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Loyalty Marketing and The Asterisk – Part 2

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Loyalty Marketing and The Asterisk – Part 2
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Editor’s Note: It’s not Throwback Thursday, it’s just the second part of the introduction of the Loyalty Asterisk™, originally published among the first posts of LoyaltyTruth.com. To connect the past with the present, we’ll have a fresh take on the Loyalty Asterisk™ next week, illustrating why it is still an important consideration in planning your own customer strategy today.


It seems that over the relatively short 26 year history of the Loyalty Marketing business, marketers have steadily exhausted their reservoir of creativity and increasingly relied on their version of the asterisk to make up ground.

Loyalty Marketing versions of the asterisk include increasing the points required for a reward, adding fees for redemption, and tightening expiration rules – all  conditions that lessen the value of the program for consumers. It’s a game of perception that marketers are too often losing. Insiders know these rule changes must be made, though it does not prevent consumers from viewing them as evil.

It is counter-productive to attempt to influence a particular consumer behavior with rewards and recognition while placing a myriad of constraints on the same behavior. Customers end up feeling confused and frustrated, two emotions bound to engender anything but “loyalty”.

As loyalty marketing has evolved from a novel tactic to become a standard tool in the marketing mix of most major consumer facing organizations, the articulation of most programs is increasingly similar. In airline, hotel, and financial services companies, offering a program that awards points or miles for consumer patronage is essentially a cost of doing business. Whether this form of marketing strategy continues to influence consumer purchase behavior as intended will depend on how quickly the next wave of innovation emerges and can be practically applied.

As they tweak their program rules to reign in benefits and reduce cost, companies should understand that cheap talk in their annual reports about commitment to a customer centric strategy is heavily diluted by the proliferation of the Loyalty Asterisk™ in their program communications.

It’s time for marketers to “say what they mean and mean what they say”. Building enduring customer loyalty is complicated enough. Don’t undermine your substantial investment in customer centricity with a generous sprinkling of the Loyalty Asterisk™. Let’s hasten the next wave of innovation in the Loyalty marketing business and stop ever-changing program rules from becoming the most commonly communicated message in our e-newsletters.

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