#401: Paula Thomas is in the Hot Seat, Sharing the Power of Content Marketing in Loyalty

This show is extraordinary as we hear Paula’s voice but as the Let’s Talk Loyalty guest rather than show host.  Paula shares the evolution of the Let’s Talk Loyalty show which is already in the top 3% of global podcasts and three times higher listenership per show than average B2B podcasts.

We learn of Paula’s original intent for starting Let’s Talk Loyalty almost 4 years ago and her future vision and plans to expand into Loyalty TV later this year. Moreover, we learn about the power of content marketing for not only brand management but for loyalty programmes to embrace emotional loyalty.

Hosted by Amanda Cromhout.

Show Notes:

1) Paula Thomas

2) Let’s Talk Loyalty

Audio Transcript

Paula: Welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty, an industry podcast for loyalty marketing professionals. I’m Paula Thomas, the Founder of Let’s Talk Loyalty. Today’s show is hosted by my colleague Amanda Cromhout, the Founder of Truth and International Loyalty Consultancy firm based in Cape Town, South Africa. If you work in loyalty marketing, make sure to join Let’s Talk Loyalty every Tuesday, every Wednesday and every Thursday to learn the latest ideas from loyalty experts around the world.

Did you know that Mastercard is one of the world’s largest loyalty service providers? Working with leading global brands across financial services, travel, retail, dining, fuel, and consumer goods, Mastercard designs loyalty strategies that build and sustain authentic personal relationships, their loyalty platforms, PowerPoints, cashback, and offer programs to deliver MasterCard’s priceless benefits and incentives in real time to your consumers. 

Visit go.mastercardservices.com/ltl to learn how Mastercard can help you build stronger relationships through smarter engagements. 

Amanda: Hi, I’m Amanda Cromhout from Truth, and today I have the absolute privilege of interviewing someone who needs no introduction to this show.

Today I talk to Paula Thomas, who is the Founder and CEO of Let’s Talk Loyalty. So we have Paula in the hot seat instead of asking the questions, and she starts by explaining her original vision for Let’s Talk Loyalty was for herself to learn more about the loyalty industry. And in doing so, she has enabled loyalty professionals around the world to also learn from the insights created on this show. 

Already the show is in the top 3% of global podcasts with over 400 episodes, and it’s coming up to celebrating four years in August this year. The evolution of the show includes bringing in guest hosts such as myself and other hosts, and expanding into other types of content beyond the podcast. So we already have written content from Let’s Talk Loyalty, and later this show in October, Paula will be launching Loyalty TV.

Which is where she can bring in guests into the Loyalty TV studio or via Zoom. I think this role itself has given her the nickname of the Oprah of Loyalty. Paula, also in October, will be creating through Let’s Talk Loyalty a production company to help loyalty professionals create magnificent content, whether it’s audio or other, for loyalty programs success.

I did ask Paula, why do you do this? What is the power of content marketing? And she really explains it very simply by saying content has an extraordinary role to play for building a brand’s authenticity. And we listen to top companies on this show talk about wanting to create emotional loyalty and to become a lifestyle brand. And the power of content really enables this. 

So not only does Let’s Talk Loyalty empower loyalty professionals, but these loyalty professionals, all of us could use content marketing in a much more powerful way to enable our loyalty brand to also create that emotional bond with your customers, with your members.

So please enjoy today’s show. It was such a privilege to interview Paula and great to hear the journey of Let’s Talk Loyalty.

So Paula, this is an extreme treat for all of us, so welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty from the other side of the seat. 

Paula: My goodness. It’s a little bit intimidating to be on the other side of the seat, Amanda. It’s  amazing. 

Amanda: Oh, we’re gonna have such an amazing discussion. So without holding back, I’m getting straight into it. Come on, tell the whole world what is your favorite loyalty program? 

Paula: Thank you, Amanda. I was glad that I really did think this through before we sat down together today. Because of course, it’s the one that I value most highly in terms of when we’re interviewing our various guests on this show. So I guess in the past, I just wanna make sure that I still love, of course, Discovery’s Vitality program. So, that will always have a place in my heart. 

On a personal level, the one I get to actually engage with, I suppose day-to-day, week to week, and as often as possible is SkyWards from Emirates. So that’s definitely one that I get to use and really get rewarded by. So, there too that I will always be very fond of. 

But I did think it was important to bring a new one for today’s conversation. And I might be a little unfair because I actually haven’t released this episode yet, but I have recorded it. So, it’s on its way. And I suppose, just to tease you a little bit, first of all, if I give you a sense, and let’s see if you can guess.

This is a program that has been launched in 50 different countries. 

Amanda: Oh wow. 

And it actually has 50 million active members in the last 90 days. So from what I’ve heard and what they’ve told me, I really think this could become one of the biggest, if not the biggest loyalty program in the world. So will I put you out of your suspense?

Amanda: Yeah, yeah. I’m waiting. Come, come, come. 

Paula: It’s McDonald’s, so. 

