#478: Welcome to 2024 - Announcing Exciting Plans for Let's Talk Loyalty in 2024

Welcome to 2024!

As our first episode of the year, we are thrilled to be kicking things off with some really exciting changes which are being announced in today’s episode!

Our episode today is hosted by Paula Thomas and joined for the first time by another LTL team member, Pooja Venugopal who is our Guest and Content Manager, who works tirelessly behind the scenes to make our show a success.

In this episode, we also extend our thanks to all of our ongoing show sponsors who have already worked with us in 2023 and have confirmed their plans to do even more with us in 2024, so to Marigold, Comarch, Epsilon, Points by Plusgrade, Phaedon, Collinson Group, Value Dynamx, and Mastercard. I’m incredibly proud to be working with all of you and thank you for your support!

I really hope you enjoy our first episode of 2024 and we look forward to sharing even more incredible loyalty content with you in the year ahead!

Show Notes

1)  Let’s Talk Loyalty

2) Marigold⁠

3) Comarch⁠

4)  Epsilon

5) Points by Plusgrade⁠

6) Phaedon

7) Collinson Group

8) Value Dynamx

9) Mastercard

10) Paula Thomas

11) Pooja Venugopal

12) McDonald’s Interview

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.

Just before we share today’s episode, I want to ask you to sign up to the Let’s Talk Loyalty email newsletter. Our email newsletter is by far the best way for us to keep you up to date with all of the latest incredible loyalty stories we’re sharing each week. It’s also the easiest place for you to find our show notes with links to everything mentioned in all of the episodes.

You can sign up at letstalkloyalty.com.

Hello and welcome back to Let’s Talk Loyalty and welcome to 2024. It’s our first episode of the year. So I’m thrilled to be kicking things off with some really exciting changes and announcements. So thank you for tuning in today to hear all of our latest news. 

It’s a time of growth and expansion for Let’s Talk Loyalty. And it’s also a time for authenticity. You can probably hear in my voice, I’ve a terrible head cold. So, my apologies for sounding less than perfect. But the show must go on, so I really wanted to show up today and make sure to be able to share all of our latest news with you. 

I’m joined today by Pooja Venugopal, who is the Guest and Content Manager for Let’s Talk Loyalty. Pooja does a huge amount of work behind the scenes to make our show a success. So I was thrilled when she agreed to co host this episode with me. And I think you’ll agree she does an amazing job. 

I also wanted to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to all of our ongoing show sponsors who have already worked with us in 2023 and who have confirmed their plans to do even more with us in 2024. So, to Marigold, to Comarch, to Epsilon, Points by Plusgrade, Phaedon, Collinson Group, Value Dynamics and Mastercard. I am incredibly proud to be working with all of you, and thank you for your support to date. That’s it for now, I really hope you enjoyed this first episode of 2024, and we look forward to sharing even more incredible loyalty content with you in the year ahead. Wishing you all a fantastic year. Please enjoy the show.

So Pooja, it seems strange to say welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty as we work so closely together, but it’s certainly your first time coming either as a guest or really actually as a co host. So welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty. 

Pooja: Thank you so much, Paula. I think I would prefer saying co host because it’s been a journey for both of us. It’s been like it’s been life changing for me being just being involved with you and working with you. My career trajectory has completely changed and I’ve learned so much in the loyalty space. I also understand how awkward this interview can be because right now I feel like I’m reliving all the parts that I guess have gone through just being here and recording this. 

Paula: Incredible. Incredible. Well, listen, I’m super excited for the conversation today, Pooja. We’re here to, first of all, celebrate the arrival of 2024. I think anybody who is listening today will first of all, hear that I actually have a cold, which is quite amusing to me as obviously somebody using my voice so regularly. But nonetheless, we are recording this at the end of 2023. We have a lot to celebrate and a lot to announce for what’s coming in the 12 months ahead. So I’m delighted you agreed to be my co host today because I really feel like you deserve to be more visible as part of the company. So, so very exciting today.

