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Posted by Kendra Lusty on Feb 28, 2019 8:00:00 AM

You might call me a Millennial. I was born right there on the border of what’s considered a Millennial and a Gen Xer. I can sympathize with both, including the quirks from both.

What does that mean? For one thing, it means I’ll smother mayo on my sandwich while saying “hey Siri, why do people say Millennials are killing mayo?”

But mostly, it means I can understand why “kids these days” behave so differently than the generations before. It’s no wonder they’re perceived as “killing” so many of the things that used to define what it meant to be an adult. They want totally different things, especially when it comes to the relationships they hold with the businesses they frequent. 

Posted by Kendra Lusty on Feb 14, 2019 8:41:05 AM

Love at first sight can happen.

Just ask Hollywood.

Or if you want scientific proof, this study shows it takes about 1/5 of a second for the brain to make all the numerous judgments it takes to fall in love.

And for even more evidence, ask my husband. He loves to remind me just how quickly he fell in love with me, especially on a certain holiday in February... or when he's in trouble.

But it’s definitely rare. Not just for love between two individuals, but also between individuals and the businesses they frequent.

Posted by Kendra Lusty on Jan 31, 2019 10:00:50 AM

Entering the world of social commentary has its consequences. Just ask Gillette.

In case you missed it, the razor-making powerhouse recently released an internet-only ad that quickly spread with nearly 20 million views in 48 hours. The message addressed a social issue that has sparked a lot of conversation over the past year. While some were pleased with its call for men to do better, others reported being offended.

So why speak up at all? After all, the number one reason people say they are loyal to a brand is the quality of its products, followed by the care of its customer service.

Increasingly, however, a new factor is emerging: social consciousness. And it may grow to contend as a top reason customers stay loyal to brands.


The Rationale for Cause-Based Marketing

Whether brands like it or not, declining to participate in social discussion may no longer be an option. People have rapidly gone from respecting it to demanding it.

In a recent study by Accenture, they found “US companies that stand for something bigger than what they sell, tune into customers’ beliefs, and take decisive action on issues can recast their customer relationships and connect with consumers on a deeper level.”

Other studies have found that 62% of consumers want companies to take a stand on current social issues and 89% of Americans say they are loyal to brands that share their values.

And the trend is only more pronounced among younger generations. 52% of Millennials, 48% of Gen X and 35% of Baby Boomers feel it’s important their values align with the brands they like. 

So what can businesses do? Especially small ones. In the face of potential blowback like Gillette has faced, it can seem like a scary journey to embark on.

Here are a few key rules to keep in mind – particularly if you’re hoping to translate social consciousness into a better brand, more loyalty and – ultimately – higher sales.


Consider your Audience: Gillette vs. Nike

The fact of the matter is, when you pick a side, you’re going to alienate those on the opposite side. And yes, people are paying attention, especially younger generations. 54% of teenagers age 16-19 say they have deliberately purchased or stopped using a brand because of its ethics. A brand needs to carefully consider just who they’re going to appeal to.


In Gillette’s case, a large portion of the base for this 117-year-old brand is older, white men who have been loyal for most of their lives. And this demographic viewed the ad most negatively. On the other hand, it was viewed positively by more women – many of whom are the primary shoppers for their households – and Millennials (who just happen to be shaving less with beards in fashion once more.) Was appealing to a younger audience and primary household purchasers the goal all along?

If statistics hold true in this case, 42% of those displeased by this ad will walk away from Gillette. Worse still, 21% will never return. That’s the natural consequence of picking a side. Time and future sales will have to reveal if they created enough affinity with a new audience to recover those lost.

Nike: the Kaepernick Effect

Nike’s ad from 2018 with Colin Kaepernick as spokesperson also produced a very divisive effect. #boycottNike was just as rampant as #boycottGillette, maybe even more so. The ones who sided with Kaepernick (and by extension, Nike) were the same Millennials (and younger). In this case, the ad appealed to Nike’s current core audience.