Amanda: Oh, fantastic. Okay. Wonderful.

Paula: Honestly. Yeah, so I mean, since we started, Amanda, as you know, we’ve really wanted to have the best brands in the world. Like I love talking to people who are passionate about loyalty, and McDonald’s is one of the ones that kind of waited until very recently.

It was only two years ago, they launched their rewards program in the United States, their biggest market. So we have been waiting patiently. Talking with lots of different people, as you can imagine it’s a huge organization, but finally got to record with them and it’s due out, please God in July. So just going through all of the usual approvals. So want to look out for. 

Amanda: Oh, absolutely. Flip. I’m excited already. I thought I was doing well with the Foschini Group Rewards with 30 million active members, so, okay. Amazing. Amazing. Great. So we’ve managed to get three programs out of you with that favorite first question. 

Paula:  There you go. 

Amanda: So I think Paula, you know, there’s so much we want to talk about, but I do think it’s fair that we help the audience. And the audience is very much used to your voice and used to you.  But I think it would be really powerful for everyone to understand how did you get to where you are now? Like what’s your background that brings you to be in the forefront and the driving seat of Let’s Talk Loyalty. 

Paula: Thanks a million, Amanda. Yeah, I always think it is useful to have a bit of context and background and, you know, in terms of like even, you know, age profile, like I have been working for 25 years, so it’s a long story. I’ll try and keep it short and succinct, and relevant for today. So from a loyalty perspective, I was asked to come in and work on the partnership side of a fabulous program that was run firstly in the UK market. It’s called O2 Priority. They won some awards recently, for example, and I was running that loyalty program in the Irish market. And with the way that that program was being run, first of all, I fell in love with the industry, so I think that’s the most important thing that happened.

But also I think what happened is I realized how little I knew. So, you know, I think a lot of people like us come into loyalty. I think you came in more directly, Amanda, but so many people I talked to are educated, perhaps in business, they’re educated with marketing degrees and all of a sudden they’re handed this huge responsibility and expected to drive and measure incremental, profitable customer behavior, and it’s kind of terrifying.

Yes. So that’s where I kind of went, you know what? I really need support here. And I started showing up at conferences. I started reading Loyalty magazine and literally trying to self-educate. But at the end of the day, there just wasn’t enough content out there at the time. So I was craving education, craving inspiration, and actually was Seth Godin. I dunno. Do you know the famous marketer Seth Godin about that? 

Amanda: Yeah, of course. Of course. I love him. 

Paula: There you go. So I remember vividly listening to his podcast once and he said it’s probably the single best thing that you could do in terms of, he said, it’s kind of like hosting the coolest party on the block. Everybody will go if you ask them to. 

And I just thought, that’s an amazing idea. And this is a man who has blogged that you probably know every single day for I think the last 15 or 20 years. Like as a content creator, he’s one of the most prolific in the world. So when he said a podcast was incredibly powerful, and I realized nobody in loyalty was podcasting at the time, I thought, you know what? Maybe that’s what I’ve been looking for. 

Amanda: Yeah, and it reminds me of Blue Ocean Strategy, which is an incredible leadership book around. Take the path that’s less followed. Find the gap. So amazing. So I think for everybody who’s in their career can actually envisage a future, whether it’s straight down the line as mine has been focused very much on loyalty the whole way and yours. 

Yeah, you started out with O2 Priority, which is an extremely established loyalty brand and look where it’s brought you to. So, so, yeah. I mean, I’m obviously very privileged to be part of your broader team, and I know you’re going to be celebrating a birthday for Let’s Talk Loyalty four years old in August this year. So that’s an incredible milestone. Yeah. 

And I think what would be great for the listeners, cause obviously everyone hears your voice or your guest hosts voice, but actually maybe don’t really understand the full impact of Let’s Talk Loyalty. So as it stands today, tell us a little bit about it in terms of its statistical relevance and so forth.

Paula: Absolutely. Thank you, Amanda, for that. Absolutely. I mean, first of all, I think what most people react best to when I do give a few statistics is the fact that as of today, in fact, we’re recording and releasing episode 401. So, that’s wonderful. And again, when I started I was told, you know, I was looking at kind of what success might look like and I was literally told that 90% of podcasts never get past seven episodes.

So I think my first milestone was when I recorded episode eight. I was thrilled. I was like, Oh my god, success. But, yeah, so here we are, as you said, coming up on four years old, 401 episodes. And I think, you know, also to set an expectation. We were told that B2B podcast, which is obviously what we do, are very similar, I suppose, in terms of their audience size or the attendance in terms of like a good conference.

So you know, 150 people would typically attend many of the conferences that you and I would go to. Now with that kind of number in mind, and again to go back to Seth Godin, he was like, look, if 20 people listen and they happen to be the 20 most powerful people in your industry, then of course don’t forget the quality versus quantity piece. So, that of course is always there, top of mind for us as well. 

But by the time we do get to this fourth birthday, we will have had a quarter of a million plays of the show. Would you believe? 

