Tag Archives: brand loyalty

THE FRIDAY RANT (2)

Hello! Today I’m going to talk about loyalty programs, within the context of a good old rant… FullSizeRender

Firstly, just wanna put the thought out there on what is probably my biggest bug bear with the whole notion of loyalty programs: how can loyalty expire? If I’ve been loyal, I’ve made a conscious, positive choice to stick with one brand (and God knows there are plenty to choose from out there) and I’ve bought a number of their products and/or services over a period of time. My eyes may have been turned by a number of other, attractive specimens – I’m only human, after all – but I’ve remained strong, focused and committed, with my eye on the prize. But what is that prize? – A plastic card that glimmers in a slightly more metallic way than the one I had last time. – A transitory sense of reward that’s veiled in a threat of these miles/points/bonuses expiring in a year’s time, or even less. – A promotion that inevitably seems to have ended, by the time I’ve finally had the chance to claim it. – An ever mounting pile of points that I hoard with glee, but I’m never quite sure what exactly I can spend them on.

Collecting points is somewhat addictive – consider how you feel when you’re in a particular retail store and realise your loyalty card is in your other wallet/bag/car (you’re a bit posh!). You’re briefly reassured by the fact that you can ring customer services and reclaim those points at a later date, but do you ever get round to it?? I don’t. It’s on my ever–increasing ‘personal admin’ to-do list but, sadly, that doesn’t mean it gets done. If you look at the origins of the word ‘loyal’, it was borne way back, out of such significant developments as the legal system, with the definition of law abiding citizens, and ye olde feudal system. And I think right here is where we get to the heart of the problem. Loyalty was about being loyal to your sovereign/government/master – I’d love to say mistress as well, but we all know no one is loyal to a mistress. And if you were repeatedly subservient to your master then you were considered loyal, trustworthy and presumably therefore tipped for the top. Well, not the top, but some form of reward, or privilege, versus those wastrels who were not quite as loyal.

So, in our case, does that make the brands we’re loyal to our masters?! Erm, I think not. We’re the ones with the cash; the ones that keep them in business; the people who help deliver them profits (along with their slaves, sorry, employees); and we’re the ones who can make or break their destiny. Hmmm. So, remind me then why they can dash our dreams in an instant by informing us in a bog standard email template that we’ve slipped from the heady heights of Silver to Scum, and make us feel really quite unworthy of their attention, as we dared to not need their services this year, quite as much as we did last year. I can’t possibly fit all my loyalty cards in one wallet, not even an electronic wallet, as the brands in question don’t necessarily all subscribe to the digital age just yet.

I’ve got cards for: supermarkets; department stores; chemists/toiletry providers; hotels; airlines; cafés; homeware/design stores (swoon) and no doubt more besides. But I can count on one hand the tangible, impressive rewards I’ve received for my loyalty. These rewards have all come smack bang out of nowhere and that’s when I think brands get it absolutely right – when they make us feel really special and knock us for six (in a good way, obv). In essence, when they actually deliver on that well versed marketing concept of ‘surprise and delight’.

So, here we go… I’m going to call out the top three brands that have made me feel very special indeed, in order of impressiveness:

1. Emirates Emirates is an absolutely legendary brand. In less than 2 years, I’ve gone from intrigued trialist, to hard core loyalist, and I’m already a Silver member, to boot. (Having family and friends in a wonderful homeland on the other side of the world might just have given me an advantage there.) I was flying back to Sydney from London, via Dubai, with my sister, my ‘sister in law’ (the ‘bling fund’ hasn’t stretched to a proposal just yet) and her boyfriend. And Emirates gave my entire crew a free upgrade to Business, based on my Silver status eligibility for a spontaneous upgrade. The remaining three peeps in my party were all flying Emirates for the very first time, albeit on my recommendation, and only one of them checked in at the same time as me, benefitting from the same surname, and the same Traylor eyelashes to flutter on cue. Half an hour later, we were all reclined, with a champers in hand and absolutely stoked! (In fact, my sister nearly got trapped in the flat bed position, prior to take off, because she was playing with the settings so much. How the usual Business class flyers loved us…) I’ve just booked another long haul flight with Emirates for this year’s holiday and got the man of the house into the club too. And my sister is travelling with them next month for her visit back to our homeland, having switched from her usual Qantas flight partner. So, while the flight was probably empty enough on that London to Dubai leg in question, and it didn’t cost them all that much to reward us, it has paid more than a few dividends for them already. And I haven’t looked back. I’d already been impressed with the quality of the service and product I received, but now I’m totally committed and won’t look elsewhere. A faithful and loyal subject, if you will.