From a business standpoint, it made good sense to the tune of a 31% increase in online sales immediately following the ad -- along with a fair amount of brand-building press, much of it good and ALL of it free. 


Consider Your Voice: Gillette vs. Ben & Jerry’s

Before entering any controversy, it’s important to ask:  Are you really the right brand to be delivering this message? And have you set yourself up to be heard?

Statistics show that people want to know their brands on a more personal level. 53% of consumers said they would be more likely to consider brands that are transparent on social media for their next purchase. And conversely, a lack of transparency might lead 86% to purchase from a competitor.


After it became clear that some were unhappy with the brand’s messaging, brand director Pankaj Bhalla explained they wanted to be part of an important conversation: “As a company that encourages men to be their best, we feel compelled to both address it and take action of our own.”

Yet some claimed they piggybacked off the popularity of the #metoo movement, and others that they faked “wokeness” to inspire lagging sales.

These kind of arguments could perhaps have been forestalled with a little extra work beforehand to establish themselves as a brand that cares about this topic. Perhaps more people would have listened if the change from “the best a man can get” to “the best a man can be” were introduced softly or more gradually?

Still, every company has to start somewhere. Many believed it commendable for Gillette to enter into the sphere of socially conscious companies with such boldness out of the gate. Maybe future ads will be better received with this newly established precedent backing them up.

Ben & Jerry’s: The Nicest Possible Way

Ben & Jerry’s has found success with ads that, like Gillette, sometimes have little to do with the product they’re selling. However, activism is 100% ingrained in the brand. This is transparent in everything it represent: its mission statement, social media presence, and representation from faces within the company. As a result, this brand has been able to speak up on all kinds of diverse issues from global warming to marriage equality to criminal justice reform and beyond. All this is reinforced by its own ethics that its ice cream is made “in the nicest possible way.”

To be fair, Ben & Jerry’s has its fair share of disagreement and lost customers. But as a well-established part of their brand, customers who agree with their stances feel like it helps them be part of something bigger.


Invite them to Join Your Cause: Gillette vs. Stella Artois

People increasingly want to do good in the world. And they are gravitating toward brands that help them do just that. 85% U.S. consumers prefer brands associated with a cause and 79% of Gen Z would engage with a brand that could help them make a difference.


At its heart, Gillette’s ad was a challenge for men to be the best they can be. A good message, right? Some of us may even have gotten a bit choked up the first time we saw it.

Unfortunately, while Gillette may have intended to say “lets help each other be even better” too many seemed to have heard instead, “all men suck and will continue to suck unless you stop being a man. Oh and buy this razor.”  Those people saw a company standing on a soapbox and telling others what to do…and they responded by throwing virtual rotten fruit.

Unfortunately as an internet-only ad, the ability for people to easily stop watching at any moment seems to have only exacerbated the problem. Had Gillette done more in advance of the commercial’s release to establish its new-found consciousness and build a legion of followers, overall response may have unfolded in a different way.

Stella Artois: Pouring It Forward

Last year, Stella Artois released an ad in conjunction with water.org to raise awareness about the global water crisis. And, like Gillette, its message was also along the lines of “let’s help each other be even better.” An invitation without the potential for insult.

One reason for this is the brand had already been working with water.org for several years. But maybe even more importantly, they pledged that a customer’s purchase would be “poured forward” to help bring clean water to developing countries. This brand had already proved its own investment in the cause and just needed a little help to make a big change in the world.


What Does this Mean for Small Businesses?

Standing for one’s values no matter the consequences is commendable. Brands large and small have proven they can take a stand, weather the consequences, and end up with stronger customer relationships (and ultimately, sales.)

For those who are a little afraid to take the plunge, social consciousness can come in small and (mostly) safe ways.

Start small – Little guys may not be able to make sweeping global changes, but every little bit helps. Any business can take a stance of “doing their part to make a difference in the world.”

Start close to home – Even little issues can feel major to locals in your community. Some ideas might include: playing host to a local petition or supporting high school sports teams (as long as local rivalries aren’t so heated as to alienate half the town.)