Now, we’re going to start in our usual way. Because I always love to ask everybody who’s on the show, as you know, about their favorite loyalty program. But before we do that, maybe just let’s explain your role and then let’s get into that question. So people know the context for you answering that question. Yeah. 

Pooja: Yes, sure. So yeah everybody listening to me and I know some of our guests might know me because that’s where I interact the most with. So my name is Pooja and I work as the Guest and Content Manager for Let’s Talk Loyalty. So basically I I get in the guest on the show after discussing with Paula, making sure that our guests have a great time on the show. So I do the initial briefing call and also anything that you see on our social media pages, like LinkedIn with the support of my colleague, John, a big shout out to him as well. We together create content on our page come up with ideas on how to you know, just uplift our our show. So it’s a constant learning and that’s what I do basically and just any sort of support that Paula needs. I will always be there. 

Paula: Amazing. Yes, that’s exactly what I was going to say, Pooja, you, you pick up everything I throw at you. So, it’s amazing to have you on the team. It’s been a year and a half now, isn’t it?

Pooja: Yes, yes.

Paula: Yes, a year and a half since you joined. So, and I do keep throwing things at you. So very exciting I think for the Let’s Talk Loyalty audience to know exactly who is behind the scenes and making everything work because I certainly couldn’t do it alone. 

So let’s get into the first question, Pooja. With all of your listening and learning and meeting with so many people. I think, as you said, you never worked in loyalty marketing. I don’t think you even realized that it was a thing before you joined. So you’ve had a baptism of fire. So tell us then from all of that kind of, you know, being behind the scenes, tell us what have you decided is your favorite loyalty program.

Pooja: So yeah, it’s always very interesting to learn and especially because we have a global audience and we bring in the global brands, it’s always very interesting to learn and just notice how differently each brand also works across different countries, like how they come up with their award programs, being making it suitable for the audience of that region. So, for me, my favorite is McDonald’s. I do have an obsession with McDonald’s too. I really have to control every time that, you know, if there’s something we need to order, I know Paula also knows this. We just go ahead and order McDonald’s.

So I really like the McRewards and we also happened to have them on the show in 2023. And I think that was a very special moment for us because we always wanted that brand. It was on our top wishlist and it actually happened in 2023. And you know, the fact that the many people actually heard that episode and when I was talking to other guests they kind of like always highlighted on this particular episode. And for them, there were so many learnings on how McDonald’s have really sort of really communicate with their customers and look into the needs by region and appropriately deliver it.

So, I think for me that episode is also special and I like their reward program. And I think it was it’s a great listen. So if any of you haven’t listened yet, please do go check it out on our page. It’s with Bess Cades and you can, you will totally enjoy that episode.

Paula: For sure. Yeah. And what we will do, of course, is make sure to link to that episode in the show notes for this one. So anybody does want to quickly head over to it. So you’re absolutely right. Like, as you said, Pooja, from day one, I had McDonald’s on the wishlist. We definitely do eat a lot of McDonald’s certainly when we’re in the loyalty TV studio, as you said, it’s our go to for for something all of the team love to tuck into.

And you’re right, like, I remember her terminology. It has really stuck with me. So, Bess Cades, as you said was the guest in that particular episode, one of our first for Loyalty TV. So definitely we’re still on a learning curve when it comes to video, but Bess was amazing. Very patient. But she had this concept of freedom within a framework. And to me, that was brilliant. It’s like, yes, there’s always best practice principles. A brand like McDonald’s, absolutely, particularly franchise brands have so many rules and regulations. But at the same time, they have the freedom of doing something locally that’s relevant. And I think that the terminology in Australia was one that amused me. I think it’s called MyMacca’s, which again is perfect. You know, I could just hear everybody in Australia going, yep, that’s actually a name that they love. So yeah, so well done you. That was a great example. 

Pooja: Yes. So let me ask you the question back. I know you have answered it plenty of times and it, you know, every time, but what is your current favorite loyalty program?

