#413: Top 30 Under 40 Loyalty Royalty - Joe Doran from Capillary Technologies

Today’s episode features some “Loyalty Royalty” an interview with one of the 2023 “Top 30 under 40” award winners at the recent International Loyalty Awards in London.

Joe Doran is Senior Vice President of Loyalty for Capillary in North America, and he joins us today to share and celebrate Capillary’s truly incredible list of achievements in 2023 so far.

Joe also shares his insights around the latest loyalty sectors and strategies that he believes have explosive potential right now, as well as the incredible success Capillary’s is having with their latest flagship client in the US market – Nascar!

Listen today to learn from Joe Doran from our friends in Capillary Technologies.

This episode is sponsored by Capillary Technologies.

Show Notes:

1) Joe Doran, Senior Vice President of Loyalty for Capillary in North America

2) Capillary Technologies

3) Capillary Shines Bright at International Loyalty Awards 2023

4) Capillary Named A Leader in The Forrester Wave™ Loyalty Technology Solutions, Q1 2023 Report

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 today’s episode of Let’s Talk Loyalty, featuring some loyalty royalty. I’m interviewing one of the top 30 under 40 winners from the recent International Loyalty Awards held in London. Joe Doran is Senior Vice President of Loyalty for Capillary in North America, where he’s leading a team of 38 people.

He joins me today to share and celebrate Capillary’s truly incredible list of achievements in 2023 so far. Joe also shares his insights around the latest loyalty sectors and strategies with explosive potential right now, as well as the incredible success Capillary’s having with their latest flagship client in the US market, NASCAR.

I hope you enjoy my conversation with Joe Doran, from our friends in Capillary Technologies.

So Joe, welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty. 

Joe: Thanks so much Paula. Happy to be here. Excited. 

Paula: Oh, it’s super exciting. We had a brief chat and a quick drink at the bar at the International Loyalty Awards recently, and I know we’re gonna talk all about the amazing things that happened that evening. But of course we are here today to talk about you, your role in Capillary Technologies and actually just an exceptional year in terms of what you guys have been up to.

So lots to talk about, but of course, we have to start our conversation with our familiar question that our audience loves to hear. So that’s the super important one about trying to understand you as a loyalty professional Joe. If you had to pick one favorite loyalty program other than one you’ve built, what would you say is your favorite loyalty program?

Joe: So it is without a doubt, delta sky miles, and I’m sure that’s an answer. You know, a lot of people give airline programs, but, especially for me in, the amount of travel that I do with the company, having the soft benefits of, you know, the Delta SkyMiles program is so important now that we’re an international company, Capillary procuring.

My former startup in 2021. I’m an international traveler now. Which I, I was very, very early in my career, but now I am an international traveler again. Access to those sky lounges worldwide. I mean, those are my office away from an office. You know what? So, it’s, you know, what we, what we often tell clients and I’m sure comes up all the time, in your conversations is, you know, loyalty programs yes, is about an exchange of value for information and for transactions. But it’s also more and more about soft benefits, and I really feel like Delta has nailed it. So I’m a huge Delta SkyMiles fan. I’m a Platinum now, hoping for Diamond this year. It’ll take probably two more international trips to get there, but, yeah, it, it could happen this year. We’ll see. 

Paula: Okay. And I like the fact that you’re super clear on exactly what is required in terms of your behavior in order to achieve the tier status that you’re, you’re clearly craving. So, so well done Delta. And, yes, I’ve never been Platinum in any program. So that is a testament I guess to how much travel you are doing.

And it’s probably a good segue actually, Joe, into maybe giving us, maybe an introduction if you don’t mind, to Capillary because this is truly a global podcast. We’ve obviously had some of your colleagues on in the past. But, given how much has been going on for you guys this year, maybe just set the context in terms the history of the company and then I wanna start talking about all the incredible progress you’ve made this year.

Joe: Absolutely. So Capillary is a company that was founded by Aneesh Reddy in 2012 in India. And what the company is so special for a number of different reasons, but one of the things that is still a huge coin of pride, within our employee base is that Capillary was one of the first successful SaaS-based companies, startups, in India. 

And so the startup culture and the startup world back in 2012 was not, you know, what we have here and what we think of in Silicon Valley here in the United States. And so Aneesh  and Anant and team really forged a brand new path. And proved that they could build a SaaS company that was very, very successful, especially in the early years, in India.

The other piece of it is that they really invented the SaaS based loyalty application market in India as well. And so, I’ve been to India now four times, and when you go out to the market or you go to the store in Bangalore, it’s actually a challenge to swipe your credit card and not how to go through the capillary platform. 

Paula: Wow. Oh my God. 

Joe: It’s insane how connected they are in that part of the world. And so they, and, and the other thing that’s very, very intriguing about the company’s approach to loyalty is they solved much earlier than I saw in the United States. And, with my background, you know, I’ve been with a number of different loyalty application technology companies over the years.

