The Loyalty Misnomer

Posted on September 8, 2010

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Unless the definition of ‘Loyalty’ has changed and no longer means being faithful to someone or something then, by definition, every so-called loyalty scheme is more akin to an extortion scheme.

For example, I like Jaffa Cakes but I am not loyal to them.  If I was loyal to Jaffa Cakes then I would do anything that McVities want me to do, within reason, to further the cause of Jaffa Cakes.  I would happily sabotage competing biscuit promotions as I go down the aisle in the Supermarket, ripping off the little notes that say “Buy 1 Get 1 FREE” from under the Chocolate Fingers grasp.  I would share my adoration for the soft gooey orange centres of the Jaffa Cakes with everyone I meet, advising them to get some in their next shopping trolley.  No, I am not loyal to Jaffa Cakes, actually I don’t even like them that much, so it isn’t the best example, I should have said Chocolate Hobb Nobbs, that would have been a different story all together.

Jaffa Cakes

I pledge my allegiance to the cake

The convoluted point is that if you need to pay people for their loyalty then they are not loyal.  Tesco kicked all of this off with their Club Card – it was a massive success and was one of the key reasons it became the undisputed no. 1 in the UK.  It managed to increase loyalty in its customer base through the nineties and naughties, but what does that really mean?  Al-Qaeda could claim that it has strong loyalty within its member base, but can Tesco really make the same claim?  Are their customers loyal or do they shop at Tescos because it’s close to where they live and is priced about right for their budget?  How do you measure loyalty anyway?

If you want to measure loyalty then surely you need to have a proper loyalty programme, not an extortion programme!

A Proper Loyalty Programme

First of all you need to measure your audience in terms of loyalty.  Once you’ve categorised your customer base by loyalty, then you need to turn that loyalty into increased income.

A good starting point here would be a test or two.  In theory, the more loyal your customers the more they’ll pay for your product.  So, put the price up for the most loyal customers and tell them that if they are truly loyal to your cause then they’ll happily pay for the pleasure.  Also, if your customers are loyal then they ought to protect your interests from others.  So, rather than asking customers to save and send in coupons, ask them to send in competing brand’s promotional advertising which they’ve removed from the supermarket aisle.  Now, that’s a proper loyalty scheme.

As an aside, I came across this article in the Telegraph where a German state has added a loyalty test for Muslims.  A bit worrying on all levels really (racism, history of warmongering, etc), let’s hope that it is at least a proper loyalty test.

Was there a point here?  Not really, I just don’t like the use of over-embellished language in marketing.  Loyalty is the thin end of the wedge.  You’ve also got to get through all the war-related language too.  Pre-emptive strikes, flanking strategies, the list goes on, it’s all a little bit sad really isn’t it?   When you sell dog food I guess you’ve got to liven things up a bit, but playing Dad’s Army is just a bit, I don’t know, lamentable.  Couldn’t we (marketers) come up with something a bit more imaginative or failing that honest?

I might be strange, but I look forward to the first proper loyalty scheme being introduced by a big brand.  Yeo Valley Yoghurts (a local company to Bristol) could start things off with an If you really liked our yoghurts then this won’t hurt.” campaign.

I’ve found a great video (yet again) from David Mitchell, who makes the point far better than I can:

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