Paula: Yeah, you know what? I mean, for me, it definitely is the one that I just get to use most often Pooja. So, Emirates has been phenomenal in terms of coming on the show. So Dr. Nejib Ben-Khedher is incredibly generous leading the Skywards program. And for me, it’s just one that I’m just amazed at how I’m changing my behavior.

I think I was saying to you off-air, I have, you know, I wasn’t traveling quite as much last year as the year before. So I did lose my gold card status. So I’m not in the gold tier anymore, but I can tell you, I am determined to get it back. Like I’m looking every email that comes in from Skywards. I’m literally going. Okay. Where’s the opportunity for tier points? Whereas before I was only focused on the actual Skywards Miles in terms of the redemption tickets. 

So the fact that I value the status is something that I don’t think I’ve ever actually, you know, noticed before. So even my husband, I’m like, you know, monitoring his behavior to make sure he’s using his proper credit card and stuff. So, yeah. I would have to say shout out to Emirates Skywards and thanks again, guys, for being so generous with our audience because they really have been phenomenal guests and we love working with them. So there you go. So that’s my latest. 

Pooja: Amazing. That’s great. Yeah. Emirates has always been, I think, most people’s favorite loyalty program and we keep hearing it every time. 

Paula: Especially in this city, for sure. Brilliant. So, listen, we’re here to talk about the upcoming news, all of the changes, all of what’s happening in 2024. I suppose the most important thing to mention first off the bat is Tom Peace has now finished his work with us. Tom did a phenomenal job in 2023 as the host of our Tuesday short show format. So just want to say a big thanks to Tom. 

So we are going to be announcing a brand new format for every Tuesday. So, Pooja, what do you think? I mean, there’s a lot of change happening. How do you feel about that? 

Pooja: It feels great. I mean, it sounds promising. And we had a great 2023 for sure. So I am really excited for 2024. There’s a lot happening. We are doing a balancing act out here, but we have definitely got this. 

Paula: Yeah. Yeah, cool. So we can’t announce, I suppose, the exact details of what’s going to be happening on a Tuesday. But I suppose for this month of January, what is important is that we will be continuing to release episodes every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. They’ll just be interviews every, every day, actually, just for the month of January. 

And then in February, what I can say is that we are working with our friends in The Wise Marketer Group. So they do have some extraordinary content, of course, particularly with The Loyalty Academy, as well as, of course, the main website where all of their incredible articles are published. But we’re looking to share the learnings from The Loyalty Academy in a short show format every Tuesday. So as it comes closer to February, we’ll be sharing more and more details, but it is officially launching. And I suppose the key things for people who like a short format is, it’ll still be kind of five to seven minutes long and it will be with this incredible partnership with our friends there. So yeah, so that’s going to be something that you’re going to be working on, I guess, even more closely Pooja. 

Pooja: Yes, and I’m truly looking forward. It’s a new format. I will also get to learn a lot.

Paula: Amazing.

Pooja: So I’m definitely looking forward to it. 

Paula: Exactly. So that’s probably the biggest news that I wanted to make sure we announced today. So as I said, February the 6th, Loyalty Academy and Wise Marketer Group watch this space and we’ll be doing a dedicated interview with the guys from there to explain exactly how we’re going to share the learnings from The Loyalty Academy, because I think everybody who listens to this show just wants to get better at what we do.

So beyond that, all of our guest hosts, we’re super excited with how all of that’s working and Pooja, you do work most closely with our guest hosts. So maybe just summarize for the audience how that’s going to work in 2024. 

Pooja: So yes, it’s going to be pretty much the same like last year, it’ll be once a month, every Wednesday, we will have a guest host hosting it and, you know, just quickly, our guest host will be Amanda Cromhout, so you will get a lot more information about the South African market. That’s where she focuses on. We will have Charlie Hills who focuses on London, Ireland so again, there is information coming from there as well to our audience. And then we have our new guest host, which we recently announced as well from Australia. We have Carly Neubauer who will be doing the episodes as well.