And they, well, before we were even thinking about it, took a CDP first approach on the platform. Before CDP was even a buzzword. And the flexible data structure that’s in the platform today was, is revolutionary now. When I bring it to US clients, it’s revolutionary now. So  I was privileged to join the company when they acquired our little startup and made their first real you know, entrance into the United States and in 2021. And it’s been, it’s been a crazy journey since then. It’s been super fun. 

Paula: Oh dear. Well, I can hear a lot of pride coming through, Joe. So first of all, congratulations on landing somewhere that it sounds like really feels like home for you. Because there are plenty of loyalty techs out there for sure. And, it’s super competitive. And to hear what has been achieved actually is very inspiring. 

And when I think about like 2012, you know, is not that long ago. Like I started in loyalty in 2010, and I certainly haven’t built anything to the scale of what you guys have built. And to your point about, you know, the strength in the Indian market for a lot of companies that might be big enough because  You know, I think it’s just crossed a billion people, if I’m not mistaken, has it in India?

Joe:  India’s on track in the next couple years to be, you know, their population will exceed the size of China. So when that happens, when they cross that, I think the magic number is like 1.4 billion which they’re well on track to do. They’ll be, you know, just a enormous population side and in a very, vibrant and growing, especially middle, middle, class. And so, you know, there’s a lot of money to be made in India.

There’s a lot of money, there’s a lot of rising consumers, and they expect things, you know, they expect programs and for brands to interact with them on a one-to-one level, and they expect personalized offers and they expect that kind of treatment. 

And I’ll say also that India is much more advanced than the United States when it comes to payment technologies. So it’s actually difficult in India to pay with cash. Like it’s, it’s very unusual. You certainly there, you can spend your roofies and they’ll take it. But almost everyone there that I, and, and my travel has always been to Bangalore using this mobile app called Paytm, which is this government backed touchless payment technology. And so, I’ve got several colleagues that don’t even have, you know, they don’t walk around with wallets. They just walk around with their phone and they pay with that. And so the kind of connection and the kind of interaction that that consumer is looking for is very different than here in the United States.

So, it’s a wonderful market, but Capillary has bolder and bigger vision. They want to be the most successful, biggest loyalty application company on the planet. That is our goal. And we want to do that in partnership with creating the most powerful loyalty programs for our clients.

And nothing happens for us without our beloved clients. And so, it has been, you know, the challenge of a lifetime for me, along with, you know, an amazing team here, both the United States and with our team in Bangalore, to forge that path in the United States. And then, you know, we are now expanding\ pretty rapidly in Europe as well. So it’s an exciting time to take, you know, an idea that was born out of the Indian market and to truly make it, make it global. 

Paula: Absolutely. Well said. Yeah, because I think you’re absolutely right, Joe. It might sound on principle, like consumer expectations in different markets might be pretty consistent.

But what I’m hearing coming through from you is that there are dramatic differences. Whether it is that payment technology requirement or as you said, the CDP coming out of the Indian market, given it’s just sheer scale. And translating that to the US it absolutely is incredible. So, yeah, in fact, I’ve often thought Joe, you know that maybe we should do a dedicated show about Let’s Talk Loyalty just about the Indian market.

Like I think I could do like a whole series just on the incredible programs there because it doesn’t get enough recognition and respect again, because I think it’s so focused on just being exceptional with its own consumers. So we’ll put that on the back burner, but maybe we’ll bring it back on again in the future to talk about that.

So, but listen, let’s get into what’s been happening this year, Joe. It has been an absolutely exceptional year. Every time I look on LinkedIn, on the Capillary Technology page, there’s like another massive announcement. So let’s go through them first and foremost, I think it was the first year that you guys were included in the Forrester Wave as a leader in the loyalty offering.

So tell us a bit about that. There’s a huge amount of work goes into getting rated and ranked there.

Joe: Yeah, absolutely. And I can’t, I can’t take credit for the work. We have a fabulous team led by Pooja and James Sturm that led that effort on our side. And, to be frank, we had you know, expectation.

We did not expect to be in that leader category in the first round. It’s something that typically  loyalty application companies have to build to. And you have to build that relationship with Forrester and you have to show, you know, so many different things. You know, my colleague Ned Shugrue  always says it’s the worst RFP you’ve ever been through, going through the forced away process.

Paula: Okay, brilliant. 

Joe: So it’s quite the involved process. I certainly participated in several of the demo sessions, etcetera, highlighting the platform. But it’s a, it’s a tremendous honor, and again, it speaks to the power of the Capillary platform is its flexibility. 

That’s, that is our ability to support the number of verticals that we’re able to support, the number of different programs, the number of different clients internationally is our differentiator. And I think that that really came through and, and given the scores that our capabilities received which were the highest in the report.  We’ve got a little ways to go, in our corporate strategy side, which ties into what we’re gonna talk about next with some of our acquisitions recently. 

