Brand Loyalty

Brand Loyalty: Why Brands Can’t Buy Loyalty with Points

Last year with great fanfare American Express launched a new concept in rewards programs called Plenti.  Its hook: it allows members to earn points across multiple brands, rather than just one.  So members can earn points by renting a car at Enterprise and redeem them at Macy’s.

Apparently many brands are queueing up to join this coalition brand loyalty “party,” with the idea that one brand’s loyalty will rub off on another.  But if customer loyalty to your brand is the true measure of success, not just accumulated or redeemed points, then Plenti is going to fail, as do most others in the market today that hinge on points and rewards.

The reason?  Brand loyalty – customers’ engagement with a brand so that they regularly choose that brand over a competing brand – is an emotional feeling.  Brands can’t buy brand loyalty with points.

If you want to evoke true brand loyalty and make a lasting emotional connection with customers, you must use the same currency as the customers: emotion.

Brands must evoke it and inspire it in ways that go far beyond points accrued or money saved in future purchases.  The Beatles said is best, “Can’t Buy Me Love.”

I’ll buy you a diamond ring my friend
If it makes you feel all right
I’ll get you anything my friend
If it makes you feel all right
‘Cause I don’t care too much for money
For money can’t buy me love

Traditional brand loyalty programs fail, and will always fail, at brand loyalty because they are based upon quantitative measures:  number of members, points given, discounts earned.  They appeal to customers’ left-brain, their reasonable, rational side.  Sure, customers join these programs because they are seen as a way to get more for their money.  So such programs give brand managers a feeling of success, since the programs’ results can be charted and graphed.

But true brand loyalty can’t be bought with more points or greater discounts.  Brand loyalty is an emotion.  Emotional reactions come when you feel special, valued, and honored.  It comes through person-to-person interaction and is measured by a strong emotional attachment to the brand.  For brands to truly inspire loyalty, they have to deliver extra special and valued customer services, before, during and after the sale.

After all, most purchase decisions hinge on emotion, with academic studies finding ~ 70% of purchases are emotionally based as compared with 30% rationally calculated.  Brand loyalty is emotional, and brand loyalty programs must touch customers’ emotions too.

If you want to evoke true brand loyalty and make a lasting emotional connection with customers, you must use the same currency as the customers: emotion.  Person-to-person interaction delivered through extraordinary customer services above and beyond the norm is the way.

New Research Study Shows How to Craft a Brand Loyalty Program to Emotionally Engage the Best Customers – Affluent Americans

A new report from Unity Marketing can help you create brand loyalty programs to engage the most profitable customers for any brand, Affluent Americans.  How to Create Brand Loyalty Programs to Attract Affluents:  Designing Loyalty Programs for Luxury Brands, provides a guide to build rewards programs through research that uncovers the emotional needs and desires of affluent consumers.

This new independent study reveals that affluents are highly engaged in brand loyalty and rewards programs, with more than 80% of the 1,300+ affluents surveyed (avg. income $258.7k) active in one or more such programs, including pay-for-service programs like Amazon Prime or buyer clubs, like wine clubs.

Unity Marketing’s new study looks across the range of affluents engaged with brand loyalty programs, including airline and hotel rewards, credit card and bank card rewards, retailer rewards and dining rewards, to identify what specifically they value most in such programs. These findings help marketers focus their club offerings and marketing efforts to hit the hot buttons for the high-potential affluent customers.

The results are revealing:  Added customer service to members is something affluents want most, yet few programs actually deliver.  With existing programs’ focus on points, they miss a benefit that can greatly improve true brand loyalty from existing customers and differentiate one brand from all the rest to attract new members.

The trend report strives to make the key findings actionable with the final section of the report devoted to case studies that illustrate some of the best loyalty programs aimed at affluents (e.g. American Express Platinum Rewards, Nordstrom Notes, Ritz-Carlton Rewards and Bare Escentuals Friends and Benefits).

Subscribers will receive these deliverables:

  • Executive summary report with detail analysis
  • Detail survey crosstabs, with each survey question studied by key demographic segments (gender, age, income, wealth, ethnicity, and other factors)
  • Loyalty brand programs studied include Southwest, Delta, American, United, Jet Blue, Star Alliance, Chase, American Express, Capital One, Citi, Bank Americard, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Starbucks, Target, Neiman Marcus In Circle, Aloft, Hilton, Marriott, Starwood, Hyatt, IHG, Wyndham, Amazon Prime, Costco, Barnes & Noble, DirectBuy, Club O, wine clubs.
  • Plus, best practices in luxury brand loyalty programs are analyzed for American Express Platinum, Nordstrom Notes, Ritz-Carlton Rewards and Bare Escentuals Friends and Benefits.

This market research study is a powerful tool to identify the best potential customers to target with brand loyalty programs.  By understanding the consumers’ emotional needs better, businesses can beat the competition, make a connection and build a loyal customer base that will mean growth for the business.  What’s more: focused, reliable and forward-looking market research will make marketing efforts more effective, thus reducing the cost of business.  Effective market research enables businesses to pinpoint the messages and mediums to deliver those messages to yield the greatest return on the marketing investment.  Order our copy today.