I'm convinced there is one crucial aspect on the path to great loyalty that deserves more discussion than it presently receives in the industry: how to advertise loyalty programs to the broader market, and especially to individuals that may not have received previous exposure to these programs. Loyalty pros understand that, compared to traditional advertising, it's hard to beat the effectiveness of loyalty ecosystems when it comes to inspiring long-term customers. After all, loyalty strategies are designed to keep customers engaged over time, and more importantly, keep them immersed in the underlying narrative and core values of a brand. And there is a universe of literature on topics like incentivization and engagement, rewards, and technology that supports this notion. But - loyalty programs often need an initial amplification within the market to draw in the first wave of members, stimulate growth, and avoid stagnation.
Without effective program advertising, loyalty purveyors face the burden of unoccupied or under-occupied programs - which can be huge cost centers. Simply applying "advertising" to what is effectively just another platform for further marketing can pose its own set of challenges, especially amidst contemporary consumer reticence and suspicion about marketing and advertising in general. If this struggle sounds familiar, the tactics presented in this, the first in a three-part series, will help you understand how to best amplify your programs by applying effective advertising concepts. In this first installation, we'll dive into execution ideas that can showcase the aspect of loyalty that most excites consumers - the rewards themselves.
Put your best foot forward (by showcasing your rewards)
Why do people want to join your program in the first place? Often it is because they crave access to great rewards and incentives, and they especially value exclusive experiences and perks that are off-limits to the general market. Oracle reports that 60% of online US adults consider special offers or treatment to be an important aspect of their loyalty program patronage. When developing a communications strategy to draw in members, it usually makes sense to highlight the tangible value that customers can expect to receive after signing up. Success here relies on the perfect blend of strategy and creative. Here are three execution ideas to bring the best you have to offer to your eager audience:
1) Programmatic Advertising
This can be a budget-friendly solution to reach an audience when there is available data to suggest they will be interested in your mix of rewards. For example, an individual consistently searching for cheap flights might respond well to programmatic online advertising if your loyalty program offers incentives like vacation getaways or airline coupons.
The CVS ExtraCare program allows you to get 2% back of all your purchases, and rewards are paid out four times a year. And CVS does a great job with their digital ad banners, getting straight to the point and communicating the deals with clean and clear creative:
2) Influencer Marketing
The research speaks for itself: 90% of consumers trust peer reviews, but only 33% trust traditional advertising. And it's not just friends that secure this affinity; about the same number of consumers respond well to recommendations from strangers such as celebrities and bloggers. The human side of loyalty engagement can be a powerful motivator, and the intimate way that great rewards benefits real people is something that your business should be leveraging as an advertising tactic.
3) Targeted Channels
Great movie rewards? Try commercials that run before the movie starts in a national theatre chain. Discounts and exclusive reservation access to the hottest restaurants? How about advertising in trendy food and leisure publications? These might not sound like familiar advertising channels for loyalty programs, but for the astute marketing manager looking to highlight their rewards to the consumers who actually value them, hyper-targeted channels maximize ad spend. The takeaway: fewer ads that are better targeted yield better results...and consumers themselves agree. 75% of shoppers would prefer fewer ads that were better aligned to their actual needs and interests.
VerizonUp is a rewards-rich loyalty program featuring a diverse offering of incentives in the realm of music, sports, experiences, and more. So, for Super Bowl LII, Verizon created a premium lounge that offered members even more great rewards, such as player experiences, ticket giveaways, and celebrity interviews. The visibility of the installation created an effective advertising platform to encourage potential new members to explore the program.
This is the first in a series on leveraging advertising tactics to propel loyalty engagement. Stay tuned for the next entries!
Lanndon Lindsay has been navigating the intersections of loyalty, marketing, and advertising for the past several years and has applied his talents on behalf of such notable brands as Anheuser-Busch, Kimberly-Clark and Red Bull, among others.