2. Westin It was a pretty awesome milestone for the MamaTray business when I officially hired my new Brand Strategist, Heather, at the start of 2015. And on 15th Feb, we made our first big business trip, to a big client meeting, in the big city of Melbourne, as a dream team duo. I’d booked us into the Westin, a brand I’ve grown rather fond of in recent years, for both work and play. And, as we checked in, we were informed that we’d each had an upgrade to a ‘Deluxe’ room. They had me at the word ‘Deluxe’! And deluxe, they certainly were. Really lovely rooms with sensational views across the city. I’m a member of the Starwood Preferred Guest Program (SPG) but there’s no specific level I have to achieve to keep me on my toes and presumably, my recent tendency to prefer the Westin in my hotel repertoire had paid dividends. Do I remember the other big brand hotels I like to stay at? Yep. The Shangri–La is in there, for a touch of decadence on a holiday/stopover, but the rest of the selection has paled somewhat in my recognition, for now.

3. Mini I bought my first Mini back in 2009. It was ‘pre loved’. (What a great example of how verbal identity can transform a somewhat ordinary concept into something you really want.) It was a convertible and I bought it in late October, back in England, and I distinctly remember driving home, top down, just because I could, with my friend Rachel freezing to death in the front passenger seat. I jumped into the car with my new set of keys and started reversing out of the parking space on the forecourt, when I noticed a huge bouquet of flowers on the back seat, just casually chilling out, with a lovely, handwritten ‘thank you’ card from the team involved. Now that’s what we like. FYI, my Mini dream was robbed from me somewhat early, when I got the offer to move to Sydney with Interbrand, so I went on to buy another pre loved model out here in Aus, at twice the price of the nearest equivalent in Europe. And there are those out there who say that branding doesn’t work… Those who nearly made it into the top three, but not quite, include: – The Ritz, London. For those of you who don’t know, The Ritz is an infamous, timeless, London establishment where you simply must go for afternoon tea, sweetie. They treated my Mum like the friggin’ Queen at her birthday tea and she was thrilled skinny (her phrase). Think: special ‘Happy Birthday’ solo by the resident harpist; personalised birthday cake (as if we needed any more food); and (tin foil) origami doggie bag in the shape of a swan (the neck doubled up as a carry handle). – Ocado (online shopping operated by Waitrose in the UK) and Coles (Australian supermarket) – both of whom slipped a bottle of crisp, chilled, white wine into one of my first online shopping deliveries, just because they knew I’d appreciate it. I most certainly did. – British Airways. Who upgraded me into a (much needed) Business flat bed on the red eye to London, one Monday morning, after a Hen Week Extravaganza in NYC. The guy called me up to the desk in the lounge, asked for my ticket, and ripped it up in my face – this was in the days before free Wifi and I thought he’d seem me ‘borrowing’ the phone line for my laptop, as I had an award paper to get out – but it was all just for dramatic effect, before he gave me my new Business class ticket. (They’ve now lost my favour though, after I slipped from Gold, right down to Blue, and they humiliated me for this fall from glory, ever since.)

Reading these branded examples back, it sounds like I have a pretty ritzy lifestyle. Only, on occasion, I assure you. 😉 So, onto my tips for improvement, as standard issue:

1. Dramatic and spontaneous – Don’t assume because you’re a more everyday retailer/brand like a supermarket, or toiletry store, that it isn’t as important for you to reward your customers as dramatically as it is for bigger ticket, more luxurious brands like airlines and hotels. We all have way too many better offers out there and we’re your bread and butter. – Employees need to be empowered to make spontaneous rewards on behalf of the brand they work for, to make the previous examples more common place for all of us. – A concept I talk to my clients about is ‘planned spontaneity’ – build in those pivotal surprise and delight moments into the customer journey, so that they become talked about hallmarks of your brand experience and spread oodles of free word of mouth endorsement.

