Friday 14 December 2012

Loyalty Magic - A lesson from Santa


When we're young we tend to believe what we're told.  

If your mum or dad tell you about Santa and how he delivers presents to all the kids on his "nice" list, young children will be in awe of the whole magical world you've created.  However, kids grow up, become more curious, more literate and start to dig under the illusion.

Spoiler alert here...  they then work out that Santa doesn't really exist.

There is a parallel here for marketing as well.

As consumers, new to a brand, we tend to believe what we're told - the less cynical amongst us tend to buy into the brand promise.  However, if that's all it is - a promise - then the consumers will quickly lift the veil on the illusion.

An article entitled "Marketing Magic and Illusions of Simplicity" in a recent MISC magazine discussed how "To truly mesmerize [..] consumers, a savvy brand magician plays first into their faculties for astonishment and disbelief, and then engages their curiosity".  Going on to say "For brands, that sense of spellbound infatuation translates as a unique opportunity to close sales and secure extended loyalty".

As an example, daily deal sites like Groupon promised much - access to local, great deals that I'd want.  People signed up in their millions, word of mouth spread - they were spellbound.  However, the reality didn't really live up to the hype - offers felt badly targetted to many people and so the illusion of a good deal was simply that - an illusion.

To really captivate customers you have to be able to astonish them.

Customers know that when they sign-up to a loyalty programme, provide personal details or swipe their loyalty card that this information is being tracked and analysed.  The veil has been lifted - points alone won't astonish them anymore.

Instead, they expect that this information will be used to provide them with a better experience.  When an offer is made or a new product highlighted, if it's relevant - truly relevant - then it has the power to mesmerize.  We've seen this within our own programmes; as we increasingly tighten up our offers to better target these based on customer behaviours - people suddenly see the selection presented and simply say "Wow - that's me".

It's not just about offers, though, it's also about how you go to market.  

In the US for example the credit union Patelco has a fantastic service for buying cars called "Members Advantage Plus".  Essentially you tell them what kind of car you want and they then shop around for you across 500 dealers in California - they haggle for the best cost, sort out the finance and deliver the vehicle to your home - and if you don't like it, just send it back, they sort that too.

Keep in mind this is a loan company... not an auto-dealer.  For me, that's not something I expected and when I read about it I was truly amazed.  Their customers are amazed to...

"Try shopping for a Prius at dealerships.  No one is dealing, everyone wants a Prius so the dealerships don't have to.  [Petelco] found exactly the car we wanted, color, accessories -everything.  And at $900 below MSRP. Fantastic."

Patelco have worked out how to add more to their basic product - finance - and in the process have created a service that helps to extend loyalty as well as satisfy the curiosity of their customers.

Whether it's help getting the best offers, selecting gifts, picking a film or buying a new car, consumers still want to be amazed.  As marketers we still have the power to amaze, to mesmerize and to keep customers curious - we just need to stop selling the dream and start delivering it - and we don't need a sleigh, elves or a red suit for that (unless you're Coca-Cola) ;)

Merry Christmas / Happy Holidays