Amanda: Incredible. Incredible. 

Paula: It is super exciting. So we use that as our main kind of KPI. A lot of people talk about things like downloads, but that’s actually just a very factually incorrect term because you might download and never listen.

So we kind of measure exactly how many times it was played. And if you do the mathematics, you know, A quarter of a million. So 250,000 divided by, you know, 401 we are currently out. And these might be slightly out depending on what day I look at them, but 589 is our place per show. 

Amanda: Nice. 

Paula: So to put that. Yeah. Compared to our 150 expectations, we’re kind of three times that. And the final statistic I’ll give you is we are officially in the top 3% of global podcasts. 

Amanda: Yeah, that blows my mind. It’s incredible. And I know you’re not talking about, I said this to somebody recently, and I know you’re not talking about loyalty podcast or business podcast, you’re talking about all podcasts in the whole world, right? 

Paula: It’s absolutely right, Amanda. And, part of me finds it hard to believe myself, you know, but I guess the piece that these algorithms look at, and it’s a website called listennotes.com. If anybody is interested either in other podcasts or our podcast, there’s things like listen scores and listen notes essentially positions itself as the Google of Podcast content.

So it is the only measurement that we really have. And clearly I’m not up there with the likes of Tim Ferriss or even the Seth Godins who have millions. But nonetheless, we are consistent. We are compelling. People are engaging in listening. So actually, I just wanna say huge thank you to everybody for doing that because, I guess it’s the audience who’s got us where we’re at. 

Amanda: Absolutely. But also you know, the variety of your guests and how you interview and so on. The insights we’re managing to get out of guests in the, in the generosity of sharing those. That’s amazing. 

So let’s go back to your stat. You said around 90% of podcasts never get beyond seven episodes. So when you started, Let’s Talk Loyalty almost four years ago, what was your original vision? What was the original purpose of the show, apart from, I think you said earlier, you know? You wanted to learn and you wanted to enable others to learn. 

Paula: Yeah, absolutely. So, yeah, that was the motivation for sure. And once I started, I suppose I made one very big decision, Amanda, and that’s that I wouldn’t have to it because I have been very guilty in the past of, you know, starting a blog and stopping, starting an idea and stopping.

So it’s very easy with certainly my personality and, you know, huge interests I have in lots of different things, to not follow through. So definitely the decision was if I do it, and I waited, I think six months in total from the beginning of the idea to launch. So I said, if I do it, I’m doing it properly, I’m doing it professionally, and I’m doing it commercially.

So I’m literally going to launch it as if it’s already sponsored because I was creating content for other people, and you would never, like, I would write everything like literally to the best of my ability. Nothing was left to chance because I was being paid to do that. So I thought if I ever want to make this into a business, I need to take that same ethic and not assume that the future is the commercial importance in terms of the quality. I have to do it from day one. So I literally said okay to myself just to take the pressure off. I said I’ll definitely do four episodes and then I’ll make a conscious decision whether to progress or not. And thankfully we haven’t stopped. And yes, thankfully it’s a commercial success as well. 

Amanda: I’d love to. I’m gonna go back and look at who your first four interviews were and who number eight was, cause you’re probably so excited for number eight. That’s. 

Paula: For sure.

Amanda: So obviously, your original vision has got profound interest for everyone because I think everyone who listens to the show takes insights. I certainly do. I love listening to the insights that your guests give. 

So you’ve obviously clearly ticked that that’s purpose. Everyone is getting that, but it’s changed a lot over the years. You know, if you think back to your first four shows or your first seven shows. And look where you’re at today.

So talk to us a little bit about the evolution of the program over the four year, coming up to four years. 

Paula: Yeah, absolutely. Well, I think the first thing to mention Amanda, is of course I was still consulting for the first, let’s say two and a half years. So, okay, Let’s Talk Loyalty, kind of, you know, I suppose just to use, you know, entrepreneurial language was almost like a side hustle.

So I had to give myself the time, I suppose to build it, get the momentum, get the ratings, get the audience, all of that kind of stuff. So, absolutely, it was January of 2022, so just 18 months ago that I went all in, in terms of resigning my consulting work and literally saying, okay, no, this is me, I’m a broadcaster. So I think that was a huge change in terms of mindset as well. So that has been super exciting. 

Quite quickly after that as well, I suppose I started to bring my team on board. So, John was first followed by Pooja and this year we also have Perfect, so three amazing people that I’m very grateful to have behind the scenes doing incredible work. And I know you’re working with all three of them as well. So big shout out to the Let’s Talk loyalty team. 

And I guess the next thing is, probably,  the most profound thing is actually our work together. So you being a guest host, and of course my first guest host was absolutely a revelation because I remember talking to a guy and it was just with this idea of how am I ever going to scale this thing?

If I’m the person who’s creating the content, who’s doing the sponsorships, I was literally kind of running ragged. So then this guy said, you don’t have to host every single episode, and I was appalled. Honestly, Amanda, that was like two years ago I think he told me that. 

