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How loyal are you?

The evolution of brand loyalty

loyal Ferrari superfan
A Ferrari superfan

Loyalty. It’s a tricky term to define in a world where brands can win around an audience with a freebie, discount or an eternal promise of something better. The idea of being loyal cannot be bought with a bribe. Instead, it taps into our inherent, emotional desire to belong.

The paradox at the heart of the modern customer is that, although they would say they are loyal to brands, they also want to, and can, continuously shop around for the most appealing offers. Indeed, according to Mintel, 30% of active users [of loyalty programmes] say they use multiple loyalty schemes to get the best deals. And those are the people actually admitting it.

The digitally savvy customers of today are diverse and demanding, wanting authenticity at every turn and ease of use in every action. And there are plenty of brands providing both. So how can we encourage our fickle audience to be loyal?

“As CRM agencies, we have the ability to influence someone’s mindset, their attitudes, their choice and their behaviour, and ultimately their advocacy.” Matt Broekhuizen, Founder, Table19

The ultimate goal of a CRM programme is to increase loyalty and maximise each customer’s value. The aim is to develop a two way relationship between the brand and audience that will result in the best customer experience possible. Using data, brands are able to track behaviour, helping them to pre-empt future purchasing and create better, and more effective, personalised communications.

“To create preference, effectively you need to have a relationship with your customers. And to have a meaningful relationship, you need data. Good data; data that you can use and that is predictive of behaviour.” Nick Corkill, RAPP 

Below we’ve picked out the key trends driving loyalty and the brands worth signing up for. 

Meerkat Movies - VCCP
Meerkat Movies Welcome Journey - VCCP

Loyalty 'touch' points

Great brands employ an omnichannel approach to marketing, reaching customers at every touchpoint. The most successful loyalty programmes are woven into these existing channels, taking the campaign story and using it to create personalised messaging to customers.

VCCP worked with to create the Meercat Movies Welcome Journey, a campaign aligned across email, website personalisation and an app. The Journey is made up of seven personalised messages that lead the customer through the sign up on the website, onto downloading the app and receiving targeted emails. To encourage people to complete the journey, Compare the Market designed a sequence of iconic cinematic moments featuring the infamous meerkat stars, aligning the scheme with the overarching campaign message. 

A great loyalty programme takes time to mature. Havas helia worked with easyJet over five years to transform their CRM system and create a brand identity that people would feel loyal towards. The programme was designed to celebrate the airline’s 20th anniversary and combined systems, automation, data insight and personalisation to form one of aviation’s most successful eCRM programmes. The scheme allows the brand to anticipate their customers individual travel needs as well as proving insight for personalised emails. From miles travelled to cities visited and more, the personal approach evokes memories, and puts the customer in the mood to book another holiday.

Mamas & Papas recognised that they needed to connect to a new generation of affluent, first time pregnant millennials, and create a worthy dialogue with each individual across every relevant touch point. Together with Stack, they introduced M&P&ME, a smarter programme that is a personalised ‘due date’ driven rewards club and content hub. The rewards directly correspond to each stage of the pregnancy, and to each individual’s own experience. 


Data driven apps

These days there’s an app for everything, but it’s only the best that reach our personal devices. For a brand, there’s a huge loyalty potential if you can get your app into the pocket of your customer. Once you’ve convinced your audience to opt in, the additional data such as personal details, preferences and location, means messaging can become more personalised and messaging can be even more bespoke.

Lida worked directly with Boots Advantage Card to create a gift finder app for Christmas. Boots has the second largest loyalty scheme in the UK, and one of the oldest, turning twenty this year. Their challenge was to maintain the allegiance of the core Boots customer while diversifying the brand’s appeal. The Christmas app helped to do this by allowing users to tag gifts with personalised video messages that the recipient would then open on Christmas Day. The app also generated gift ideas when the user provided details of the person they were buying for and the amount they wanted to spend.

Nike+ is one of the most recognisable, and successful, data driven loyalty apps. Downloadable onto a smart phone, the app tracks the athletes progress and offers personalised workouts. Other fitness brands are following suit. New Balance partnered with the exercise tracking app Strava to reward users with points to spend online, based on their workout results, while last year, Under Armour acquired several popular fitness apps, such as MyFitnessPal and MapMyRun, in order to gather the data that is collected and applied to their own brand activity. 

Let the games begin

Sometimes people need an added incentive to keep them interested; a goal to get to, or even a next level to reach. There are so many brands pushing email sign ups and individual extras that many are looking to game design to feed ideas back into their loyalty programmes.

The online fashion retailer ASOS has spent the best part of two years developing ASOS A-LIST, a UK only loyalty scheme that enables shoppers to unlock different tiers and levels of membership depending on how much money they spend and how many points that generates. The customer earns while they shop - £1 spent = 5 points – giving them access to personalised vouchers, events and treats.

Playing games is all about reaching the next level, to unlock the prizes that undoubtedly await. Sky, alongside SapientRazorfish, has tapped into this mindset by creating a four-tier loyalty scheme - silver, gold, platinum and black - that allows people to advance depending on the number of years they’ve been a Sky customer. Users who have reached the black level are given access to a new channel as well as the latest Sky box, while other levels unlock money-can’t-buy-experiences.

Similarly, Harvey Nichols mobile only loyalty scheme, The Rewards App, employs a tiered system. Hailed as a fast track pass, the app gives customers rewards like gift wrapping, express alterations and at-home stylists. The focus is on indulgent experiences, rather than cash back.

The VIP experience

Increasingly, loyalty programme members don’t actually want cash discounts; they want a reward system that will offer them product samples, exclusive brand events and, most importantly, VIP experiences.

Mr President worked with Grey Goose to introduce Le Club Goose, an extension of the brand’s luxury offering that lets loyal customers have a truly VIP experience. It is an exclusive, global club that unlocks experiences for members around the world, all through a unique key: a connected, ‘smart’, NFC enabled silver goose. This goose is a recognisable emblem of the club, and, by storing the members’ preferences and details, allows them to receive their perfect, personalised, cocktail from any Grey Goose mixologist.

Another way of creating an element of exclusivity is by making the club invite-only, something that the e-commerce fashion site Zalando did with the launch of their premium loyalty programme, Zet. The scheme draws from the model of the incredibly successful, Amazon Prime. The aim of Zet is to offer benefits along the entire customer journey, from early shopping of the sales to direct contact with stylists and experts and exclusive pick-ups and returns.

About the author

Izzy Ashton, Assistant Editor of BITE, Creativebrief

Izzy is a writer/researcher for BITE, Creativebrief’s daily insight into global marketing trends and the cultural movements driving them. She keeps abreast of the latest communication, technology and consumer news, and is responsible for conducting interviews with key agency strategists and creatives to gain insight into the most innovative global campaigns.

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