2. Elephants never forget  – I’ve told everyone I know about the Emirates story above. But I’ve also bored people with the way that British Airways let me slip down into oblivion and feel pretty shit about it. I won’t travel with them again, or recommend them to my family and friends. Do you know how galling it is for someone who’s British, not to want to support our national airline?! Apparently, an unhappy customer will tell approx. 15 people about their bad experience. I’d say that’s an understatement these days. – Keep your database up to date and use it to keep tabs on how long your customers have been in your life, not just how much they spend and what they spend their cash on. So often, brands prioritise acquisition of shiny new customers, with ever more wonderful offers, and completely forget to recognise and reward their mid and old timers. – Notice when a customer defects, or simply slips off the radar, and ‘reach out’ to them, with anything from a phone call/survey that dishes the dirt, to a ‘we’ve missed you, please come back’ tail between your legs offer, that’s worth their while to consider.

3. Smooth and seamless – We now have the technology to recognise all of our customers, all of the time, regardless of which store/country/facet of our business they interact with. Put your hands in your pocket and implement this technology, to make our lives easier, so we spend more on you and feel good about doing so (without having to carry our loyalty card). Simples! – There’s no excuse for being passed around a call centre, or website, anymore, and having to re-identify yourself on each and every leg of that painful journey. Just. Sort. Your. Shit. Out. – Make rewards seamless versus putting the onus on the customer to opt in and/or activate their reward. We know you make more profit if we can’t all get around to claiming our prize by the timings you set, but, yup, that’s only going to make us think even less of you. Give us the voucher already and don’t set a stupid expiry date on it. Our loyalty can last forever if you play your cards right. Come to think of it, there are a few brands out there that I’ve given an awful lot of investment and loyalty to, during pretty significant milestones in my life, none of whom have given me a cent of recognition, or reward, by way of return. They don’t seem to know who they are, so here’s the naming and shaming: HSBC (House Purchase Number 1); CommBank (House Purchase Number 2); Apple (Business Number 1). You have been warned… 🙂 Until next time.

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BRANDS UNDER THE SPOTLIGHT: PART 3

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Today, I’m going to introduce those of you who aren’t already ‘in the know’, to a fabulous, little brand called Scotch & Soda. It’s currently in my Top 5, which is no mean feat, as you can no doubt imagine. In fact, I’m wearing a rather fetching pink and black jumper, as I type, which is a bit like a contemporary rework of a classic Dennis the Menace stripey number…

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I first encountered Scotch & Soda after a client meeting in the big city of Sydney finished a little bit early and I saw a sign in the window of the store bragging ‘70% off’. (Never let it be said that promotions don’t work.)

For starters, I didn’t know there were any interesting, boutiquey type stores up that end of Castlereagh Street, as it’s all big, flashy hotels, bank HQs and (yawn) David Jones. Secondly, I’d not really heard of this brand at the time but the clothing in the windows looked pretty ace – men’s and women’s – so I did a bit of a look behind my shoulder, then ventured in. The look back was because it was mid afternoon in the working week, and despite the fact that I now work for myself, the conditioning of formal work hours, duties and professionalism still lingers in my consciousness.

CAPTIVATING
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Probably the thing I love most about this brand is its ability to completely captivate me. To woo my attention and undying affection, from the word go. There are many factors that drive this, including:

– a great name that really stands out from the pack (I don’t know anyone who drinks scotch with soda, but that’s irrelevant and part of the intrigue);

– the brand literally radiates a really laid back sense of Dutch ‘cool’ (it’s from Amsterdam, so say no more);

– the brand identity and visual system is minimal, chic, largely monochrome (swoon) with a lovely typeface and some handwritten shenanigans (a brand after my own heart);

– the clothes horses in the marketing collateral are impossibly beautiful people but, crucially, are effortless rather than forced or fake in either their expressions or styles (they genuinely look like they absolutely dig the clothes they’re in and are feeling pretty special to be involved);

– the clothing is different, quirky and anything but run of the mill, or a conventional slave to the latest trends;

– my love of all things sparkly and starry is played out in full technicolour glory in both the clothing and the retail store (more on this later).

COMPLEX
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Ok, enough of the praise for a moment. When I exercise due strategic diligence and interrogate the brand a little deeper, I find some things that could do with a bit of work. So, first up: the brand architecture is confusing and there are mixed conventions at play.

For those who don’t work in branding, or a strategy department, brand architecture isn’t to be confused with the design and master planning of beautiful buildings like in Grand Designs. Brand architecture is about how you structure and organise different products/services so that the relevant customers can easily navigate them and understand that while each of these brands are presenting you something slightly different, they are all being offered by the one, main, master brand.