But eventually I thought he’s absolutely right. And you know, I often love the kind of tagline that our friends in the US use in The Wise Marketer, where they would describe themselves as the global voice of loyalty. And I say, well actually that’s an approach and a mindset that we have as well. And who’s to say that I’m the only voice in the industry?  Of course, there’s other people that people want to hear from. So, yeah, you were the first one I reached down to. I could see you were a fan of creating content and would be, you know, just a superb asset to the business. So to me, that was the biggest pivot in terms of, you know, not being such a control freak and going, oh my God, there’s so much more out there.

And yeah, I’m super happy with our partnership. So there’s yourself obviously, and we do have Tom Peace, we have Charlie Hills and we have Phil Rubin. So, we do have other guest hosts as well. So that’s been a really exciting part of our evolution. 

Amanda: And I think Paula, I mean, I understand what it means to own your own brand. You know, I’ve got my own loyalty brand called Truth, and it takes enormous courage. And yeah, courage I think is the best description of it to let go of, let go not entirely, cause obviously we work within not many guidelines. You leave us free reign. But I think that’s maybe cause we’ve established trust between your hosts and yourself.

But I just want to praise you for actually allowing that expansion. Cause I think for the listeners it adds, obviously it’s enabled you to scale the show, but from a listener’s point of view, yeah, it adds variety because the hosts ask different questions and in a different way. 

Paula: A hundred percent. Yeah, and it is about expertise Amanda, you know, even when I did my loyalty consulting, I was never the person who had the frameworks, had the strategic vision. I was the partnerships person. So yes, I’m very good at certain aspects of loyalty, but I absolutely don’t have the end-to-end expertise that you would have, for example.

So I think you’re absolutely right. Different voices keep things shaked up. So yeah, we, we love it now and it’s working really well for us as a model. 

Amanda: Great. Well, congratulations on scaling it, and I think you’ve already answered what I was going to ask you, like what has worked well for you to scale a business.

Is there anything you wanna share about what hasn’t worked? Because there’ll be listeners out there who are also embarking on podcasting and what are some of the things that haven’t worked? 

Paula: Well, I did reflect on this Amanda, and thank you for giving me a heads up because it’s important, of course, you know, to really go. Nothing’s ever gonna be right first time, but the only thing that I really feel hasn’t and isn’t working is something that I’ve created myself. Which is I have created a lot of complexity for the models that we’re working with our amazing sponsors. 

So what I have learned is because it is so competitive as an industry, every sponsor of course wants to own something or to be marketed in a different way. And as a result of that, I am very busy behind the scenes, creating new products, new concepts, and really making sure that they all feel loved and valued by the audience.

So, that just means it’s, again, it’s a difficult thing to scale when it’s not just, I suppose what I naively imagined at the beginning, which is it’ll be like the radio ads that we do on one on every show, and a lot of them in fact will say, no, we want an email campaign, or we want a community event. Or, you know, yourself. It’s quite complex. 

Amanda: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. And I can imagine cause you’ve got very established brands supporting your show, sponsoring the show. 

Paula: Absolutely. Yeah.  

Amanda: So, and they deserve the exposure that the relationship merits, I guess. So. Great. Thank you for sharing that. So we’ve talked a little bit about the past, so how about looking into the future? What does the future of Let’s Talk Loyalty hold for every, for you and for your listeners. 

Paula: Yeah, well I think it’s going to, I mean, I dunno if explode is over-emphasizing or overdramatizing what I have in mind. But you know, if I hold the vision as to where we’re going first and foremost, actually we’re starting with amazing written form content.

So that to me is a also, a big shift in terms of my mindset. And it just came about, for example, with an amazing writer who again, has become part of the extended Let’s Talk Loyalty team on a freelance basis. Her name is Chitra Iyer. She’s based out of India, and Chitra has just been writing and creating, actually loyalty, in an extraordinary way and marketing technology insights, for most of her career.

So she had written an article I had contributed and I just said, I wish you would work with us. And she agreed. So currently what we’re doing is we have Chitra’s Insights on a Let’s Talk Loyalty episode. And we’re calling that The Monday Moment. 

So every Monday we have our email campaign goes out. And again, that’s fully developed and thought through by Chitra, but it’s like a single kind of light bulb or soundbite in terms of saying what did she learn from our content? It’s just trying to elevate everything that’s coming through if people don’t have time to listen. So that’s one piece, The Monday Moment.

The second one, which I think you’ve been involved with to a certain extent, and we’re still, I say very early days, but we’re looking to see like what’s the role of Let’s Talk Loyalty to nurture the community. Because I think what we both feel is that, you know, loyalty can be a very lonely business. And certainly something I always struggled with when I was back in Ireland and didn’t have a community around me. 

So I’m looking to see how we can try to connect people in ways that they need and want to be connected and again, in a way that I can actually manage. Because again, time is the biggest challenge in terms of doing anything well. But in the future I definitely think we’ll be doing more and more with that. 

