Why is your customer club so dreadfully boring?

16 August 2019

Why is your customer club so dreadfully boring?

A customer club is a great tool when you use it correctly. Thomas Wagner explains how you can use it for much more than just flooding innocent members with deals.

 

I have worked in marketing for 30 years. During that time, there has been a huge development in customer clubs – but there’s still room for improvement. To explain this, I want to invite you on a little journey through time:

When I started at Shell in 1989, we built both BTC and BTB clubs driven by data. The data we could get our hands on was CRM data and purchase data – and data that customers gave us through large questionnaires we sent out physically.

Back then, consumers thought that it was really exciting to answer questionnaires, and of course, it helped that we responded to people individually. They got something for their inconvenience. Consumers were seen. This resulted in a strongly increased market share while halving the customer churn.

You have to see your customers

So, what good is that to you, if you are not selling fuel for cars? Well, you can get a sense of what happens when you take your customers seriously, and they feel seen as people.

Of course, you could argue that the world has changed since then. And it has. Today, no one can be bothered to answer endless questionnaires – perhaps because, as consumers, we rarely get anything out of it.

And no, as marketers we do not have the same need to ask because we have access to a completely different calibre of data today. We also have far more sophisticated systems to process it in. In essence, this is a good thing because data is pivotal to a lot of customer clubs.

But despite all the new things we have, we also seem to have lost something along the way. And unfortunately, this “something” is pretty important. It is all the creative things that can create both emotion, branding and sales. Therefore, we will now be talking about nappies.

Absorption is not everything

Once, there were two brands of nappies. A small Nordic one and a large international one. The large international brand pushed all the rational arguments hard. They were the best in tests.

The small Nordic nappy brand chose a different strategy – namely to focus on emotion: They were the best for children. The small brand quickly became much better at involving consumers in their brand and product, including through a very successful customer club. Consumers helped develop the small brand’s products in different ways. And suddenly, the little brand was the biggest one – in fact, it ended up three times as big.

The logic was simple: When it comes to our children, emotion trumps everything else. Therefore, the emotional position “best for children” beat the rational position “best in test”. And it had an impact all the way down to the product level:

When the international brand launched a nappy with lotion, due to reasons of production technology the Nordic brand was unable to follow suit. But rather than panic over the competitor’s game changer, they simply communicated that lotion was, of course, something that parents should decide on for themselves. In complete alignment with the brand’s creative platform.

Creativity is a competitive advantage

I miss that kind of thinking today, where a loyalty programme is often considered a carte blanche for pumping out offers into the minds of the innocent members.

A steady stream of discounts and points and advantages and offers. Sometimes this is done in an attempt to personalise offers based on my past behaviour or other segmentation criteria, but little emotion has gone into it. It’s just dreadfully boring.

And that is because the entire emotional dimension is missing. The understanding of how to see the individual. The knowledge of how to work with emotional drivers. Sure, it’s important that you can tick off “data driven” and “omnichannel”, etc. – but in 2019, that is the minimum expectation and not what creates brand stickiness.

Why should customers choose you over a competitor? What is your unique position? Once you know that, you can keep working creatively from that basis. And as Bill Bernbach said: “It may well be that creativity is the last unfair advantage we’re legally allowed to take over our competitors”.

A way to move forward

So, how do you bring creativity to the field and put emotions into play? A good place to start might be with yourself. And why is that?

Well, it’s about trying to understand yourself in relation to your customers. One way to do that is by taking the test here. Once you’ve done that, you will know something about the emotional drivers you have. Next, consider what your core customers look like. That way, they will feel seen when you communicate to them. Even in a humble newsletter.

It only takes around 5 minutes to complete the test, but you can keep using the insight: Marketing cannot just be data-driven. It must at least be driven by emotion.

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