More Than “Points:” Driving Emotional Connections With Loyalty Marketing

Experiential Marketing

Consumers’ expectations are higher than ever before. Not only do they want brands to convince them why their products and services are better than the rest, they also want exciting rewards and incentives in exchange for giving them their business. 

In order to reach new customers and retain existing ones, brands are implementing exciting and engaging loyalty marketing strategies. 

Loyalty marketing can be much more than simply creating a “points” system. Check out these brands that are giving loyalty marketing the “experiential” touch.

Loyalty Marketing

Sephora Gives Loyalty Marketing a Makeover

When it launched in 2007, Sephora’s “Beauty Insider” program was initially designed to reward “Insiders” with a selection of free product samples. 13 years ago, this was a first-of-its-kind strategy, giving customers access to high-end, luxury products and brands they normally would not have been aware of, or able to afford. 

Two years after “Beauty Insider” came “Very Important Beauty Insider,” for customers spending more than $350 per year at Sephora. With additional rewards, Sephora created an incentive for a higher level of engagement.  

Then, in 2013 came “Rogue Insider,” created for Sephora’s highest spenders ($1,000 or more annually). “Rogue Insiders” are given exclusive, first-access to new and limited-edition products. 

Sephora’s loyalty marketing is more than “free samples.” What separates Sephora has been its ability to tap into the emotional drivers that create “brand loyalty.”

In 2017, Sephora introduced its “Beauty Insider Community,” giving customers a real-time social forum to ask questions, find inspiration, and get to know fellow beauty-lovers just like themselves. 

And, the “Beauty Insider” program continues to evolve experientially, with rewards focused on creating memorable experiences, from a tour of and tasting at Francis Ford Coppola’s Winery in Sonoma County and a signed copy of “The Rihanna Book” by the songstress herself along with a curated collection of her favorite “Fenty Beauty” products, to a host of virtual events this year in partnership with Instagram and its annual birthday gift for all “Insiders” (a perennial fan favorite). 

Today, Sephora’s “Beauty Insider” boasts 25 million members worldwide and growing, thanks to the emotional bond they share with their customers along their beauty journey. 


Nike’s Inclusive/Exclusive Community

In 2018, Nike revamped their “NikePlus Membership” in an effort to turn casual Nike customers into loyal members (and bigger spenders). Their loyalty marketing strategy was simple; “the more active you are, the more you’re rewarded. 

Their “NikePlus Unlocks” perks included access to Apple Music, Headspace (a guided meditation app), and ClassPass (a fitness class app). With Apple Music, generally costing $9.99 per month for a subscription, members are given the ability to set and reach personal fitness goals or purchase “exclusive Nike products” in order to unlock free Apple Music playlists or months of free streaming.

Along with having the chance to enhance your fitness routine and interact with like-minded community members, “NikePlus Unlocks” is personalized to individual members’ tastes.

Whether it’s a member’s birthday (offering product discounts throughout the entire month), receiving a “tailored-to-you” gift when you make a purchase, or exclusive VIP experiences (like, courtside seats to your favorite NBA team’s home games), “NikePlus Unlocks” is intuitive. The more you visit Nike.com, and/or its other apps, the more personalized it becomes to your interests.  

Ultimately, the goal of “NikePlus Unlocks” is to create a made-for-you experience that combines both digital and physical interactions with the Nike brand. 


Kohl’s Creates the “Hollywood Experience”

Kohl’s may not be the first brand that comes to mind when you think of luxury experiences, but the retail department store may have one of the most head-turning loyalty marketing programs for its customers with their “Yes2You” program. 

While its “points program” and “dollar rewards”, along with birthday gifts and special incentives to earn points faster are popular, Kohl’s wants their everyday customers to feel extra special with one-of-a-kind rewards, like tickets to Hollywood movie premieres and live events (including their recent health and wellness-themed “Motivation Market,” featuring “The Biggest Loser” celebrity trainer Bob Harper). 

In 2016, 10 “Yes2You” members (and a guest) were surprised with the ultimate VIP experience at that year’s American Music Awards. Each winner received a makeover by a celebrity stylist, walking the red carpet at the AMAs, VIP seats at the show, and tickets to a VIP after party.