Amanda: Yeah. And I think Paula, if I just, I’ll just add in there, like having been part of those sessions, I can see that the discussion and the energy from the participants is really deep. Like we really unpacked some serious hard subjects, you know? 

And I think, I think you’ve, yeah, I would love you to continue that cause I think it is a real essential, you know, maybe, I mean, you’ve talked about other models you’ve got, but I’m sure professionals would tap into this and maybe add a premium. You know, it’s just something that can add so much value. So, I think it’s a real winner. 

Paula: Thank you, Amanda. Yeah, no, and of course I love when you attend because you know, the more kind of brain power we can get together, the better. And I think certainly what worked so well the last time is there are topics that really can’t be discussed, you know, too publicly.

You know, things like technology and, you know, certainly where things have gone wrong for people and they just want advice. I do think there’s a lot of support we can provide and provide that safe space, where there’s no commercial agenda. So I do agree that that’s something that’s very important.

I think different organizations around the world are trying to do it as well. But, if we can find a way that we can hang our hat on it, I think you’re right. It’s possibly something that could become kind of a premium version of Let’s Talk Loyalty perhaps. So, definitely want to watch. 

And then the final one, which I’ll talk a bit more about later, so, you know, at the risk of underselling it, we are moving into video content, but I’ll talk more about the end because that’s probably the biggest thing that’s gonna happen maybe later in the year.

Amanda: Yeah. Lovely. I look forward to talking about that. So, we’ve talked a lot about the current show of Let’s Talk Loyalty that, as we, as you say, has had, you’re on over 400 episodes and an enormous attendance per show. But actually strategically, what is the point? What is the point of content? What is the impact? Why are us loyalty professionals listening to this content?

Paula: Yeah, you know, Amanda, I think it was about two years in that the light bulb really started going off for me, and it really started, I suppose, for me to connect the dots between a lot of the pain points that we talk about in different areas of the business.

So, for example, you know, to make sure that a brand is fully seen as authentic for a business that is something that is generally way beyond the responsibility, of course, of loyalty professionals, but content has an extraordinary role to play in. But even, you know, when I think about, you know, again, me running loyalty programs back in the day when I did.

There were so many levers that we were pulling,  thinking about, and worrying about. But the one that I think we gave the least attention to and that I still feel gets the least attention is the communications piece. and I mean in terms of the format, because I think we’re very reliant on things like email, things like push notifications, and whether it’s SMS or messaging or all of those traditional channels. And also, I suppose even at the other extreme, you know, the public facing content in the form of social media. 

But content marketing I’ve just become absolutely convinced. Like, you know, we talked off air. My nickname now, thanks to my husband, I will admit, but it has stuck. So I am now known as the Oprah of Loyalty because of my content. So I’ll probably have to buy that domain name just to make sure that I never lose it. 

But you know, in terms of when, when loyalty managers, for example, say we want to create emotional loyalty, we’re probably driving transactional loyalty. We’ve got that piece sorted. 

They also say things to me like, again, as guests on the show, we want to be lifestyle brands. We want to be part of people’s lives. We want to engage with them on a day-to-day basis. And there I’m kind of going, you know what? Well, that will never be achieved if you’re only rewarding the transactions or relying on your social media. 

And because you know this like, and again, Amanda, I’d love your perspective on this because what has amazed me is the amount of people who feel like they know me, even if we’ve never met.

So like if I meet somebody who listens to my show, they behave like they’re my best friend, even though to me they’re a total stranger. But because I’m broadcasting, it’s kind of like they already trust me and they already have an emotional connection with me. And isn’t that what loyalty professionals are looking to do it the whole time?

Amanda: Yeah, so I can speak from firsthand when you and I actually only met for the first time. I know we spoke a lot over Zoom to set up the guest speaker relationship and so on, and as a guest on your show prior to that. But yeah, I only physically met you in person in Paris at the Comarch user group last year. And I witnessed firsthand like so many people coming up to you going, Paula, Paula, like the Oprah, Oprah of Loyalty.  And didn’t know who they were necessarily. Not in a rude sense or a, yeah, you, you, they didn’t, they knew you, but you didn’t necessarily know them. 

And I think that has just proven what you’ve just said, that the voice and the relationship you’ve built through the power of content enables that. So I love how you’ve drawn the comparison of how, if brands can do that, that’s utopia. Right? That’s exactly what they want to achieve. 

Paula: It’s exactly what they want to achieve, and I don’t think it’s getting any recognition within the world of loyalty. I do think it’s happening within brand, but loyalty professionals I don’t think have ever thought about it. 

Amanda: So where have you seen it actually come alive in loyalty.

Paula: Well, I’ll give you two examples actually, Amanda. That’s absolutely the way to articulate it best. So one is a podcast actually that I haven’t yet consumed, but I cannot wait to reach out. And it’s in the grocery sector here in Dubai, where one of the high-end grocery stores does not have a loyalty program, whereas of course many of the others do.