Start non-controversial – No one said you have to jump right into controversy. You can start building social good into your brand by supporting charities. Even if it’s not every customer’s preferred charity, people rarely become angry at one’s attempt to do some good in the world.

Start with your own actions – Leadership by example is a powerful force. So if you recycle, source locally, vote, etc. let people know! They’ll respect you for it, and they’ll hear your message when you encourage them to do the same.

One thing is clear. Gillette successfully got people talking: talking about a social issue important to it, talking about the brand itself, talking about how brands are talking about social issues...and if that's how you measure advertising success, it's already proven a smash. But we have yet to see if shifting loyalties will settle into a stronger and more loyal customer base -- and more specifically, if it'll inspire people to go beyond talking and start buying.

What do you think about the Gillette campaign? How will it impact customer loyalty in the long term? How much does that matter for a brand like Gillette? We'd love to hear your take.

Posted by Kendra Lusty on Jan 17, 2019 3:05:18 PM

Have you seen our Loyalty Statistics: the Ultimate Collection page lately?

If not, you should. It’s ballooned to a jaw-dropping 1000+ statistics curated from across the web over the last 5 years. And it’s still growing.

They come from studies run by industry leaders and top firms across the nation. Organizations and businesses have used it for research, presentations and to influence member benefit strategies. It has become a trusted resource for a host of companies worldwide as they navigate the complex and sometimes confusing notion of “loyalty.”

As obsessed as we are about all things member loyalty and member benefits, we recognize that no one statistic tells the full story. Still, we’ve dedicated this entire blog to exploring every nuance of customer and member loyalty – and as we’ve organized the statistics, a few interesting trends have emerged.


#1 - More Loyalty Programs Competing for Attention — and Failing

Attracting people to your loyalty program is a massive undertaking, and nothing is more frustrating than seeing membership numbers rise while usage stays stagnant. After all, what’s the point of having a loyalty program if people aren’t finding value in it?

It was only a few centuries ago (a short time in the grand scale of humanity) that a shopper’s only option was the town’s General Store. It doesn’t take much to earn a person’s loyalty if you’re the only option available.

But now the market is flooded with options. So much so that 63% of Millennials and Gen Z agree they have so many choices, a brand has to show them loyalty in order to gain their business — not the other way around.

The same argument applies to loyalty programs. 65% of consumers reported they actively engage with fewer than half of their loyalty programs and 41% with fewer than a quarter of them. Americans collectively hold 3.8 billion memberships in customer loyalty programs. Consider then, that Millennials report maxing out with activity in 4.2 loyalty programs, and only 3.9 programs for all consumers.

The reality is, your loyalty program might get ignored simply because members are engaged in too many others. And with that kind of competition, you can’t skimp on the value.

The statistics have clearly identified the issue plaguing loyalty platforms everywhere. If you need some ideas, click to view strategies for standing out from the crowd


#2 - Losing Loyalty Can Happen Fast, But Winning it Back Still Possible 

Loyalty is hard-won in the first place, so the best-case scenario obviously is to never lose it. However, bad experiences happen. Employees have off days, products are sometimes faulty, benefits sometimes fail to live up to expectations.

And the statistics are showing just what it takes to convince customers to switch away from a brand to which they were previously loyal.

The answer? Not much.

Consumers reported it takes anywhere from 1 (19%) to 3 (58%) bad experiences before they take their business elsewhere. Millennials reported that prices 10% to 15% better at a competitor could get them to switch. And fully half (50%) reported they simply found someone else who better meets their needs.

It may seem discouraging to see how increasingly easy it is to lose once loyal customers to other brands. But don’t throw in the towel. You can actually win them back. They’ve said so themselves.

When brands develop a history of transparency, about 90% of consumers said they are more willing to give brands a second chance after a bad experience.

This means before the bad experience even takes place, people want companies to have a strong social media presence that makes them feel more human. Then, once they’ve built this platform of trust, it’s the perfect forum for making things right. After all, when people see you making things right with one member, it can deepen their trust in you, even when they’re not directly involved.

