Guest Column - May/June 2012

Construct the Building Blocks to Inspire Program Loyalty

By Jeffrey Brenner

While Robinson may have been referring to brand loyalty or product loyalty, as opposed to customer loyalty programs, her words illustrate a very important concept. Incentive programs don't start with built-in loyalty and customer buy-in. Without question, incentive programs need to generate loyalty, not only from senior management, but also from the customers they are trying to entice. An effective program will excel for both management and customers, when it is built with a foundation that provides a clear vision for success.

In fact, many established programs have been assembled using five critical building blocks that inspire brand loyalty among customers. These building blocks are: emotional drivers, audience motivators, relevant differentiation, inspiration, and delivering on promises. Smart and successful companies know that all five components must be at the core of every loyalty program.

Establish Emotional Connections

Spending decisions are greatly influenced by emotional drivers, namely the connection one feels to a brand and how a product fits with one's individual lifestyle. In today's customer loyalty programs, some companies take shortcuts on reward selections and don't consider the connection between the emotional factor and their loyalty program offerings. Research on redemption patterns indicates that program rewards must mirror current retail trends in order to fully engage customers. Recently, the popularity of celebrity chefs has exploded across the country. Many customers not only watch Paula Deen's cooking shows, they buy her cookbooks and use her branded cookware. Through her brand, they re-create that warm and comfortable feeling of cooking for family and friends. Offer Paula Deen merchandise in your program for a natural emotional connection to customers that will drive their behavior and in turn increase redemptions, much like retail sales of this product.

By conveying your understanding of customers' relationships to brands through a unique product offering, your program can separate itself from the competition. Program participants will feel inspired to acquire and redeem points when they see high-quality products that fit their daily lifestyle being awarded for their longtime loyalty.