Is your loyalty program 'earning media' for you ?

At a conceptual level – a loyalty program is aimed at driving and rewarding repeat business. You enroll for a program. You start earnings points for every dollar you spend. And you redeem the points for offers and rewards. Simple.

Some even have a tiering system typically – Silver, Gold, Platinum etc where the privileges, points accrual and rewards vary based on the tier.

Well this article is not about pushing for a business case to have a loyalty program. I think the jury is out on that one. Which is why there are quite a few best practice loyalty programs out there successfully running for years – if not decades.

This article is more about pushing the case for turning your loyalty program into an earned media engine. Simply put - getting your loyal customers to do the talking for you and essentially moving them from loyalty to advocacy.

Social media is a point of entry for every marketer these days. But if you're looking for results beyond likes and comments – turning your loyalty program into an earned media engine seems to make a lot of sense.

Think about it – you already have a database of consumers regularly buying your brand & earning points for every purchase they make. All you now need to do – is award them the same points but this time around it’s for every advocacy-action they do for your brand.

If you could identify and empower even 10% of your loyalty program membership base to become brand advocates- the potential for brands to harness, empower & engage these advocates to drive Earned Media and Word of Mouth is huge. And the best part – it goes beyond that. Advocates are quite happy to engage as ‘content-creators’, 'product reviewers’, ‘co-creators’ for new product initiatives or innovations, ‘idea generators’ for new usage or even as real talent - featured in upcoming ad campaigns.

Case study

The ‘Say Yes to Watson’s’ advocacy program which went on to win the best idea in CRM/ Loyalty at the recently concluded Markies did just that. The objective of the campaign was to promote the Watsons brand and its in-house range of affordable, high quality products.

Having recognised the need to build advocacy with their consumers, Watsons Malaysia launched an offline and online engagement campaign that led consumers onto a structured journey on TAP (The Advocacy Platform), driving deeper engagement and encouraging word-of-mouth within these consumers’ immediate social circle.

The program was integrated with Watsons’ current VIP card membership program, where VIP members were recruited, engaged, and selected via a digital platform. They were then provided with a Watsons Brand kit that allows them to use the Watsons products, share their experience within their social sphere of influence, trigger word of mouth and earning points for every advocacy-action and engagement & eventually becoming Watson’s brand advocates.

So if you are a GAP loyalty card member, not only do you get points for the latest purchase you made – you also get points for telling your friends about their latest Summer Collection.  Or if you are an Enrich member – you not only earned miles for booking your flight to phuket – but you also earn miles by telling your friends about the Mid Year Marvels.

So if you currently have a loyalty program that’s working well for you – leveraging it to also become an earned media engine could very well power the next phase of growth for your brand.

The writer is Mahesh Neelakantan, COO at Advocacy Asia.