Plus, it’s important to remember that customer engagement is a cumulative experience. And one bad day will seem so much less important if it’s drowning in a flood of positive ones. 


#3 - The Key to Getting Valuable Customer Personal Data? Trust and Value

Data is king. Many companies are hungry for data about their members and customers. After all, armed with valuable demographics, organizations could start segmenting their marketing plans and really delivering up the best value to each individual.

The problem is, most organizations don’t know quite how to get it.

The statistics show that 34% of Millennials won’t join a membership program because the enrollment process is too long. At the end of the day, members aren’t going to give up personal details for nothing.

I myself have joined a group or 2 with the information: First name = Me, Last name = Me, email address = Me@me.com. Why? Well I couldn’t tell if it would be worth my while without signing up first. And I didn’t want them bugging me if it wasn’t.

Trust has to come first. Trust that their membership will bring them value. Trust that you will use their information with care. So what does that mean for organizations? Try asking for the bare minimum of information to help them get in the door. After you’ve developed that trust, you can ask for more detailed information.

Luckily, the statistics also show that the vast majority of people are more than willing to share their information… as long as you make it worth their while. In fact, 90% of consumers are okay with brands knowing more about them if it helps deliver a more rewarding and satisfying shopping experience.

So what will members trade their personal data for? Well, statistics show they are most interested in exclusive deals (60%), the ability to gain points and rewards (56%) or for a more personalized experience (55% of Millennials).

So, if incentives and personalized value will get you the data you’re looking for, make sure that value is present in your loyalty program.


Let's Learn Together

There’s a lot more stats where those came from, and a lot more conclusions to be drawn from them. Take a look for yourself. If you notice any trends, we'd love to hear from you. Comment below.

Posted by Michelle White on Nov 26, 2018 4:23:24 PM

Whose job is it to create member / customer loyalty for your organization?

Account managers? Customer service reps? Maybe YOURS?

You may even have a team in your organization dedicated to the client experience, like we do.

According to our VP of Client Success, Emily Hayes, EVERY SINGLE employee is an important player in the member retention and satisfaction game. From web designers to shipping clerks to payroll representatives, each employee should understand how their efforts contribute to happy members.

Because when organizations get it right, and members are loyal, the payoff can be huge. Research shows that 81% of emotionally connected consumers will not only promote the brand among their family and friends, but they will also spend more.

And we’re not talking pennies.

Repeat customers spend 67% more than new ones, according to one study.

So…member retention, engagement and loyalty are clearly a big deal.

But what about the employees at your organization… the ones expected to create engagement-invoking, loyalty-inducing experiences for your members?

What about THEIR retention, engagement and loyalty? Does THAT matter?

Human resource departments are typically tasked with keeping workers happy. And in the tightest labor market the U.S. has seen in 5 decades, HR professionals are learning that it absolutely matters.

A lot.

Engaged Employees Lead to Engaged Customers

Studies show that if you are looking to engage customers, the best place to start is with engaged employees. In fact, a study conducted at Cornell University linked companies on Fortune Magazine’s Best Companies to Work For with higher customer satisfaction scores.

The payoff comes in both retention and revenue. One report suggests companies with engaged employees see 233% greater customer loyalty and a 26% greater annual increase in revenue.

We’ve written before about how engaged employees = engaged customers, but it’s never been more evident than it is today.

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The unemployment rate recently descended to 3.7% - the lowest it’s been since 1969 when millions of men were pulled out of the workforce by the Vietnam War Draft. The Fed considers the “natural” rate of unemployment to be between 4.5% and 5%. So at a rate this low, there are more open jobs than workers to fill them.

And, frankly, it’s impacting the customer experience.

Posted by Kendra Lusty on Nov 21, 2018 8:13:09 AM

I’ll never forget how tiny my daughter was when she learned to say “thank you.” If you gave her a marshmallow, you were guaranteed an enthusiastic “thank you.” So people kept giving her marshmallow after marshmallow after marshmallow…