But the company on its own, scoring that high, was a tremendous honor and just speaks to the incredible hard work that Rohan and our product team has have done over the past, you know, decade plus to bring it to this point. It’s pretty, pretty, pretty insane. 

Paula: It is. And I’m still laughing about your description of it being the worst RFP you’ve ever seen because, honestly, I mean, it would terrify me now, but I guess it’s the reason that the Forrester Report has that level of credibility because it’s not something that there’s any way around except the exceptional performance and the true evaluation.

So as soon as I saw it coming out and I saw you guys there, I was genuinely thrilled for you. So, so congratulations on that. 

Joe: Thank you. 

Paula: And then, yeah, so straight into the second one then, which of course is directly connected with this whole idea about, you know, bringing the best kind of partners in and acquiring other businesses as well.

So there was a round of fundraising, pardon me. And a couple of big acquisitions. So talk us through the numbers and the brands, to take us up to where we are today. 

Joe: Absolutely. So, our team, our senior leadership team, went around and, and talked to the investors about our current trajectory, our current revenue projections, where we’re going from a financial perspective.

And there is just a ton of excitement in the private equity in the VC space around our company. And so we were able to raise $45 millio for the growth of the company over the next couple years. And that is going directly into capital expenses to acquire new companies and new teams.

And so the first of those was Brierley Partners. So Brierley Partners is a storied brand in North America the how Brierley Bob Crandall story is near and dear to my heart. And it’s an amazing, you know, thing to think about in the 1980s, launching American Airlines Advantage and as the first computerized loyalty program.

And so, and that company, especially within their strategy group led by Don Smith, they’ve literally over their history built and designed over 350 loyalty programs. That’s an astounding number. I mean, if you, in your career, you know, work on as a, you know, loyalty application or agency person work on 20 different programs, you’ve had quite the career. And to, to have done three 50 over, you know, 30 plus years is, is pretty incredible. 

And so what Brierley Partners does for our company is a couple different things. So first of all, they are no slouch when it comes to the technology side of the business. And so we’ve added some pretty significant capabilities, specifically in the fuel space, to help grow the company here, in North America and Europe. 

And their team is very, very complimentary with the technology team that we have here in North America. And so as those teams come together, our combined power to develop custom integrations and custom solutions for our clients is really the next level.  And then in these, in the strategy space, the thinking and the perspective of how we approach loyalty here in Europe and in United States is definitely our, we’ve got a 10 x multiplier in, you know, Don Smith and his amazing, his amazing team.

And so we’ve already seen, started to see the fruits of that coming together. It happened very, very quickly. So I’ve had several clients already, make use of our new, our new team members and their expertise and their insights. And you know, the fact of the matter is that in the US especially the loyalty market’s very saturated.

There’s a lot of sameness and there’s a lot of  you know, programs that don’t stand out. And you know, the up and coming consumer, you get one, maybe two shots at winning their membership in your program and bringing it to top of mind. Yeah, and you know, my colleague John O’Neill, who runs our custom digital development business, often his team talks about the real true expression of loyalty is if you get on somebody’s homepage, on their mobile app, on their mobile phone.

So that’s the space you’re fighting for, depending on, of course, what the market and what the program is. But you know, having a true perspective on what differentiates loyalty programs, what benchmarks are out there.  We’re able to talk to much more proficiently now with the addition of that team. And so it’s, it’s very, very, very exciting. And, and that team, I couldn’t be happier to have them, to call them colleagues.  

So that led, of course, into our next acquisition. So one came right after another. So on June 1st, we formally acquired a piece of another company, called Tenerity. You’ll see Tenerity pop up on the Forrester report as well. So we did not acquire the entire company. We acquired a part of it. And we acquired a piece that we are now calling Rewards Plus. And Rewards Plus, gives us a brand new module that we will be integrating into our overall Capillary systems. And it gives us a true marketplace, for partner offers and partner, the ability for partners to contribute into to loyalty programs. 

But what it also does that’s really sets it apart because lots of loyalty companies have marketplaces and the ability to redeem things. So you’re like, well, okay, so they’ve, they’ve got that capability now. How come?  What sets it apart really is the artificial intelligence and the data science that goes into that product. When it, and, and artificial intelligence and machine learning is core to what we do here at Capillary, it’s something that has set it apart and it’s, it’s very real.

I’ve got a major global consumer brand right now launching a new, one of our new propensity models. And they, you know, the model does what it says it’s going to do. It predicts, you know, an next best purchase. It predicts next best product. Put that together with partner offers. And we’re really able to offer members as a part of our program, true choice and true engagement with a brand, based on what, what you care about, what you actually like.

And so we can predict you know, are you a Walmart person or are you a Target person? Are you, you know, a Petco person or are you a Chewy person? You know, do you prefer Starbucks to Dunkin Donuts? Whatever the case may be. And you know, while all this technology is great, you know, a lot of times when it comes to loyalty programs, it’s about simplicity.