So do stay tuned. And it will be every once in a month, every Wednesday, we will have all three of our guest hosts actually hosting our Wednesday episodes. And it’s beautiful because we are getting a different perspective from different regions and I think they do a beautiful job of getting all the information and asking the right questions to our guests. It’s been wonderful working with Amanda, Charlie, and I’m really looking forward to working with Carly as well. They have been such a huge support and I really like this woman team together. 

Paula: It’s not intentional. I will immediately make sure that our audience knows that we haven’t just decided to work with women. It just happens to be that’s just the way that we’ve just found the right people who are aligned to what Let’s Talk Loyalty is trying to achieve. Most people will know that Amanda was our first guest host. I had seen that she had been podcasting from time to time and was admiring all of the incredible work she was doing in South Africa.

And then of course, in fact, Charlie Hills covers all of Europe. You’re right. She is based in London and, you know, very experienced in the UK market, but Charlie and Mando-Connect have done a lot of work with the research paper across Europe. So that is something that she is sharing with the Let’s Talk Loyalty audience.

And yes, we did announce that Carly Neubauer is starting also with once a month. So every Wednesday, I guess people can look forward to these, you know, vastly different insights from around the world. Our guest hosts don’t just focus on their own region, but of course that’s where they have their best networks. So that is typically where they do tend to record with them, with people in those countries. So it really means for us that we’re able to share global learnings and gives me an extraordinary opportunity to continue learning because I think I was beginning to run out of new ideas for myself. I’m like, oh my God. I’ve talked so much about loyalty. Now it’s time to give other people the audience as well. So that’s the plan. 

So again, I suppose, just to summarize and I hope this is easy for people to understand. Tuesday’s always our short show. We’re working with The Wise Marketer Group for that from February. Wednesday is our guest hosts. So Amanda, Charlie, and Carly every Wednesday. And then Thursday is going to continue to be The Paula Show, as I call it, and Loyalty TV. So, so lots more to come. And yeah, that’s, I suppose, the main reason we wanted to come together today to make sure everybody was clear on what to expect.  So, that’s the formats. That’s all of the news on that side. 

Pooja, tell me then if we talk about highlights from 2023, I think that’s important as well as we start the new year. What for you was your highlight of 2023? 

Pooja: I think there were a lot of highlights, but I think most importantly that’s crossing my mind is we started off the year with being on the top 3 percent of global podcast. And I think that’s a huge achievement for us. Kudos to you, Paula, for being so consistent with everything you do. I know I pester you a lot with recording spaces, but it’s just been it’s just been so fantastic that we have been able to be consistent and it’s not easy to be in the top 3%. So, I think we are extremely proud of that achievement. 

The second should be Loyalty TV. It’s been a great learning experience because we started from not knowing anything and just like exploring this whole space, you know, finding the studio, just like working with our guests, you know, not to make them uncomfortable, you know, we wanted to ensure that the, everything is smooth for them as well. So just getting the technical bits of it right, and then John coming into the editing process, just learning everything by himself and, you know, piecing it together. 

And every time there was a constant improvement or constant learning that we did through that journey it was just, I still remember that first day of just going and checking out the studio and trying to figure out and balance it, you know, everything out with the technical team. Also a shout out to Loving Dubai Studio, who we work with very closely the entire team for supporting us because we had zero technical knowledge, but then we managed it. And now I guess we have become pro. 

Paula: Absolutely. Yeah.

Pooja: It’s been so wonderful. I mean it’s a completely new format, watching people talk. It’s more fun just to see, you know, the conversation on a TV screen and, you know, it’s just been a wonderful process. And I think that’s been definitely a great learning experience. And I hope we continue to grow.

Paula: Yes, indeed. Indeed. Yeah. Well, I’ll definitely echo that one Pooja, because for me, you know, Loyalty TV has been like a, an idea for a long time and, you know, a terrifying one, I will admit. I definitely have more gray hairs as a result of us, you know, deciding to go all in on video as well as audio.