But instead of a loyalty program and any currency or any rewards or any coupons, they have launched a podcast. So to me that is looking at the same pain point of how can we make people come into our stores to shop their grocery more often. So they’ve gone completely in that direction of creating a podcast. So it’s things like recipes and nourishment and reasons to visit. So that’s one I think was a really big insight and light bulb for me. 

But I guess the one that really inspired me, and this goes back to, to your market back to South Africa, and there was an interview that I did, with Old Mutual and I know you know the team there very well. And it was actually two years ago.

But what absolutely blew my mind Amanda was the team in Old Mutual and Brett was the guest specifically Brett Cameron. What Brett explained was that they do have a lot of products and services which are quite complex for consumers to understand. And of course anything to do with financial health or insurance or banking. They’re all topics that a lot of people have never had an education about. 

Amanda: Yeah. And they, and they’re complicated with the, they’re just naturally not Old Mutual. Just naturally, I think in the industry, financial products are complicated and scary for a lot of people. 

Paula: Exactly. Exactly. So, you’ll be very familiar, Amanda. So what they decided to do was create content that helped to educate people, helped to inspire them, and even taking it to a level where they actually do also reward the consumption of that content. 

So it’s not just that they’re investing in it and creating it, which of course can be seen as a, maybe a CSR initiative, but they’re using the loyalty program to give people a reason to learn.

And it just kind of landed with me, and I’d love your, again, perspective on this because what Brett kind of said is like some of these people will never take out  any business with us or any products. But we know if they do, they’ll only come to us because again, it’s back to the point they trust them because they’ve been showing up and helping them to understand. So yeah, to me that’s just incredibly insightful. 

Amanda: Yeah, so the Old Mutual team of, I mean, we are friends with all the South African loyalty players, but they’ve spoken at conferences and have been generous in how they’ve shared their insights over and above. When you interviewed Brett a couple of years ago.

What I loved about exactly what you’ve said. I’ll back up. Everything you’ve said is that they allow that for their loyalty members and non loyalty members. And that they naturally will see commercially a better acquisition rate from non-law members who’ve engaged in the content. Versus control groups of non-law members who, you know, haven’t necessarily had any interaction with this gamification or this learning experience. 

And then the other thing that I know from a fact from our Truth and Brand Map Loyalty white paper, which we release every year. It’s all mutual rewards over indexes on a younger customer, which naturally is less engaged in loyalty than the average South African.

And that’s down to the effort they’ve put into this education process. So directly and indirectly, they, it’s playing a role. The content part is playing a role for them. 

Paula: Yeah. Yeah. No, it is, as I said there, there’s just so many of the pain points that I hear from the guests on this show that that particular strategy is addressing that.

I just, I’ve been going around in my head for the last two years going, how is it, and actually to use your words about Blue Ocean Strategy, actually Amanda, I do think that this feels like almost a blue ocean space for Let’s Talk loyalty, dare I say, in that, you know, we probably have permission to play in that ocean.

Amanda: Absolutely. So tell us how you’re gonna play and splash around in the ocean. 

Paula: So, yeah, it’s early days for sure, Amanda, but we have done one piece of content in audio format actually for one of our existing sponsors for Epsilon. And the reason we did that was they needed something specifically in the Australian market where of course our show is purely global by definition.

But I think what I learned then is we do have the credibility and of course the capacity and all of the editorial skills to understand communications, particularly in podcast format. So later in the year, I’m guessing it’ll be October, Amanda, but what we will be officially launching, and again may mainly to loyalty managers, so kind of program owners, is the opportunity to have branded content created with our help, in whatever shape or form that might look like.

But we’re very keen to get a couple of, I’ll call it Brave Brands to really think this through with us and really put, I suppose, a lot of support behind it. Particularly, for example, I’d love to get a couple of airlines on board, you know, where they might put kind of their mileage currency behind that content consumption.

And then hopefully do all of the important analytics around, you know, measuring brand affinity, measuring uplift, propensity to travel, all the usual kind of KPIs that the airline would have, but using the loyalty currency to see if they listen to our content. What happens then when it comes to booking or traveling?

Amanda: So effectively, if I’ve understood correctly, your the Let’s talk loyalty capability, whether it’s branded, Let’s Talk Loyalty or not. We’ll, Will become a production cap, a production offering for the marketplace who are also trying to achieve what you described as what Old Mutual are doing or what your grocery store in Dubai is doing and so forth.

Paula:  Exactly, Amanda and what I’ll, you know, readily admit is there are a lot of podcast production agencies, of course, in the world, but I do think that the lens of loyalty through which that we’ll be doing it will be pretty unique. So again, hopefully we’ve got enough credibility and you know, by the time I’ve put together a proper PowerPoint deck and please, God presented it to a few people listening even today. I’ll be dying to hear what people’s feedback is. 

Amanda: Yeah. And you’ve got, you know, the four years of producing a podcast with these results. Plus the other work, I think is solid background to having the experience. 

So, so you teased us the, you teased us a little bit earlier talking about video versus audio. So, yeah, I’d love you to now you know, reveal what’s the, what the splashing around in the blue ocean will enable it beyond the production side of things. 

