Brand Loyalty

Getting the Brand Back Together

Photo by Kelvin Tu on Unsplash

Key takeaways for Loyalty practitioners from the Festival of Marketing 2022

By: Elliot Connolly & Charlie Hills, CLMP™, Mando-Connect (UK)

The Festival of Marketing returned to the hustle and bustle of central London for another stand-out event in the marketing calendar. Bringing together the brightest, curious, and sometimes, contentious minds from across the spectrum of marketing disciplines to discuss, debate and ponder the most pressing topics being thrown at businesses right now. This year’s edition was no different. However, just as we thought navigating our way through a global pandemic had been tricky enough, the shadowy backdrop to this year’s proceedings was the looming cocktail of dark fiscal forces on the horizon, bringing a once in a generation cost-of-living crisis that is already impacting both businesses and customers alike.

But, for all the doom and gloom, there was plenty of ‘Brand light’ at the end of the recessionary tunnel for those willing to commit to both the long and short game when it comes to how you plan and execute marketing and loyalty strategies to weather the incoming storm. As it’s the power of brand that will see you through, ensuring a laser-sharp focus on what role and value your company plays in the lives of customers when household budgets are being squeezed across the board.

As the famous marketing professor himself, Mark Ritson, kicked off the event by emphasising, “We all need to do the 180-degree swivel and see our brands through the eyes of the customer, not look out at the market as so many do”. The theory of Market Orientation, being truly obsessed and positioned around the customer, is the cornerstone of fundamentally solid marketing through feast or famine.

This back-to-basics approach was the core theme throughout the day, no gimmicky trends, or distracting tactics, but the fundamental strategic ingredients required to win in your market. Or, if that seems a stretch too far in these tough times, at least survive relatively unscathed and ready to bounce back with an army of customers you’ve nurtured along the way. An area and opportunity that loyalty programmes and its practitioners are uniquely placed to tap into.

Here’s the key takeaways to help you win (or survive) through the incoming storm…

In difficult times those who double down on brand win

Whether you work in B2B, B2C or B2B2C, the data shows that investment in brand marketing is woefully inadequate to realise the most optimal returns for your business at the best of times, but even more so through a recession.

Short-term thinking and obsession with performance and ROI-based metrics have hampered the ability of marketers to think bigger and longer, ultimately meaning that marketing initiatives that elevate at the brand level aren’t backed by the money guardians of business, the CFO’s.

Whether you’re currently operating a loyalty programme or thinking about starting one, the best programmes are, and must always be, in service to the brand to generate incremental returns in the long term. And it’s those types of returns that all long-standing brands have been built on. Who better to make that point than loyalty royalty herself, Edwina Dunn, co-founder of dunnhumby and instigator of what would become Tesco Clubcard.

Edwina led an insightful session that delved into the genesis of Tesco Clubcard, way back in 1994. A time when embedding customer data and loyalty as a core part of the business strategy wasn’t the norm, particularly in retail. Oh, how Tesco have reaped the rewards of Edwina’s bold thinking many times over. Through the good times and the bad, Tesco, via their first-to-market and persistently market-leading Clubcard loyalty proposition, have consistently delivered on ‘value for money’ whilst modernising the brand and programme to appeal to a new generation of shoppers. The most recent iteration is this Clubcard campaign appealing to the millions of TikTok users with the chance to be the voice of the Tesco checkout nationwide.

Interesting food for thought… how is your loyalty programme bringing to life the brand experience you wish to communicate to customers? Does your programme elevate your brand in the eyes of your target market? If the answer is no, it’s time to re-evaluate and align brand and loyalty strategy for the long-term benefit of the business.

Be the voice of the customer in your organisation

Another marketing fundamental, but one that’s often forgotten, is that marketers (and particularly those working in loyalty) are at the coalface of understanding and sharing customer needs within the business better than anyone else.

One iconic legacy brand that is listening, embracing, and responding to the constant evolution of their customers’ needs is Heinz. Together with Carat and Dentsu they articulated a new approach to thinking about how brands of all shapes and sizes can become more emotionally charged, using a relatively new coined phrase of being an emotionally intelligent brand.

As Heinz CMO Irina Rodina noted, Brands that resonate with customers on an emotional level will outperform non-emotionally intelligent brands. And partner agency Carat have the evidence to back it up with their annual Brand EQ Report that looks into the emotional intelligence of brands. The results reveal a strong correlation between a brand’s emotional intelligence and business performance across lots of categories.

Ask yourself, how are you bringing the voice of the customer into your loyalty strategy? When was the last time you researched with your existing members to re-align their needs with the benefits offered by your programme? The time is now if you want loyalty to remain a core driver of marketing and business success in your organisation.

The role of loyalty as a source of business growth and innovation

As ever in the world of marketing, we’re always keen to ask and understand what’s next? Both in terms of the market and new technology that is enabling modern, seamless customer experiences to flourish. Particularly relevant to the world of loyalty and its role in capturing first and zero-party data  as we transition to a cookie-less, data privacy first world.

Clare Fineberg, Unilever’s Data Strategy & Data Partnerships Lead, brought this point to life in detail as she delved into the customer data strategy that underpins all Unilever promotions and customer loyalty initiatives. On the need and use of data, Clare noted “We don’t capture any customer data without a clear rationale and plan of how it will be used in the future.”

As you can imagine with the huge number of brands that Unilever operate, the wealth of data being captured is vast and Unilever is using it to inform all areas of their business – from operations, media planning, partnerships to brand campaigns such as the recent Magnum collaboration with Kylie Minogue and Peggy Gou. Informed by customer data and insights, and itself a further vehicle to target a specific audience to capture. It’s well known that the power of loyalty programmes has to capture data to inform audience profiling and segmentation, but how else could you be using this data across your business? Whether that be to drive innovation in new products and services, or simply ensuring your loyalty offering is keeping pace with the latest demands of new members. A data-fuelled loyalty proposition that also benefits the wider business and marketing strategy is a sure-fire way to set yourself up for success.

In summary, the Festival of Marketing 2022 was heavy on practical advice that should be in every marketer’s playbook, but even more so during tougher economic times. So, take note of these marketing fundamentals and think hard about whether your brand and loyalty programme is mixing the right strategic ingredients to put you in the best possible position when we reach the ‘brand light’ at the end of the recessionary tunnel.

Elliot Connolly is a Senior Account Director at Mando-Connect. Charlie Hills CLMP™ is the Managing Director & Head of Strategy at Mando-Connect and a featured contributor to Wise Marketer

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