing and other products that’s throughout our loyalty platform that connects the whole loyalty industry. 

And then it was really just this wonderful marriage of kind of broadening our scope and looking at ancillary revenue as a whole and what we could do to our with our now more than 200 partners in airline, in rail, in cruise and in the hospitality space. So the, the marriage of that approach of providing these stellar experiences for members and travelers was what I think really drove that partnership. And now the way we’re organized is we have a points, a business unit, we have a Plusgrade business unit, and then we have a bunch of shared functions.

So our finance team, our HR team our marketing team, our strategy team, our local parts of the organization that support both of those business units. So selfishly for myself, for the team, it’s just been this really wonderful transition over this last year of being able to look at our members and look at the broader kind of travel, traveler population and seeing how they intersect and seeing what kind of products can we start to cocreate to really just expand that experience for members and travelers. 

Paula: Yeah. Love it. Love it. Yeah. Co creation. Brilliant words. That’s the one I’m going to take away from this. Of course, you know, again, I suppose thinking selfishly for our audience, Danielle you’ve mentioned airlines, hotels and cruise and rail and all these gorgeous kind of hospitality based sectors.

But I guess there’s also lots of loyalty professionals listening to this show who work in telecoms. They work in retail. Are those sectors thinking about loyalty currency retailing at all? Is it a thing? Should they be thinking about it? So I’d love your thoughts on that. 

Danielle: Yeah, so we do. So, yeah, as you as you identified, really travel is that the core of what we do. And really, when you look at our partnership with financial institutions as well, it’s mainly around loyalty currency and around and around how we can kind of broaden that travel experience.

But as we know as well, all of our loyalty programs are really have over the last several years made a move or most of them have to more of a lifestyle brand, which then takes, it’s more than a frequent flyer program, right? Or a frequent stay. 

What we now have is these whole ecosystems of earn and burn opportunities that bring in more traditional retailers. So we do work with other industries that in the way that they connect with travel. 

And, and, and what we, what we really, what I think we think is important is that ubiquity of loyalty currency. So for me, in the way that I look at loyalty, I just find the currency has to mean something. Right. And the currency has to be emotionally relevant and the currency has to allow you to do things. So when we’re looking at any retail partnerships we have, we. approach those in their relationship with travel loyalty currency, because those are such powerful currency. And it’s, it’s being able to interact beyond a free sandwich or, you know, I.

One of my favorite brands is Sephora and I love them and I shop with them and they’re wonderful and I collect a whole bunch of loyalty currency. The most frustrating thing for me about that loyalty currency is I can never redeem on any of the on any of the stuff I really want to get because they’re all sold out.

And so I think for me, when you have a loyalty currency that’s your own, you do really need to make sure that it’s. useful beyond just these transactional interactions with their members, which is why we tend to think it really is important when you’re looking at the world of loyalty to connect with a currency that means something to people who are going to be transacting with you.

Paula: Yeah. Yeah. And I did watch that interview actually with James Curry, Danielle. So, and I loved his terminology. Which was around accelerating the loyalty velocity and that kind of virtuous circle. So I think we all know kind of listening to this show that burn drives earn. So hopefully Sephora also will join us on the show at some point. We haven’t had them as yet, but I know it’s a high quality problem, but actually at the end of the day, it is. something that ideally they would fix so that you could get that burn opportunity. 

And I agree, of course, travel is by far the most aspirational. It’s where my heart is. I started, as you probably know, British Airways and Emirates many years ago. So nothing can compare with how sexy the loyalty travel industry is. So totally, totally get that. 

The final kind of piece I wanted to ask you about, Danielle, is actually a reflection of your role as a CMO. Now obviously you’re an industry CMO, so it is a little bit different, but as I think about the conversations we’re having on this particular podcast and now TV channel, and what I really want to make sure that we can do is bring our chief marketing officers on the journey of the power of loyalty.

So, I just wondered if you have any words of wisdom around, you know, what are the kind of key ways? Because I think most loyalty managers and directors report into the C suite, you know, into that CMO. So, have you any kind of thoughts on, you know, as a CMO, what should the loyalty managers be thinking about?

And indeed, I guess you know, the revenue management piece that you already kind of referenced, you know, there’s a lot of internal relationships that I think, you know, experts like you guys that are working globally can really guide us and to have the kind of insights that we need. And I always craved when I was a loyalty manager, when I didn’t have other people to talk to.

