While the Plenti Dominos fall, Real learning Begins

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By: Bill Hanifin, CLMP™ |

Posted on February 1, 2018

“Industry experts show the way to improve the loyalty marketing game”

By Bill Hanifin

The Plenti dominos continue to fall. Only a week after we wrote an analysis of the real reasons behind the struggle at Plenti, Macy’s made an announcement that it’s participation will end as of May 3, 2018.

The next domino to fall will likely be Exxon Mobil, maybe Rite Aid. This is not surprising commentary based on an article in Retail Dive this week documenting “Those remaining partners, however, are in "confidential discussions" with American Express-run Plenti about the future of the program, a spokesperson for Plenti told Retail Dive.”

Discussion of the latest Plenti news has validated predictions and prompted valuable insight from some of the brightest in the industry. Barry Kirk, Maritz Motivation Solutions called out that “Coalition Loyalty Programs Stumbled” in his must-read white paper 3 Trends That Rewrote the Rules of Loyalty Marketing In 2017. In the paper, Barry stated “If you were one of the many loyalty experts predicting the likely failure of any coalition loyalty model in the US, you might have ended the year enjoying a bit of schadenfreude.”

It occurred to me that while there is pride in accurately predicting the future, it’s possible the sum of recent analysis of the Plenti struggles could be interpreted as the authors being coalition "haters" or rooting against the Plenti team. That is absolutely not the case, as you will see from perspectives shared between Barry Kirk and I in this LinkedIn conversation you may have missed.

Like kicking field goals in a blowing snowstorm, Plenti was playing on a tough pitch to start. Perfect execution was required for success and there are some documented missteps along the way. David Slavick, Deloitte Digital Senior Manager, reminded me of how promotional support seemed to dwindle post-launch, sharing “let's not forget that consistent promotion to maintain both awareness and participation are key” You can read the balance of his comments along with others in this LinkedIn discussion.

As we approach yet another “Big Game” to end the National Football League season, I can easily remember the steady stream of advertisements for Plenti when the program launched 2 years ago. As David reminded me, this promotion waned over time. The impact of this reduced investment is made clear in survey responses from a new consumer study (to be released very soon) jointly executed by The Wise Marketer and Maritz. Survey respondents reported a surprising lack of recall for Plenti, the report saying “50% of surveyed consumers said they were not familiar with Plenti at all (although of those who were, a majority had a positive or neutral view of the program)”.

Maybe the biggest take-away from the Plenti story is summed by Barry, this excerpted from his “3 Trends” white paper: “One lesson that all brands can take from Plenti is this: the models we have used to drive customer loyalty are changing and need to change.  But as they do, we can't take for granted the need to help consumers understand these new models as we test them out, and to invest in ongoing engagement strategies to ensure they stick with our new models long enough to master them.”

This is brilliant advice for any marketer attempting to transform BI-enabled customer understanding into new loyalty models to better engage, retain, and grow a happy customer base. There is a delicate balance between pushing the strategy envelope and giving the customer what they really want. Remember, it’s never too late to ask!

Bill Hanifin is COO of The Wise Marketer and is a Certified Loyalty Marketing Professional (CLMP).