Paula: For sure. Absolutely. Yeah. No, I think what really struck me, and again, it probably started maybe again even a year or two ago when I started thinking about what next.

We’ve been so laser focused on audio. But there are things that we really want to explore, and I definitely have a short attention span, Amanda, as you probably know. So yeah, so these, all of these ideas are just starting to come to fruition, having had an awful lot of reflection on my part, and of course trying to figure out what’s feasible and what’s not.

So, you know, drum bells or drum beat, I suppose drum roll is actually the word I’m looking for. What we’re really planning to launch, which is my favorite idea, and it’s coming probably in October. But it’s Loyalty TV. So.

Amanda: Wow. Wow. Lovely. That’s definitely brings you to be Oprah of Loyalty.

Paula: Yeah. So, and I’ll tell you why it feels bigger, Amanda, because as I said, you know, calling it video content feels a little bit, almost trivial and so many podcasters release audio and video. And again, we’ve dabbled in a little bit of video already, but I guess what I’m really keen to do is, is to do something that has a wow factor.

Not only with the guests, which of course will continue to be, you know, Fortune 500s and the brands we really wanna hear from, but we’re actually going into a TV studio. And that’s the piece that has proven to be, you know, extraordinary for me actually as a broadcaster, because I think I missed a calling where I probably wanted to be a news reader or something along the way.

But to have that kind of professional and beautiful visual, to have guests either coming in again on virtual conversations on Zoom or in the studio with me and to do something that feels like an actual kind of news broadcast. And I, yeah, it just feels amazing and it took me a long time as well, Amanda, even to get the domain name. I dunno if you’ve ever tried to buy a TV domain name. 

Amanda: No. I’ve bought many a domain name but not a tv. 

Paula: There you go. And again, you know, loyalty.tv is a dictionary word, so I can certainly tell you it was an expensive piece of investment in the business. But having watched, again, a lot of content creators around the world position something as a TV production, I think it elevates. Sit in the mind of the audience. 

So again, we’re doing it really well. We intended it to be a beautiful experience and I think I said to you this morning as well, we’ve just seen the first semi edited version of the first episode. So I’m getting super excited cause it’s looking amazing. 

Amanda: Oh, exciting. And I know everyone listening will be very, very keen to watch that. So October’s a couple of months ago. So we’ll wait patiently, but congratulations on the concept and on the execution, which I know you’ve got a lot of work ahead of you. But thanks for sharing that, and good luck. 

Paula: Thank you so much, Amanda. 

Amanda: Yeah, so thanks Paula. So I’ve finished all my questions, so is there anything else you’d like to add to share with our listeners today?

Paula: I think, yeah, it would be remiss, Amanda, if I didn’t just mention all of our sponsors, because again, as we always say, it’s a bit of a cliche, but without them, this just wouldn’t be possible. So Epsilon was first and foremost, the brand that sponsored me in the very beginning, followed closely by Comarch.

And then we also have Cheetah Digital, we have Capillary, we have Collinson, Value Dynamics, and most recently Mastercard. So all of these incredible businesses do provide just amazing services to loyalty professionals. So I just wanna thank all of them for their support. And I’ve already mentioned you guys as guest hosts and of course my team and our editor.

I will also mention James in the UK, who definitely has saved me an awful lot of headaches over the years just to make it sound so beautiful. So yeah, just a big thank you to all concerned. 

Amanda: Yeah, amazing. It’s a great team. I enjoy working with them. So yeah. Congratulations. 

Paula: Super. Thanks a million, Amanda.

Amanda: Great. So thanks, Paula. I think the very last thing we just wanted to touch on. We were both had the privilege of being together at the International Loyalty Awards. 

Paula: Yes, we were. 

Amanda: So it was just a real honor, and it was great to have you there, and it was great to just share the stories. I think an event like that. I’m involved in, from a judging point of view, you are involved from a content point of view. So for everyone who attended that, congratulations on the winners. Congratulations on the finalists and congratulations to the team who pulled it off cause it was a phenomenal event. And yeah, we look forward to next year already.

Paula: Yeah. And, you know, I will make sure that absolutely everybody does hear Amanda, and I know you’re far too humble to blow your own trumpet. But you know, I was so blown away by the work that I have seen you doing in the South African markets since we started working together. Not only the research paper.

The South African Loyalty Awards, the charity work, which I know we’re gonna talk about now. Of course the core consulting business, which is the actual day job, which of course, you know, Truth pays the bills. So, you know, I certainly felt it appropriate to nominate you for Industry Personality of the Year, and you won, above I believe, a load of other amazing people.

But you are the industry personality of the year. So congratulations, Amanda. It really is just extraordinary what you’re doing. 

Amanda: Yeah, thank you. It was an enormous surprise and honor, and I really am very humbled by it because the industry is enormous and the industry is incredibly impactful in business.