You know, Don, I’ll steal from Don Smith. He goes, if your frontline employees cannot explain your, the loyalty program in under 10 seconds, it doesn’t work. It doesn’t, it doesn’t resonate. And so on the Rewards Plus side of things, people still just love getting a free coffee. 

Paula: Totally. Yes.

Joe: And we, we, we, one thing that was new for me, I was not aware of this, but in the UK, we often run offers where you get a free sausage biscuit. I’m probably not saying that might be a sausage roll, but whatever the case may be.

Paula: Yeah, sausage roll.

Joe: It’s a sausage roll. 

Paula: Okay. Scrumptious. 

Joe: So they, for some of our clients will run an offer a couple times a month where there’s a limited number of sausage rolls. And people go nuts for them. And, and sort of like the engagements is bananas. And that’s a very low cost thing for a brand to do, but it acknowledges your market and acknowledges what your consumers care about and gets them talking to you and gets them engaging with you. So, sometimes the old simple tactics of just give away something for free, work. 

Paula: Well, I was gonna say, Joe, I think I single-handedly gave away the most coffee and the most chocolate in the entire Irish market. I can absolutely tell you when the client, you know, any of my beloved clients used to come and say, right, you know, we’ve gotta do something. We need to drive engagement, we need to drive the brand love and all those metrics up.

I’d be like, okay, I got an idea for you. And we didn’t have a nationwide retailer of sausage roll in Ireland, which is the only reason I didn’t go there. But, I know the UK it’s absolutely famous for that particular award. So, listen, there’s loads there, Joe, in terms of, you know, everything that’s been going on.

The key, I suppose reason I love talking with someone like you, with your incredible, you know, range of access and exposure, and client contact is really to understand what are they saying? What are they doing, what are they thinking, what are they feeling? So like I started this show from a place of frustration for myself going I wish I could understand what everybody else around the world is thinking about in terms of improving their loyalty programs. 

Now, clearly coffee, chocolate, we’ve talked about some, you know, fun ways of doing it. But on a more serious note, what are the key kind of themes that you think? For example, you used the term, you know how to win, you know, as part of one of the acquisitions. And that being, you know, the overall goal. And clearly there’s massive ambitions. But what are you hearing from clients that they want, and what are you telling them that they need? 

Joe: Yeah, absolutely. So the buzzword that has been going around the industry for a while, and Forrester certainly highlights this quite a bit in their research, is the term emotional loyalty.

In my experience, looking at lots of different programs, working with lots of different technology stacks and technology implementations, and looking at different marketing technologies out there, it hasn’t been done well yet. So we’re still in the age old NPS survey to gauge consumer loyalty to a brand.

And so, we’re working on a partnership right now that uses a fresh way of looking at emotional technology, and it’s, it’s using a very, it’s, you know, ubiquitous language that also transcends borders. And so, I’ll give a little preview of what this partner offers. And they do it actually through an emoji technology.

Paula: Cool. Yeah.

Joe: So it’s very, very, deployed on virtually any digital channel. What I want as a loyalty practitioner, is to be able to give my, on a client’s dashboard a true brand loyalty score that isn’t delayed, that isn’t based on a survey that we did last year or last quarter. But is real time. And this is how people are really reacting to something. 

Because, I mean, one of the biggest dangers is you have in a loyalty program is you have a promotion that misses, perhaps people don’t care about it. Perhaps you work really hard to build a new partnership. Nobody cares about. Maybe it doesn’t move the needle. Maybe it’s not what your,  you know, your members really want to do. And also, you know, occasionally brands misstep and, and they, they stub their toe in communications, etcetera, and you need to know about it in real time. 

And so, my sort of dream is, you know, let’s, let’s go back to the Delta SkyMiles. Example Delta not a client of ours, sadly. But let’s say a Diamond member, like my mentor Bill goes, he’s a, you know, multimillion miler with Delta, and he has a bad experience at Delta. And he goes and he reacts to something. Somebody asks him, you know, how’d to go, and he reacts to something.

I want somebody in the call center to call him within five minutes and make that right. And certainly there’s an operational consideration to everything that we do in loyalty programs. So it’s balancing what’s reasonable versus the human power that’s needed to make these programs run. 

But for, if you’re able to do that kind of outreach, and maybe you can’t do it today, but you have that technology that allows you to really show members, that you care. And then, you know, it’s not just for the most elite members, obviously, they’re typically very high value, but especially when somebody’s coming into your program, you know what we talked about a little bit earlier it’s so hard to earn that loyalty at the beginning. You’re competing in the space. There’s lots of sameness. And so many of our interactions with loyalty programs that matter that we remember have to do with that onboarding experience. How did I come in? You know, what did they give me right away?

