Gimmicks are no substitute for having a company / brand that matters

“Rewards That Reward” by Lars Meyer-Waarden and Christophe Benavent is a fairly insightful overview of what are commonly called customer-loyalty programs.

“Rewards That Reward” was mentioned in an article in the WSJ print version but for some reason it’s not (yet?) on the WSJ web site. That’s certainly disappointing to say the least. Luckily it could be found on MIT Sloan Management Review (http://sloanreview.mit.edu).

Naturally, there are a couple things worth pointing out:

– In the 3rd or 4th paragraph they state: “Indeed, the proliferation of loyalty programs offering the same kinds of rewards has destroyed a key reason for them in the first place: differentiation.” We disagree – somewhat. It’s not the programs that lack imagination, it’s the marketing departments behind them. The last thing the world needs is another cookie cutter answer. Having a loyalty program isn’t enough to differentiate. The program itself must differentiate, or at least somehow be positioned to appear that way.

– This study was done in France between 2005 and 2007. How French your customer might be is up to you to decide.

– About half-way in they add, “Companies can use customers’ ages, incomes, sex and other factors to draw general conclusions about what motivates them…” But there’s a far better idea – just ask the guests  One-size-fits-all is obviously out, but there’s no reason to guess. Chances are pretty good the solution is going to be web based so just let your guests decide what they want for dinner and how they want it cooked. Obviously, that too becomes part of the guest’s profile that can be used to customize other communicated with them.

– They later say, “… An important step in designing rewards, then, is to make sure customers perceive them as being valuable.” Needless to say, duh! Sadly, there are companies who are going to find that level of guest-centricity as being some sort of stroke of genius.

For further reading the WSJ article did recommend for reading: SloanReview.mit.edu/wsj.

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