Tag Archives: rant

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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THE FRIDAY RANT (1)

Hello peeps!! It’s been a while and I’ve neglected you. I’m so sorry. Real work got in the way. (Oh to be a full time blogger, now that really would be awesome – but how does it pay the bills?)

So, to get to the point, we’re launching a new series on the MamaTray blog this week:

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The title is pretty self–explanatory, so I won’t waste any time going into it. Here we go…

First up: the packaging pump.

I’ve got really dry skin. I use a lot of creams, moisturisers, lotions and potions, in an attempt to tame and thwart the daily, desert–like conditions of my skin. And these products predominately come in what I refer to as ‘the godforsaken pump’. Ah, the pump… A great packaging invention way back when, no doubt introduced with the very best of aspirations and intentions. Except pumps don’t work that well once you get down to the lower dregs of the product inside them and you then have to spend what feels like aeons of your life – that you’ll never get back – trying to manually extract the last few centimetres of the incredibly expensive cream/lotion that you placed all your faith in.

When the pump starts to make that dreaded, spluttering noise, there’s a frustrating sequence of events that follow:

a) unscrew the top of the pump, squint your eye and try to establish how much is left inside;
b) discard the top of the pump, in semi–fury, after pumping it a few times to get the excess out first (traditionally managing to squirt the lotion in a completely different direction to the one you had originally intended);
c) turn pump upside down and aggressively ‘smack’ it down onto the palm of your hand to encourage more lotion to flow out (a bit like the move you would do to not waste the last of the tomato ketchup);
d) resort to standing the pump upside down, on an available, clean surface of your bathroom and leaving it overnight to loosen up the contents;
e) ineffectively clean up said surface, the next day (and incur the wrath of the OCD, other resident/s of the house) as the lotion has now cascaded out around the edges and started to crystalise into a decidedly unappealing ‘splurge’;
f) give up, chuck the damn thing in the bin and reach for a new version of the same product;
g) repeat this process, ad nauseam, in the style of ‘Groundhog Day’.

So, why have I kicked off about all of this, apart from it being a personal bug bear? Well, I think it’s because, in our industry, we spend a lot of time and a lot of (other people’s) money creating, presenting and effectively selling a promise to prospective consumers with products, services and brands in general. This will work brilliantly; it’s what you’ve been waiting for, your whole life; this is a brand you can totally rely on; a brand that understands you, inside out, and fits seamlessly with your lifestyle; and this product/service ultimately represents incredible value for your hard earned dosh.

But in this instance, albeit in the niche of skincare packaging, the consumer experience is not in any way living up to the quality of the product inside. A product which has been developed using a very considered formula of scientific musings and rather specially selected ingredients. This is therefore an example of prioritising some form of aesthetic design convention over basic functionality and user experience. Has the Brand Manager – or better still, the Head of Design & Innovation – ever actually used the product for more than one or two pumps, and gone through these same frustrations, then made the call that this is ‘bang on’ and not a thing should change? I think not.

What’s more, this packaging design is contributing to unnecessary wastage. The once upon a time innovation of the packaging pump isn’t really all that innovative, IMHO. Easier on the eye, perhaps, but somewhat ineffective in the hand, more’s the pity. And, no doubt, I’m paying a premium for the ‘convenience’ of the pump format at a personal cost to myself. I don’t dare tot up the minutes I spend each month on the aforementioned sequence of events, let alone consider the amount of semi–finished products I am personally sending to landfill each month. (I diligently place them in the container recycling bin, each time, but who knows where it ends up afterwards.)

So, what’s the answer? I don’t pretend to know anything about industrial design, but I do have some thoughts for consideration, obv, as follows.

1. Bring on the refill

Aside from the development of a very different, more efficient packaging format in general, one no brainer suggestion would be the mandatory introduction of the simple refill for all FMCG (fast moving consumer goods). Dettol do it with their hand wash and the refill bottles are also made of a lighter, less plasticy, more squeezy (and presumably, more sustainable) bottle than the original pump (aargh), which feels better on the conscience. It goes without saying that the refill should be cheaper than the original (must it really be a) pump version.

2. Consumers usually know best

Let’s take a moment to reconsider the traditional U&A consumer focus group (Usage & Attitude). I used to attend hundreds of these when I worked as an advertising planner on P&G, back in the early noughties. They were boring as bat shit for some, but absolutely fascinated me. Watching, and listening to, people recount their personal battles and humiliations with the new product they were trialing, provided genuine insight into how we could turn the consumer experience from distinctly average, to completely bloody amazing. And, give them their due, the nerdy little P&G bods would always go back to their drawing board and get it sorted.

3. Back to some basics

Bring back the simple tube of cream/lotion, all is forgiven… It works. It didn’t need updating, glitzing or pumping. It’s an innovation that stands the test of time. Some brands still use the humble tube in their product repertoire, albeit traditionally for small amounts of lovely, posh hand cream (wasted on me!) versus vast quantities of body lotion. Regardless, the point is this: you can squeeze, roll and manipulate the bejesus out of the product within a tube and get exactly what you paid for (just like you do with a tube of toothpaste, for example, versus the more contemporary (but irritating) toothpaste pump version). And when you’re done with the last drop, you simply ditch it at a rather satisfying fraction of the original size it came in. Bingo.

So, in summary, it seems to me that innovation in this space doesn’t necessarily equal ‘new’ and ‘different’. It can sometimes be as simple as the old mantra: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

I thank you and goodnight. 🙂

 

Next up: ‘loyalty’ programs.