What kind of service did they treat me with? I’ll just continue picking on Delta. I mean, Delta, flight at attendants will walk up and down the plane and they will thank every single SkyMiles member on a flight as we’re going in for landing.  That’s incredible. I once got a handwritten note from the pilot thanking me for my membership.

Those kinds of touches have nothing to do with points. They have nothing to do with me getting a free flight or taking the family on vacation. They have to do with that experience. And so, emotional loyalty is the ability for us is the ability to deploy technology, to be able to do that at scale. And to actually have insights that allow you to action on it, without the delay of some of the more traditional methods of getting that feedback. 

Paula: Absolutely.  Very well said. I absolutely agree. So many people do come on this show, and we talk so much about emotional loyalty, how important it is, and very few have managed to execute or deliver something. So, so I even find myself struggling to be able to say, here’s an extraordinary example of somebody who’s done emotional loyalty as distinct from, you know, your example, which could be seen as maybe customer service.

But the fact that you are telling me, you know, about a letter that you got from the pilot obviously now we are broadcasting that as something amazing that Delta did.  Like those incredible experiences you know really, I think, need to be thought through, and to me come from brands that have that, I suppose overarching loyalty mindset. You know, it’s not just a program that’s got points and got rewards, but actually, we’re all here to really make sure that Joe knows how happy we are.

Because I’m pretty sure if you switched your allegiance to another airline, you could probably get a status match, for example, with the premium cards. So like the risk is that you would actually be tempted by one if there was a particularly bad experience. So I think it’s only when we put enough in the bank almost if I think about, you know, the emotions that we build up over time and the trust and everything, that’s what’s keeping you at Deltas, the fact that they’ve earned that for many years of your flying history.

Joe: That’s absolutely true. I mean, my colleague, Don Smith calls them forgiveness points. 

Paula: Oh. Nice.

Joe: So every time you put, put, put in, you know, have a positive experience, you, you know, you earn some forgiveness points. And, you know, the research that our partner has done in this emotional loyalty space says when you have a positive experience, that’s great. That obviously builds some, you know, some emotional capital or some forgiveness points in Don’s words.

But if you have a bad experience, you remember that six times longer than if you have a positive experience. And so those negative experiences, which it happens, lights get delayed, hotel rooms get overbooked, you know? All sorts of things happen. You know, brands run out of product, whatever the case may be. But you are, you, you need to, you know, as a brand, be very, very, you know, cognizant of how fast and how directly you respond when there is negative experience. To try and turn it around just due to that research that indicates people don’t forget very quickly.

Paula: For sure. And I know, you know, in some ways the emoji approach sounds trivial, but I’m actually going to say I don’t think it is at all because I think that’s how we communicate with people we love, you know? We all have our messaging applications and you know, text has its place of course, but if somebody does actually share an emoji, you know, I think we understand better now, and I think it’s become acceptable for brands to actually start using these less formal styles of communication. 

So I will be dying to hear about this, you know, enigmatic solution that your partners are developing around the emotional loyalty space. Because as I said, so many times people reach out and say, can you point me to something? Give me an example of somebody who’s achieving emotional loyalty and it’s not an NPS score. So, so super exciting on that piece. 

The other one I wanted to ask you about, you briefly touched on it, Joe, is the whole piece around AI. And I was on your website, of course, in preparation for today’s call, and I was really impressed you guys had a blog article from December 2022 about Chat GPT.

Which in my world, only exploded on my LinkedIn page in, I’m gonna say maybe even February, maybe January. But it kind of seemed to happen overnight. I think many of us really did kind of go, oh my God. Because all of a sudden there was like, you know, 20 posts a day talking about it. But you guys were, were way ahead of the curve, I guess, in terms of, noticing it. So tell us, are you starting to see a role for loyalty programs and what are you saying? What should our audience be thinking about in that space? 

Joe: Yeah, so I mean, the Chat GPT revolution helps answer well, in our world it how, how it, it’s intriguing for two reasons. So one from a, from a communication perspective, from whether it’s an email, text message, et cetera, are you able to do something that is more personalized than just somebody’s name and status and point balance and whatever?

Are you able to do something more personalized in a specific market or in a specific,  you know, for a specific situation as a result of that? Now you still have to be careful because consumers are much smarter than a lot of times as brands and as marketers give them credit for. And, you know, when you’re being talked to, by robot.

So you have to be very, very careful there. But in very select situations, it works fantastic. And I’m speaking really in, triggered, you know, types of messaging.  But the real revolution with Chat GPT for us is our speed when it comes to development and speed to market. And that’s the thing on a technology side.

Our developers are deploying Chat GPT and those related technologies to develop, to dev quicker and to take more time to think about how they’re deploying a solution strategically than focusing on the actual code writing. And so, this goes into, if I am a major brand and I’m considering, do I go with a more traditional loyalty application company that builds a custom solution for me?

Or do I go with a SaaS player and I’m nervous about SaaS because of the cloud-based nature of it, and I’m nervous about, you know, am I gonna get locked into, you know, product roadmaps, enhancements, et cetera. And we have very direct reasons to allay those concerns. 