So tell us what you would recommend for people just to make sure they get that, I suppose, internal buy in for their loyalty program initiatives. 

Danielle: So, so I am, I mean, you touched on this. I am pretty lucky in my mandate as a CMO, right? I have the way we’re structured. I have a data science and analytics team. I have another part of the organization that works on product marketing, on partner marketing, on performance marketing.  And then another part of the organization that works on brand and communications and content. And so for me, when we’re looking at marketing, it’s important to really structure a team that is a profit, profit centric team rather than a cost center, right?

Your voice is a lot louder when you can talk profit than when you’re talking about things that are a little bit harder to measure. So as I’m building, I always like to have data on my team because when you control the data, you control the story about how your team is perceived, and that’s a really, really important thing to note.

So in my world, when I think about loyalty because we are selling to partners, loyalty for me is making sure that we continue to drive value for our partners so that they don’t want to take the solution in house. And we are, we’ve been pretty lucky in that we’ve had such longstanding partner relationships that way.

So in my current seat what we ended up doing and what the team ends up doing is to be able to say how, when you’re working in loyalty and you’re working internally, how can we show the value? What kind of math can we do to be able to say, here’s how we tell the story and here’s how we can help you tell the story to your teams internally so that you can so that you can push your ideas forward.

And I do think that we still even again, going back to that emotional versus transactional loyalty. I do think that they’re all related and being able to tell that story from a holistic view, is the way that you get success in an organization is pulling all of those things together. 

Paula: Yeah. And for sure, Danielle, I will absolutely say again, having been on the brand side to me, it is partners like you guys that will help create the narrative that I need internally.

I’ve often said on this show, like I’m not the analytics kind. I need somebody else to figure all that stuff out. I can absolutely present it, but that’s where I think I know you guys take a partnership approach and I’m guessing that’s. That’s why you’re being so successful because you’re able to support that narrative to make sure that they can justify internally how they’re going to build a business with you guys. So so it’s good advice and, and well heard. So, so thank you for that. 

So I think that’s all the questions, Danielle, I have for you today. What have I left unasked? Is there anything that you think is, you know, really important and critical for our loyalty audience around the world to kind of hear before we wrap up?

Danielle: You know what I’ve what I have noticed recently, and what I really want to encourage the loyalty industry as a whole to be able to continue to do is to really share. I think we have COVID allowed everyone to I don’t know if there was a bit of a shift where people started sharing a few more metrics and successes and results.

And I’ll go back to I’ll go back to that view that I talked about earlier, which is I really believe that rising tide floats all boats way of looking at things. And I think the more we can share and the more we can share as partners, it’s not about stealing information or about, you know, making me smarter or you not as smart because I now have information that you don’t have. Just that it feels that there’s more of a sense of community coming into the industry, and I just, I would love to be able to see that permeate and continue so that we can all continue to just deliver more value to members ultimately.

Paula: Amazing. When I think about a previous role that I did, Danielle, there was just this gorgeous insight within convenience retail where everyone had this perspective actually even pre COVID where it was around copy with pride and they had these gorgeous conferences like the one that we met and please God we’ll meet again now quite soon in Rio de Janeiro. But I do think that’s absolutely the right approach at the end of the day.

Yes, we do compete. And it’s important that we do, you know, perfect our products, I guess, as best we can. But that whole idea that at the end of the day, if we all have loyal customers, then the whole industry is going to thrive. So I want to thank you for your parting words of wisdom. 

So that’s it from our side. I suppose, yeah, from us, as I said, Let’s Talk Loyalty has been super excited to kind of witness the growth and success of points.com. Congratulations on the Plusgrade story, the 5 billion dollars that’s coming up in terms of value delivered. And it really is very inspiring. And I hope you will stay in contact with us and we can continue the conversation next year.

Danielle: Oh, Paula, it’s just really been a pleasure. You know, I think we both love nerding out on this kind of stuff. So it’s been wonderful to chat. And yes, I am hoping to see you at the next conference that we that we end up in together. So hopefully Rio, I will see you there.

Paula: Absolutely. Okay. Danielle Brown, Chief Marketing Officer Plusgrade and points.com. Thank you so much from Let’s Talk Loyalty and Loyalty TV. 

Danielle: Wonderful Paula. Thank you.

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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