Kohl's Yes2You Program

With nearly 10 million viewers watching the AMAs that year, Kohl’s was able to capitalize on the once-in-a-lifetime experience it offered their customers. Today, there are over 40 million “Yes2You” members and Kohl’s has continued to expand their loyalty marketing program with personalized makeovers as well as selecting members as models for Kohl’s fashion shoots. 


Make Lasting Connection with Creative Loyalty Marketing 

Experiential marketing and loyalty marketing go hand-in-hand. It’s all about making impressions that stick in customers’ minds, keeping them coming back to your brand time and again. 

But, you don’t need to think big in order to make an impact. It’s all about what makes the most sense for your brand, your target audience, and your budget. The goal of luxury marketing is the bond it cements between your brand and your customers. 

So, whether you want to go big or go smaller, what matters is giving customers an experience they’ll want to tell their friends and family about or post on social media, giving your brand to chance to reach new fans and make lasting connections with the ones you already have.

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Why “Brand Love” is More than a Buzzword

Experiential Marketing

“Brand love.” It’s more than a boardroom buzzword. In 2020, the push for brands to be more authentic and personal than ever before is at an all-time high. Here’s why engagement marketing is the secret to creating life-long and loyal consumers to your brand.  

“Loyalty.” “Engagement.” “Trust.” Those are some of the most common buzzwords brands feel are the way to successfully develop deep relationships with consumers.  

But, what do they mean? When it comes to “brand love,” is it just a phrase that looks good on a PowerPoint? Or, is it possible for brands to use engagement marketing authentically and have consumers “fall in love” with them?

Twitter USWNT Experiential Marketing

Consumers Want Connections

It’s no secret to the world’s top brands. As research shows, the connections they make with consumers can be as deep and emotional as their relationships “IRL.” For many, when they think of Disney, the nostalgia of their childhood comes to mind. Or, how our relationship with Google is so ingrained in our everyday consciousness we don’t search for something online, we Google it. 

According to the Harvard School of Business, 95% of consumers purchasing decisions take place within our subconscious and that translates to 75% of consumers studied in 2014 who said their buying decisions are based on emotion. 

The idea of “brand love” isn’t a gimmick and building campaigns and strategies around the “L-word” is crucial to consumers’ loyalty and long-term commitment to brands. 

Think of sharing your first Hershey bar with a grandparent or buying your first pair of Nike Air Jordans. The feelings those moments create not only stay with you as years pass, but influence sharing those memories with future generations (who become future consumers).

According to social media management firm Sprout Social, when consumers don’t feel connected to a brand, 70% of those surveyed said they’re less likely to choose them over a competitor and 61% said they would spend less on that brand. Simply put, consumers want engagement marketing that cultivates a long-lasting relationship based on loyalty, integrity, reliability, and trust.

Be Authentic. Be Organic. Be Memorable

So, now you know the power that “brand love” brings to the table and (as Jennifer Lopez once sang) “love don’t cost a thing.” That may not be completely true when it comes to the millions of dollars brands spend on marketing and advertising each year, but there is some meaning to that catchy lyric. According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, consumer loyalty can be worth 10 times as much as a single purchase. 

How can brands capture the kind of “brand love” that essentially pays for itself in the long-run? Look to experiential marketing as the perfect opportunity to cut through the noise and connect with consumers on a deeper level. 

Being authentic is not something brands can manufacture from a boardroom, but it is important to consumers. Authenticity comes from understanding and communicating your personal story in a thoughtful and compelling way. If it’s artificial or contrived, your brand’s story will fall flat. 

Experiential and engagement marketing creates interactive and visual experiences that engage the senses and generates buzz for brands in a unique way. When brands can interact with consumers in fun and interesting ways, “brand loyalty” and “brand love” are created organically.

Increase Your “Brand Love” With Engagement Marketing 

Consumers expect more from brands than just a great product or a great commercial. Times have changed and so have consumers’ wants and needs from a brand. Using experiential and engagement marketing by creating memorable events and activations leaves a lasting impression consumers remember and that’s become the key to developing lifelong and loyal relationships.

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