But from a product roadmap perspective and from an enhancement to our platform perspective, already a leader in Forrester, our team is just starting to go faster and faster. And so the ability for a client to say, hey, I’ve got an idea, and for it to show up in the product is assisted by things like Chat GPT and by our company’s very open approach to those types of new technologies. The last thing that I’ll say that I’m very intrigued as it as it evolves is the, some of the, one of the spinoffs of Chat GPT is the ability to use that technology to book your travel and to plan your trips, etcetera.

And, I’m, you know, as we’ve seen some early new technologies raising up of that, of how to combine together your points and various wallets and various accounts. And so for Chat GPT to sort of take over my travel booking world and handle those sorts of things for me in a much faster way, saves me time. Just my day to day, you know, not looking at flights on Delta or, you know, going to Marriott and booking my next hotel. So, we see the major opportunity in the time savings that it saves the internal team and it makes us a faster, more relevant, company for, for brands to consider. 

Paula: Amazing. Yeah, and I just love even thinking about that, that you can literally take an idea from a client and, and get it you know, live and into their systems. Like, like I’ve actually never done that. You know, I’ve always been the person again, you know, different, different areas of loyalty programs, but I’ve never been the person say, this is what I want you to build and see it come to life. So that’s pretty amazing. And if you can do that faster and faster with these new technologies, that’s amazing.

So listen, tell us about anything particular you’re proud of, Joe. I think, I know CRM for example, happened recently. I still haven’t, would you believe ever managed to get over to that amazing conference, which I know happens every June. I think I’ve promised your colleague, Lauren that I will be there next summer, so hopefully we get to hang out with you guys in person, finally. But tell us a bit about the clients that you showcase there, because I know it’s one you’re very proud of. 

Joe: Absolutely. So we launched the NASCAR program officially. We were in a pilot phase last year, but we launched it officially this season. And NASCAR, which was a program that was designed by one of our favorite partners, Jen McMillan, in partnership with NASCAR. And we deployed, the underlying solution was the first pure engagement loyalty program here in the States for a sports league. 

And so you are able to earn enough points in the NASCAR program, and you, to redeem for real items, tickets, and so forth. Without spending a single dollar with NASCAR.

like NASCAR recognized that they needed a way to directly engage with fans in a more powerful way. They are obviously a media powerhouse and there’s no shortage of clips and data and fantasy leagues. And when you’re at the, when you’re at the track, there’s no shortage of, you know, direct experiences that you can have with the various OEMs that are part of NASCAR, et etera. But they wanted a deeper connection with the fans.

They wanted something that built a connection and recognized their fandom. NASCAR fans, are they, from all the data that we’ve seen, they’re the most loyal fans in the business. And so it goes to a point where, you know, We, we sometimes, as marketers kind of scoff at the old brand marketing tactics of, you know, putting a logo on the side of a car or something like that. In NASCAR, the data is 100% there, that, you know, if a team is sponsored by McDonald’s, those fans buy more McDonald’s to support that team, like they believe.

Paula: Oh my goodness. Wow. Wow. 

Joe: It’s very real. And so NASCAR wanted a way to give back and, and my favorite redemption option, I’m hoping to earn enough points this year to actually cash in for,  is you can get an actual tire off a car. And they shipping costs, so it’s not totally free. It’s, it’s a giant, you know, Goodyear Tire. But, they will ship it to you. And, our system is hooked into one of our fulfillment partners, Agio, that, they’ve got just stacks of tires in their warehouse and they’re happy to, they’re happy to ship ’em to you.

So, it’s a very, very cool program and it has, without giving away, you know, too many, too many proprietary secrets. The plans are so much bigger than the program that you see today. The roadmap is so much broader. And so, you know, it goes into things in the blockchain space.

There are things that are occurring, you know, with, you know, partnerships with various brands. It is going to be a very powerful and growing program for we think years to come. And what our hope is, is we introduce more fans to NASCAR. You know, and we’re hopeful that NASCAR will, you know, have their, their moment, where, you know, younger fans and, and, you know, fans from more different areas of the world and different areas of the country, start learning what a great and storied sport it is. 

So I’ll be honest, I wasn’t a fan until they became a client and I went to Charlotte Motor Speedway the first time. And they’re, the last thing I’ll just say about the brand and how this has, you know, ties into the, the program is it’s, it’s a league that you can get very, very close to.

So, you know, in NBA or Major League Baseball, etcetera, unless you are, you know, the top season ticket holder, you’re not talking to the players directly. You don’t go into the dugout and, you know, toss around the baseballs or anything like that in NASCAR you can absolutely, through our program, get a VIP pass and you can walk up and you can touch one of the cars.

No problem. You can talk to the drivers directly. It’s very personal, visceral connection. So, yeah, we hope to, you know, keep building on the success that NASCAR has driven so far and continue to build those real fan connections.

