As I start typing this, we are three days away from what all media outlets are affectionately calling “the United States fiscal cliff”. Now, whether American Congress succeeds in avoiding this so-called cliff or doesn’t, this and other economic events since the beginning of the 21st century, have changed the way businesses will succeed forever more.
Businesses today lean (heavily) on marketing functions to do more with less. Find ways to increase sales; increase market share; hold on to the current market share; drive demand. And, I’ve seen marketers try really, really hard –and some even succeed. But in the end, I’ve seen very few brands change paradigms to achieve guaranteed longevity for the business, not just profit for today. Sure, I know we live in a world where guarantees of this nature have all but gone the way of the dinosaur. But when it comes to brands, some of those dinosaurs have stuck around. And, there’s a reason for that. They’ve been around the block a time or two; they’ve seen the world for what it is; and they’ve adapted without for one moment losing the value, heritage and currency of what that brand stood for. I’m looking at you Coca-Cola and General Electric (to name but two).
In my last post, I highlighted a McKinsey initiative (2009) that changes the way marketers have approached connecting with consumers – from a linear approach in the traditional funnel to a cyclical one in the newly proposed consumer-decision journey.
Now, all good change takes time hence why the long gaps in time between the agricultural, industrial, information and knowledge eras, to new iterations like the experience economy, natural capitalism and so on. It’s quite normal that for the past 12 years (and more), we have collectively been pontificating on what transpires next; how we work within the next evolution of business, capitalism and global economic shifts; and what the heck we do between now and then!
I have previously suggested that businesses need to achieve three things in order to be in business for the long haul:
- Become a brand that your consumers really, really value;
- Make profit; and,
- Achieve loyalty.
Success, at each step, desperately needs deep understanding of consumer context – first! The previously proposed funnel suggested that the consumer’s journey was linear, and that once he/she was bought into your brand’s message, they were impermeable to other marketing messages. However, McKinsey, and many others, have demonstrated without doubt, that your consumer is not only accessible, but also open to receiving those messages.
So what’s next? What if the next success for businesses rested –not in technological innovations though, no doubt, we have much more to see; and not in acquiring more than others though big may still be the benchmark for success for a while yet—but rather in loyalty? We cannot argue that having more premium loyals as consumers than our competitors do can, not only safeguards our business today, but can also sustain longevity for our brand.
Let’s come back to our Motivational Marketing Math to see how we can help shape our consumers’ path to becoming a premium loyal, ultimately becoming a partner in the long-term success of our brand.
Motivational Marketing Math
Repetition x Reinforcement = Traditional Loyalty
This first loyalty equation is something we can easily recognize. Just about every retailer, hotel chain, airline and many others have this wonderful program. You sign up; you buy stuff; you get points. You buy more stuff; you get more points (repetition). If you get enough points, you can trade your points for something (reinforcement): discounts, gifts, flights, and now charitable donations.
It’s great, really. But there’s a snag to what is called traditional loyalty. The reality is that everyone’s doing it. So, just like discounts and price wars, a traditional loyalty program does not make you stand out from the rest. And, just like discounts and price wars, traditional loyalty programs won’t go away; they’re almost expected these days. So, while you were looking for a way to stand apart, you’ve added a cost to your balance sheet, which in essence, has become a new table stake.
There is no question that these traditional programs generate value for the brand. You can track what your consumers are buying, from where, when and so much more. You can go well beyond old-school demographics to behavioural data. You can begin to segment and to create personas. But the fact remains, when a competing brand steps out on the scene with a similar loyalty program, what will set you apart?
(Repetition x Reinforcement)Relevant reward = Emotional Loyalty
Now this is the tricky part… if your program goes beyond program to a cultural shift throughout the organization, all your employees can become components of emotional loyalty.
What do I mean? Well, to start, continue gathering the data. Let’s face it; in the absence of a human being flat out telling you their daily routine is, you will need data to ensure product quality, pricing strategies and other business elements. But what if you optimized each human interaction, each moment of truth, where your employees and consumers, together, build emotional loyalty?
People don’t buy from companies; they buy from people… from people they trust.
Is your brand a person your consumer can trust? In each human interaction, you have an opportunity to optimize the loyalty reward and make it so relevant that it will be distinguished from anything your competitor could do. A human interaction can never be replicated; it is unique. As time ticks on, a person’s context always changes – if ever so slightly, but enough to make each moment unique. When your brand and consumer touchpoints are optimized to make those moments count, to create loyalty and to empower your employees to generate relevant rewards at the right time, the loyalty you will receive will strengthen exponentially… it may even become emotional.
The true marketing revolution will elevate the role of the business from making money to satisfying consumer needs and desires to making genuine contributions in their communities (local, national and global).