So, you know, I think, as I said on the stage when I accepted the award, it’s we have impact as an industry. We have an enormous impact. And I’m very proud of the South African industry because South Africa definitely walked away with a handful of—more than a handful, like an arm full of trophies that night.

Congratulations to the other South Africans. I’m not even South African, but I’m from the from the market. So we saw eBucks walking away with three awards. They were the only brand to win three categories outright. And then we saw DSTV, which is a very successful brand. Also winning an award.

So, yes. So I was very deeply humbled and as you said, I think it’s nice. That’s my day job cause I do spend a lot of time talking about the charity, but my day job was acknowledged. So from a Truth point of view and the amazing team around me, it was a real privilege. So thank you. 

Paula: Yeah. Yeah. Well done. Yeah. Cool. So we should also talk about Blind Loyalty, of course. Amanda, since we are here together, I remember actually I spoke to some of the organizers actually the next day, because they did obviously give you the stage to you know, just to accept your awards in everything that included.

And I know certainly the organizers mentioned how moved they were by your speech, and I think everybody in the room certainly felt it, as you talked to us through your story. So again, just for this audience, I think Blind Loyalty is an extraordinary concept, born out of a great deal of pain. So maybe you wanna just share that so that anybody listening who does want to maybe get involved with you can understand it.

Amanda: Oh, thanks Paula. I won’t give the whole story cause it’ll dominate the show. I don’t want to do that. The Blind Loyalty Trust is founded out of a personal, eye trauma that I experienced last year. When I say that it was three months of terrifying pain. So what I did appeal to the whole loyalty world at the event.

We are all sitting there as capable human beings running our loyalty work, whatever that entails. And then the next day you wake up and you are in such pain that you can’t even lift your head off the pillow and inexplicable. And, basically, three months later, after her two emergency transplants, I’m left blind in my right eye.

So hopefully we can change that in July. Although I saw the surgeon yesterday who gave me a very, he just said, I’m very scared of your eye, Amanda. 

Paula: Oh my goodness. Wow. 

Amanda: And he’s probably one of the most experienced eye surgeons in the world, so I just have to laugh otherwise, I’ll cry. So, we founded The Blind Loyalty Trust, and I’m very grateful for everyone who was at the awards and to the NACS Coin Bridge for their generous sponsorship.

We are, The Trust is basically to help individuals who are going through or I’m about to go through, heaven forbid, what I went through. So it’s not any eye help. It’s very specifically around a corneal, graft or corneal transplant, which is a very major, you know, eye operation that is very expensive.

And I, when I lay in my pain, I just was so grateful I could afford proper insurance and I could afford the care that I needed. And there’s so many who can’t. So The Blind Loyalty Trust, we already have a lady who we found via the surgeon to, to assist and we raised enough money from, I was raising money through the ultra marathon comrades. So we have enough money in the foundation already to help her. 

The actual International Loyalty Awards helped us raise, I think, enough money for another patient’s care. So the list goes on. So I am appealing to the whole loyalty industry. There are a number of ways. Anyone out there listening can help us in a way that doesn’t cost you. Doesn’t actually cost you often.

So  please do get in touch with me. It’s very important and the industry backed me up that night. It was very special and I think collectively, this doesn’t stop in 2023, this will go on. So I’m appealing to the whole industry. 

It’s called Blind Loyalty for a reason. Let’s play on the word loyalty and let’s collectively do good because this is a real thing and it, we can really change people’s lives and give them vision. 

Paula: Absolutely. Well said. And I like the way that you kind of connect, you know, the fundraising. I think, if I’m not mistaken, Amanda, it’s about $5,000, per person eye rescue. If I use kind of simple terms, so, you know. As people are getting their heads around making donations, for example. You know, again, certainly from a corporate perspective, what a beautiful opportunity to know that you gave one person the opportunity to perhaps regain their site, for relatively little in many marketing budget contexts. So please God, we’ll get lots more donations for you. 

Amanda: Yeah, absolutely. And there, as I said there’s other ways other than donations that we’ve created that we can raise funds. So, anyone who’s interested in being part of this, please do just reach out and I will jump straight on a call. So thank you. Thanks, Paula for raising that. So great. 

So, this show was not about Amanda or Blind Loyalty. This show really was to put Paula in the hot seat. And I think everyone will agree. It is been an absolute pleasure hearing your story, not just having you interviewing others about their story. 

So from everyone in the Let’s Talk loyalty audience, not just the Let’s Talk loyalty team. Thank you for sharing your story with us. Paula. 

Paula: Thank you so much, Amanda. It was been a just a joy. I loved it. Thank you.

This show is sponsored by The Loyalty People. A global strategic consultancy with a laser focus on loyalty, CRM and customer engagement. The Loyalty People work with clients in lots of different ways, whether it’s the strategic design of your loyalty program or a full service, including loyalty, project execution. And they can also advise you on choosing the right technology and service partners.

On their website, The Loyalty People also runs a free global community for loyalty practitioners, and they also publish their own law expert insights. So for more information and to subscribe, check out theloyaltypeople.global.

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