Paula:  Amazing. I think it’s actually one of my two favorite sectors, Joe and the other one I do want to touch on as well with you, but because I think sports is so inherently passionate as a part of most of our lives, no matter what sport it might be, I often think that from a loyalty perspective, you know, it was just assumed that those fans would continue, would become engaged and would stay engaged.

So I actually feel like there was an an element of, you know, being taken for granted. But more and more I’m hearing that brands like NASCAR—we’ve had, for example, Arsenal on, on the show here, you know, as a premier league football club. So to me it’s incredible that there is still aneed or increasingly a need to, to invest in those relationships. Even though they’re already so passionately held.

So amazing to hear what NASCAR’s doing. And I guess it would be remiss of me if I didn’t explicitly say if NASCAR’s listening, to please come on the show and talk with us. We’d love to share the story in more detail. And particularly as it grows over time. Joe.

I think that is something that, you know, we need leaders like this, you know, powered by guys like you, of course. Combined, you know, so all the ambition, all the tech, all the strategy, and coming together and coming to market with them. Dare I say it, possibly award-winning programs, because I did want to tee up exactly, we were just together at the International Loyalty Awards in London, and you guys did do amazingly well, so, let’s talk about that.

Actually, I know I did want to talk about that other sector, but let’s just quickly talk about, you know, Capillary and the awards that you won. I know you got one personally in terms of, you know, one of the top 30 leaders in loyalty, under 40 years of age. So congratulations to you. 

Joe: Thank you. 

Paula: Were you surprised with that? That must have been a wonderful achievement. 

Joe: I was totally surprised. I mean, you know, my, my colleague Lauren, who, you know, coordinated this, this podcast for, for me, you know, when they, when her and Megan were putting me in for the submission, I told ’em not to waste their time.

And you know, to, that’s not an attempt to be falsely humble. You know, I’ve definitely gotten to see some pretty cool things over my career. I got into loyalty year after you, so 2011 is when I started my loyalty career. But if you look at what I consider, you know, the, you know, the role models in the space and the, you know, the behemoths in the space,  I think, you know, there’s lots of folks out there especially that are tied to brands that, you know, have built incredible, innovative ideas. 

So I was totally surprised. I was humbled to be a part of it. What was much more intriguing for me to see and much more exciting was how the company was recognized and, and that, the programs that one, this year, I can’t take credit for, there’s, a number of my colleagues across the world that lead and, and guide those client relationships.

But, you know, the team has been working really, really hard to differentiate our clients in a number of different spaces. And when we’re winning awards for data, when we’re winning awards for user experience, that shows us that what we’re doing is working when it comes from a strategic perspective on the actual system, on the technology.

And so, you know, you know, one of the, one of our clients that was recognized as Shell, you know, differentiating a fuel company in any market is next to impossible. And the team has done, you know, an incredible job with that. If you look at, you know, some of our work in the B two B space with say, Jotun Paints. You know, being able to create a truly engaging, differentiated, program, in that space is very difficult to do.

B two B as you know, I’ve spoken to you about before, is a rising market for us. And it’s one that’s a little bit more shrouded in mystery because the average consumer doesn’t obviously buy, you know, you know, a ton of, you know, paint for industrial purposes or in, we’ve got a client that makes electro electrical components out of Michigan for, what I call up down desks.

But they buy, you know, they do the electrical components for standing desks. And, you know, we’ve got a client in the eyecare space that does prescription lenses, the number two manufacturer prescription lenses in the world, and we do their B two B program. Those are just three examples of how we’ve been able to deploy Loyalty ideas. Yeah, loyalty practices, loyalty systems to solve a very different need. And the B two B consumer is a very different consumer from the B two C consumer.  

And a lot of times what loyalty programs are able to do in that space is simplifying. So I was very proud of the team winning awards in that area. And then I was very excited to see the data side and the artificial intelligence, you know, actually making a difference for our clients. You know, it’s easy to say. And it’s easy for investors to get excited about AI or machine learning. And you know, when you pop open the hood of a lot of you know, applications and you say, well, what’s actually there? What can I use on day one? Sometimes the answer is, you know, we need to have a data science team do a bunch of work and do a ton of, you know, you know, cleansing and, and to get things ready, or we have to really, you know, personalize this model, et cetera, to make it work.

That for many of our clients, that’s not the case. They’re able to use it out of the box and for actual applications. The one I like to highlight all the time is our ability to communicate when people wish to be communicated to. So it’s very hard for a consumer to say, email me in the morning, because that’s when I check my, you know, my personal Gmail account.

Or, you know, send me a push notification when I get home from work, you know? That’s when I want to do it. And our technology is able to pick that up. No one’s going to email you in and say, email me in the morning. Right.

