Can Experiential Work in a Loyalty Marketing Program?

Posted by Samantha Stallard on August 22, 2018
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The rise of brand-agnosticism has caused a serious shift in how brand marketers treat consumers. No longer can they be ignored or worse, aggressively spammed. The B2C sales cycle is getting longer and longer as consumers take the time to educate themselves on brand values and thoughtfully consider online reviews before making a purchase. The days of consumers aligning with a brand simply because they always have are dwindling.

Enter the loyalty marketing program -- a tactic where upon entering a brand's website, users are prompted to share specific, personal information for 20% off their first purchase, to "subscribe and save," or check their email for a discount code, among other options. Consumers are lured into these immediate discounts and future freebies by forking over their email address, physical address, or income level. The brand's goal is to use this information to better understand their consumers and how to engage with them, providing small-scale discounts that don't negatively affect their bottom line -- the consumer's goal is to save money now and save money later.

When done correctly, loyalty programs are a great way to create personalized brand experiences, making the consumer feel valuable and connected to a company or product line. However, there is a ton of analyzation, adjustments, and focus required to pull off a successful loyalty marketing program, so brands looking for quick sales should be weary. Too many brand marketers don't follow through with the promises of their programs, discouraged by failures and lack of consumer engagement post-sign up, leaving a bitter taste in consumers' mouths and numerous discarded discount offers.

Successful loyalty marketing programs include:
Data tactics: Customer experience: Collected data tracks the consumer journey to assess which offers and benefits are most likely to be engaged with post-sign up; Personalization: Data attempts to understand loyalty members beyond their demographic information to create the best-suited content for them; Omnichannel: Data collected from consumer interaction with the loyalty program both online and offline helps the brand continuously make updates and improvements

Social responsibility: Brands that drive change and are active in their communities can have a major impact on loyalty, as consumers are increasingly more likely to support brands with a purpose. Almost 66 percent of consumers are willing to pay extra for products and services that come from companies committed to positive social and environmental impact

Emotional loyalty: Emotion is one of the strongest unique drivers of loyalty. This means brands must invest in measurement that help better understand what actions and emotions they must elicit across different stages of the sales cycle. Many brands struggle to build an emotional connection with their most frequent shoppers. Emotionally loyal customers are willing to spend with a brand even if meaningful and available alternatives are presented because they feel a deep-rooted trust and connection to them

Partnership programs: Brand partnerships are an incredible strategy for growth and to stay ahead of the competition by helping brands extend additional value beyond what they provide alone. Whether for a loyalty campaign or an evergreen program, the right partnership provides new and exciting ways to reward customers which will drive sales and loyalty.


Brands that want to take their loyalty marketing program to the next level should include an experiential component. Beyond discount codes and pre-sale clubs, consumers crave experiences. In fact, according to Event Marketer's Event Track 2017 study:

  • 75% of Millennials would choose to spend money on an experience rather than buying something desirable
  • 80% participated in a live experience (including concerts, festivals, and performing arts) in the last year
  • 70% believe that participating in a live experience makes them more connected to the world
  • 25% of consumers are more likely to recommend a brand to their friends after attending an event
  • 72% of consumers say friends' posts about branded experiences make them likely to purchase the brand
  • 70% of consumers say they feel more positive about a brand after reviewing content from experiences and events

To maintain fan interest and help build deeper emotional connections, The Walking Dead rewards fans for their dedication to the show with money-can’t-buy experiences and rewards. Leveraging a loyalty program, brands can incentivize fans to attain these unique rewards through further engagement. Members who accumulate the highest level of points as part of The Walking Dead Fan Rewards Club, launched earlier this year, can enjoy one-of-a-kind experiences, including VIP tickets to the “Talking Dead” aftershow, a set tour and meet-and-greets with the cast.

Wyndham Rewards, a highly ranked hotel rewards program, recently partnered with Caesars Entertainment’s award-winning casino-based “Total Rewards” program. The partnership offers their combined membership of over 50 million access to industry-leading travel experiences and perks and benefits including complimentary status match and opportunities to redeem points for one-of-a-kind hotel, restaurant and entertainment experiences. The partnership extends the reach for both brands and connects them to potential new customers.

Event marketers can add loyalty programs into their planned experiential activations as well. When event planning, put just as much emphasis on getting previous attendees to come back as promoting the event to a whole new audience. This type of marketing is all about consistent business -- repeat attendees are an incredibly important group of people who not only add to bookings, but also help you advertise the event to their peers.

Experiential programs can benefit from loyalty marketing by:

Making previous attendees feel privileged: Follow the success of airline loyalty programs (priority boarding, free checked bag, discounted rates) by offering exclusive seating or VIP upgrades if they book before a certain date. Or create a list of return attendees who will be traveling to your event from out of town (based on the data you collected from them in previous years) and send them a discount code to a nearby hotel to make booking their travel easier and less expensive

Creating savings beyond financial: Early bird pricing is only beneficial when a large group of people take part in it. Too often, events don't sell out their discounted pricing and end up extending the date its available, clearly stating to consumers that there are plenty of spots left and the "full price" option is actually an over-charge. Instead of early bird pricing, offer early bird talent access, upgraded seating, or free food and drinks

Incentivizing feedbackBy asking all attendees to your event for feedback you will not only improve next year's experience, but also improve loyalty by taking attendees opinions into consideration, especially with negative feedback. In return, provide attendees with free photo downloads they expected to be charged for, mail them leftover event swag, or even give them a shout out on your social media pages.


Download the 2018 Experiential Trends Report


Cover photo: The 2015 The Walking Dead fan premiere at Madison Square Garden in NYC

Topics: event production, marketing trends, experiences, brand experiences

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