In this case, Scotch & Soda target 4 distinct audiences and they get brownie points for making an effort to structure and distinguish their product offerings around these categories. So, they do clothing for men, women, boys and girls and each line carries its own mini brand (or sub brand, if we want to get into the technical lingo). Here’s what I mean, in visual terms:

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Where it gets a bit tricky, is that the descriptors for these 4 sub brands are cute, but different, in the sense that they don’t form one, cohesive set. This might sound a bit pedantic, but the devil is often in the detail. The women’s sub brand is in French (Maison Scotch, ‘La Femme Selon Marie’) as is the girls’ sub brand, well, partly (‘Scotch R’Belle, Tales from Amsterdam’) – which comes from nowhere as not only is it a Dutch brand, but also the remaining sub brand names are all in English. The men’s sub brand seems to run the show, carrying the same descriptor as the whole site: ‘Scotch & Soda, Amsterdam Couture’. And, finally, the boys’ sub brand has the cutest name: ‘Scotch Shrunk, Born in Amsterdam’. My aforementioned Dennis the Menace jumper carries a label that brags: ‘Star de la Saison’ – now, I’m probably the lady to know the word for ‘star’ and I can tell you that the French for star is definitely not ‘star’. Of course, we women all love a bit of Frenchy couture but, still, it all seems to jar a little in terms of a brand language. As well as undermine the Dutch thang, big time.

Second thing to note is the all important brand story, usually to be found lurking in the ‘About us’ section of any good website. This one left me desperately out of the loop on the real story behind the brand. There’s a lot of detail here but it’s not a story, as such. It lacks characters (the people behind the brand) and a plot (how/why this all came to being and what we can expect next). Shame.

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The third, and final, complication is the nitty gritty pricing strategy. After discovering the store, I later had a browse on the website. I found some things on the site that I really rather fancied. But I wanted to try them on instore first, to fully suss them out. I’m definitely not one of those serial online shoppers who orders things in 2 sizes, or 3 colours, fully prepared to send the ones that don’t make the cut back. I’d rather cut to the chase. So, I went instore and found 2 out of 3 of the items on my wishlist. Even better, they were subject to a 25% reduction. So, there were better prices instore than online. That turns convention on its head, but not necessarily in a good way. People are used to better deals online nowadays, so often bypass a store if they are bargain hunting. Furthermore, every time I’ve been instore, there’s a new discount format at play. One day it was 25% off on men’s only; another day it was 25% on women’s only; another day there were no discounts; and on my first visit, as I mentioned above, it was 70% off everything. In reality, you therefore never quite know what discount/price you’re going to pay on any given day. Which is kinda spontaneous, but also kinda sporadic. And, if the website is always full price – apart from when there’s a big, national sale – you’re going to have more traffic instore, than on your site. Maybe. You see my conundrum.

COSY
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The Scotch & Soda store on Castlereagh St is terrific. It’s cosy, like your cooler, older sister’s bedroom: a haven of colour, delicious clothing you can only dream to own, dramatic mirrors, wool (at this time of year) and even exquisite bronze wire hangers. (Hangers are very underrated in clothing stores but God it makes a difference not to have that battle where you pick one thing up and they all start falling off because they’re on those cheap, wire hangers that you get from the dry cleaners. Impression. Is. Everything.)

Some other things I really enjoyed about the store:

– warm lighting that actually makes you look good even if the clothing doesn’t technically suit you;

– a manageable amount of clothing, organised neatly on hangers or arranged in inviting piles of colour, fluff or pattern;

– non intrusive helpers who let you try things on, in peace, but are right there when you need them with a smiley little face;

– talking of the assistants, they’re really down to earth versus salesy, genuinely able to take an interest in you and your story, complete with a sense of humour (I always test this out…) and they are exactly that cooler, older sister/brother, just not in any way older than you!

In essence, Scotch & Soda is just a little bit different from the usual clothing brands that we have on offer out here in Aus. It has a wow factor but blink and you’ll miss it. I only discovered it thanks to my client’s office location, but now I’m well and truly hooked. I’ve just added some key items to my ‘casual wardrobe’ (not to be confused with my ‘corporate wardrobe’) and I’m like a pig in shit. At the end of the day, the successful clothing brands are often the ones who not just fit your your lifestyle, but enhance it. The clothes are cool, so they make me cooler. When you’re wearing cool clothes, you have more swagger. When you have more swagger, you have more confidence in yourself and what you have to offer the world. And, even better, you go to a cool café and someone compliments you on your clothing and you feel like a million dollars. And a brand that can help you feel like a million dollars is definitely a keeper. ☺

Until next time…