So it, you know, that very, very subtle piece there. And there’s other technologies out there that do that. Our differentiator is always the fact that we’ve combined it with the loyalty application itself. And so as a marketer, I don’t have to go to an external CRM or omnichannel communication tool, build a model, tie in the loyalty data, move it over and go execute. That can take weeks in an enterprise system with various teams and verticals.

The fact that we’re able to put, you know, here’s the loyalty engine, here’s that AI, here’s the ability to send a message. You can do it all together in an afternoon. And build out that campaign is what gives our marketers, that we work with that, that flexibility and so, so to see that yield real results for the team is amazing. And what a privilege to be a part of that team. 

Paula: Yes. Yes, indeed. You looked a little shell-shocked, I will say, at the awards when, when it happened, and I didn’t get to talk to all of your teams. So huge congratulations to everyone involved in that. So listen, my final question then is just about that other sector that I know you are excited about.

And I know you can’t say too much Joe, but for me, the whole idea about the CPG sector is another one that I think is super important. Because there is such an energy and intention from very big global brands as we know to really start to understand and engage with their consumers. So just wanted to hear what you are thinking or seeing in that particular space.

I think you mentioned offline that you are starting to do some work for some pretty big CPG brands. So yeah, just wanted to hear what’s going on, as much as you can tell us. 

Joe: Yeah, absolutely. It’s something that, you know, we have, you know, three or four projects that are either about to start or are underway or have, you know, and then we’ve got some major projects that have launched over this past year.

And CPG loyalty. I mean, what I always think about is the Pepsi Points program in the nineties. I collected the points when I was a young caddy, and I saved up for the Pepsi merch. And if you look at that scenario, you know, Pepsi in that, in that instance was able to scratch an itch, with consumers to have a deeper connection and to, you know, feel rewarded for their loyalty to Pepsi and to also tie into that collecting and, you know, building up, you know, your points, which is just a natural mechanism of loyalty marketing.

But what we’re seeing with CPGs today, so everyone talks about the data side, which is, which is true, you know. You know, CPGs are hungry for data. You know, death of third party cookies has been talked about for years. I’m sure it’ll happen at some point. That is very open that CPG brands are looking to head that off at the past.

What I, so that’s interesting. Of course, that to me is table stakes, what a brand should be asking for if they’re engaging with you for that type of program. What gets really interesting is if that brand takes a step farther to build a emotional connection with their members and create an ecosystem of value aside from just the transaction of, I’m gonna give you this much points for this much data that you’re offering ’em.  

So, you know, if you work in the, you know, energy shrink space, I’ll use an example. Not one of our clients. So we don’t have, you know, Red Bull is not a client today. Feel free to gimme a call Red Bull. But let’s say, you know, if Red Bull were to do that,  you know, creating an ecosystem like. Around that loyalty program that, you know, shows you, you know, when you should be drinking Red Bull and what activities it does, and all the different flavors and the calories, and creating like a nutritional ecosystem for members that they get value out of it. More than just, hey, you know, you buy Red Bull, you get points.  

If you’re in, you know, you know, if you’re in the food space again, you know, what is your food about? You know, if you look at some of the most iconic CPG brands out there, they have a very specific, you know, value set. They have a very specific thing that’s important to them. And so, you know, one of the things that we see becoming more and more of a thing is the ability to use your points for charity. But what it’s not just a redemption option where you’re caching in the points and it’s donating to, you know, whatever non-profit organization you care about. It’s around co-running and co-redeeming. 

So Don Smith talks a lot about this on our side where, you know, what, if you changed your perspective to, you know, as you earn and exchange, the brand automatically donates. So I encourage CPG brands that are looking into programs to look at ways that you can tie the consumer to their charitable activities. Like make, give them some choice and give them a co-running partner. And then, you know, have those co-running partners of course be in alignment with the values that your brand espouses to have, you know? Put your money where your mouth is there. And so there’s, there’s lots of, so to me, at the end of the day, it is about creating a ecosystem for your members that really showcases those values of the brand.

Paula: Amazing. Amazing. Well, we will be watching and waiting with bated breath, Joe. I have no doubt there’s gonna be some incredible work launching from the sounds of what you hinting at are going on behind the scenes. So, really exciting times. So I think that’s all my questions for today. Was there anything else that you wanted to mention before we wrap up? 

Joe: No, this has been awesome, Paula. Thanks so much for having me on here. It’s a great honor to win awards of the International Loyalty Awards, but it, I was humbled and honored just to be invited on the podcast. So thanks so much for the time, and I really appreciate the conversation. This has been a blast. 

Paula: Wonderful. I look forward to many, many more. So, Joe Doran, Senior Vice President of Loyalty for Capillary North America. Thank you so much and Let’s Talk Loyalty. 

Joe: Thanks Paula.

Paula:This show is brought to you by the Australian Loyalty Association, the leading organization for loyalty professionals in Asia Pacific. Visit their news and content hub for the latest loyalty insights from around the world. Or why not submit your own article for publication?

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