Looking Deeper Into Loyalty

Our loyalty research is coming soon - here's a sneak preview

As a full-service loyalty agency, we continually strive to innovate around the edges of what it means to be full-service. This boundary where ‘traditional’ loyalty services end and something more innovative begins should be of interest to every marketer. 

Advanced technology, social networks, hyper-competition and other forces have radically changed the playing field for marketers and have blurred the lines between the once-separate disciplines within organizations, brands and agencies alike.

If it’s not clear by now, it should be; loyalty is something the entire organization needs to own. Loyalty is no longer just a points program that operates off to the side. A new playbook is required, and this playbook requires a marketing mind shift. We need to start treating loyalty as the output, not just the input, and the entire organization needs to rally around this concept.

As a loyalty service provider, we seldom take a moment to consider the very word that defines our “discipline,” to stop and think about what that word actually means. That word, of course, is loyalty. Being loyal, according to Dictionary.com, means “giving firm and constant support or allegiance to a person or institution.” There is nothing in the definition about repeat purchases, frequency, tiers, perks, or published or unpublished benefits.

My point is not to simplify the work we do—what our industry does—through the lens of loyalty’s definition; rather, to shed light on what we believe is needed to return to the root, the origin of its meaning in today’s overstimulated environment. We believe innovation is needed. A reframing of this sometimes niche marketing discipline. And we felt that in order to innovate in this area, we needed to explore the psychological side of human relationships. And we needed a framework to explain how loyalty forms between people that could then be applied to brands. For example:

  • What does it mean to be truly loyal to someone?
  • What core emotions drive a sense of loyalty?
  • What are the core concepts of loyalty?

And more importantly for marketers, how can we claim to actually offer solutions that impact loyalty? Are the strategies and tactics we implement as marketers actually making customers loyal? Or are we simply creating habitual, repeat buyers? Is there a difference and do we care?

The ‘traditional’ loyalty playbook rewards transactional loyalty and is rooted in the rational, not the emotional.

This past year, we set out on an inquisitive adventure to better understand loyalty through conducting our own proprietary research to uncover the answers to some of these questions, and to dig much deeper into the “why” of loyalty. We sought to extract its human and emotional origins by first understanding what drives loyalty in interpersonal relationships in the first place. We felt that if we could understand why we keep going back to the same people, places and institutions in our lives, even after they hurt us, disappoint us, or fail to meet our expectations, that we could start to understand the emotional side of loyalty as it applies to brand relationships. 

The goal we set out to accomplish, along with our hypothesis, was simple: Obtain a strong understanding of interpersonal relationships, which serve as a foundation for driving loyalty with people, and apply these findings and lessons learned to elevate loyalty marketing as it exists today, replete with its limitations, perception, value and efficacy with brand relationships, and help shape its future. We look forward to sharing our results with you.