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Loyalty Linguistics and the Loss of Value?

Nov 16, 2011

You know what the beauty of having your own blog is? The ability to instantly publish your thoughts – especially when you have a bit of a bone to pick with the thoughts of others. Here goes:

Last week, blogger-author and Loyalty specialist Bill Hanifin sought to parse out and expand on a recent LinkedIn post regarding the contemporary challenges facing customer loyalty and loyalty programs in his own blog, HanifinLoyalty.com. The LinkedIn poster, Annich McIntosh, the managing editor of C&M Publications, a UK event managing and media marketing publication, asked her followers if they could come up with one word to describe those loyalty obstacles. Several respondents chimed in over a six-month period. Never one to sit on the sidelines of a public relations debate, (I love a challenge) I too, buzzed in, writing the word: VALUE. “Creating value, shaping value, (of the program and rewards/incentives being offered), proving the program is of value,” I wrote.

I was surprised, then, to find out from Hanifin’s follow-up that no other readers agreed with my word choice, VALUE. What gives?

In my professional opinion, ‘Value’ is the word that best encompasses what respondents were addressing in both Hanifin’s and McIntosh’s posts. Instead, the word most commonly chosen to address loyalty challenges was “relevance.” While relevance is no question a critical component to promoting and expanding loyalty programs, I view it as more of a result than an action. Loyalty programs, or incentives and promotions that attract repeat customers, are essential for a business’s success. But with all the fierce competition and background noise created by many channels these days, it’s in some ways easier than ever for customers to tune out than tune in. Value includes relevance. As for a sampling of the other terms: engagement, differentiation, creativity, and budget, when added up, they too, equal value. (For instance, allocating a sizeable loyalty budget is easy once the value of the program has been established).

But rather than expending all this effort on somewhat trivial mental exercises over which are the most effective umbrella terms, as PR professionals, for ourselves and for our clients, shouldn’t we be promoting value, and not just throwing around terms? Contrary to some opinions that loyalty programs “have mastered the art of enrollment,” I think there’s plenty more to be done – especially as it relates to the still-growing mobile universe and increasing smartphone adoption across all demographics.

When it comes to loyalty campaigns, creating value while ensuring relevance is a good way to start!

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