Looking Back at 2021 From a Loyalty Marketer's Perspective

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By: Bill Hanifin, CLMP™ |

Posted on December 31, 2021

21 has always been one of my favorite numbers. Maybe it is THE favorite. Twenty One is synonymous with the casino game Blackjack and is also the total of a natural blackjack (ace and a ten card). When you see a total of 21 among your cards, you are a winner. There’s also some nostalgia attached to the number, as many people reflect back on their lives, saying that “21 was best year of our lives”.

But 21 is taking a beating everywhere these days. Media descriptions of New Year’s celebrations are framed more by saying goodbye to 2021 than looking forward to 2022. It is undeniable that 2021 was a challenging slog for most of us. The irony is that this is the second consecutive year in which “out with the old” has more emphasis than “in with the new.” The pandemic hit hard, disrupted routines, and created more uncertainty in our daily lives than we could absorb in real time.

In conversation with friends over the past two weeks, I’ve heard frequently the sentiment that “we can’t wait to get 2021 behind us”. I understand the origins of that feeling and, while it is valid in many ways, the urgency to push the past behind us might leaving us wanting just a bit.

I’m a firm believer that there is something to be learned from every situation, every encounter, and every experience. Good, bad, or indifferent, if you stay present at all times, you’ll uncover lessons and wisdom that can help for that moment and for the future.

What we learned from 2021

Let’s counter that cultural trend for a moment and see what we learned during 2021 that can be useful to marketers in the coming new year.

Consumers sought out a reflection of their core values in the brands and the retailers they patronize. Patagonia is always the brand that tops the list when thinking about value-based loyalty, but the concept is broadening and becoming more a part of the fabric of purchase making decisions. Love for planet earth, care for animals, concern for ethical sourcing of goods, fair labor practices, and patriotism are just a starter set of dozens of lenses that people view brands through today. We believe that value-based decision making is more than a trend and a key topic that we’ll develop throughout 2022.

Collaboration and partnership may be the new path to success. Americans tend to want to do it all themselves. Remember the Lone Ranger? Probably not firsthand, as the television show was most popular in the 1950’s. But more recent cinematic protagonists from John Wayne, Arnold, Sly, Angelina Jolie, Charlize Theron have reinforced the desirability of the person who can conquer all.

Brands are discovering that a “team” approach to marketing can yield better results than the “hero” approach. 2021 gave us many examples of collaboration through partnership and we expect to see much more of this in 2022.

A pillar of loyalty marketing wisdom has always been to watch and account for external factors that can’t be controlled by marketing, or even the enterprise. 2021 made it clear that disruption in the supply chain, labor shortages, and business shutdowns combined to change the way consumers shop. Ordering early was the rage and receiving assurances of on-time delivery for the holidays was equally as valuable as a percent discount off the purchase. These influencers of commerce will not be resolved in the near term, so it will be interesting to watch how brands change their go-to-market strategy to account for this new world.

Education, Networking, and Business Development were impacted. In-person events were heavily rescheduled and largely deferred during 2021. In our immediate world, we were encouraged to hold a Loyalty Academy CLMP certification workshop during December in Dubai. The event sold out and we registered strong demand to hold one or more similar events during 2022. We’ll always have virtual learning options available at the Loyalty Academy, but the energy in the room in Dubai was noticeably powerful. We hope that circumstances allow more in person events during 2022.

There is a reason the windshield in your car is larger than the rear-view mirror. Looking to the rear is informative and useful, but only deserves the occasional glance. Looking forward into the future is where attention should be, and Wise Marketer will be here with you every step of way to identify the topics that matter most and to dive deep in unpacking these to support your success.

Best wishes for a prosperous, healthy, and creative 2022!