I think as content creators, it’s important that we do continually push the boundaries. And I feel like we have done that. As you said, we’re entirely self taught. I think as we, you know, go through 2024, more and more people are going to be watching us on Loyalty TV. So I’m thrilled that we’re continuing to get better all of the time in terms of how we produce that. And we are investing very heavily, I will say from our side, both in the studio, of course, the recording team, and, you know, hair and makeup, all of that, you know, new outfits every week. 

I mean, it’s just a bit ridiculous and to your point about consistency. Yeah, absolutely. And you’re the one I put pressure on in terms of make sure we have enough guests and that we have all of the logistics in place to get that, recorded and released. So absolutely kudos back to you in terms of getting these incredible brands. For example, we’ve just recorded with Starbucks. Again, one like McDonald’s that was on, you know, top of the wishlist. So, you know, the likes of United Airlines, you know, we’ve just had incredible guests on Loyalty TV. So I’ve no doubt that’s going to continue. 

The other highlight, I will say, and I was reflecting a lot, of course, you know, coming to the end of 2023, you know, you guys have been extraordinary Pooja and John, both of you. So wanted to make sure that our audience realizes how extraordinary you both are as a contribution to, to me. We are a startup. I still feel even though we’re more than four years old, but in terms of like me bringing a team together you guys have done everything I’ve asked for and beyond. So well done.

And I think the difference for me is in the beginning, I think both of you would look to me for guidance in terms of what we do. Now I look to you. So I think there’s been a big shift in responsibility, and there’s a lot of trust there on both sides. So well done Pooja and John for making 2023 extraordinary, and we’re going to do the same in 2024.

Pooja: Absolutely. Thank you so much, Paula. Yeah, we are definitely going to always level it up you know, always scale it up a bit higher.

Paula: Push the boundaries.

Pooja: And always make sure, yeah, push the boundaries and always make sure that there’s great content from our side, you know. 

Paula: Incredible. Cool. Wonderful. So listen, I think that’s all of the updates that we had for today. For me, I suppose the most important thing is, you know, we want to be listening more as 2024 comes through. I feel like, you know, we are so busy like everybody you know, creating all of our content that I feel like I haven’t reached out enough to this amazing audience to really send us your thoughts and feedback.

So I’m going to consciously make an effort in 2024 to, to listen as much as to broadcast. So from my side, my email address is something I’m very happy to share publicly. So paula@letstalkloyalty.com. Any ideas that you guys have as our audience, please do share them with us. We definitely will have a lot of progress and a lot more change coming in 2024, which I’ll announce in due course. But I guess from my side, it’s it’s all about listening, Pooja. What do you think? What are you looking forward to 2024?

Pooja: Yeah, absolutely. It’s more of our audience. Like a big thank you for being such great listeners and always supporting us. But also we would love to know what you think or any feedback. We can find some way to incorporate it. Also we encourage if you have some questions to any guests they are also open to taking a question. So if you do have we can definitely look into something, you know, where we can ask I guessed on a particular topic or anything of that sort, if there’s some ideas that come through.

Paula: Amazing. Absolutely. Yeah. And a big shout out, of course, to all of our sponsors as well, without who this would never happen. So, you know, as we come into 2024, we’re looking forward to doing even more work with, with all of our sponsors. So I’ll make sure to to give shout outs and again, links to all of our sponsors in the show notes. So thank you so much guys. It really has been a joy working with you. 

So listen, I just want to wrap up there. Pooja, is there anything else that you wanted to say before we, we finish our first joint co hosted recording? 

Pooja: This was fun. I really enjoyed this. And just wishing all our listeners a very happy 2024. I hope this new year is as promising as everything. And so I just wanted to say that and of course continue supporting us and we will keep improving and there’s a lot in store for you all. 

Paula: Amazing. So listen, from my side, Paula Thomas, and also from my colleague, Pooja Venugopal, thank you so much and best of luck for 2024 from Let’s Talk Loyalty.

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

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

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