Brands use social media to exhibit their wares. Using a customer loyalty program to heighten engagement and source opportunities in the market, it is an understatement to say it has opened up a new frontier in terms of how businesses operate.

However, with all of this new marketing power up for grabs, there comes great responsibility. It is not just the responsibility ex-Facebook exec Sean Parker recently discussed in terms of psychological effect. It’s the greater accountability brands have in the public sphere.

Brands don’t simply need to be seen as being good for the customer. Their power as a brand grants them the opportunity to make change and customer loyalty is forged by ensuring this power is wielded in the most positive way.

Social&Loyal looks at how brands can use this opportunity to benefit not only themselves, but the entire game.


Believe in the Cause

Millennials have a buying power which is unprecedented. According to a recent study, within the year they will have more buying power than any generation in history. This is partly due to sheer scale as they are 3 times the size of Gen X, their preceding generation.

However you feel about it, this means you need to help harness this buying power towards your brand if you want to be successful. This in turn means understanding how millennials spend.

Millennials are 2x more likely to invest in companies which can prove their credentials in terms of targeting social and/or environmental goals. Not only that, but millennials truly believe their spending power has the ability to affect positive change. And with their level of fiscal influence, this doesn’t seem to be a hollow boast.

With the ability to hold brands accountable and keep track of their operations like never before, customers need transparency. If you want to use social cause to further your business, you need to believe in it. Otherwise, customers will smell a rat and take their business who can put their money where their mouth/newsfeed is.


Why it Works

How using a social cause to build a loyalty program works is relatively simple. You use your customer loyalty strategy to provide rewards which not only benefit the individual customer, but can contribute to different causes which helps redress the discrepancy between the privileged and underprivileged.

Why it works is in some way yet to be determined. Is this drive for more accountability and transparency an honest shift towards increased altruism in a commercial setting? Is it simply another market created where perceived altruism is the currency? To be honest, does it really matter? If doing good is how to be profitable, then the outcome is surely the same.

What we can say is that just as customers are ready to sing your praises when you do well, they are also happy to shame when a misstep is made. This means your altruism as a brand can’t be falsified. You need to create a loyalty program with a positive social bent which has to stand up under scrutiny. The best way to make this happen is not to connive your way to being positive. It is by actually doing everything in your power as a brand to make things better.


Include the Cause

Once you have your motivation in check, the next best way to make a successful socially minded loyalty program is to include the cause you wish to benefit. If you simply choose a social concern in a throwaway manner, your customers will see right through you (and not in a good way).

This doesn’t mean you can’t use trending causes to gain some steam with your loyalty campaign. It does mean you can’t cynically jump on a bandwagon to profit from misery. For example, after Trump’s inauguration in 2017, many charities already set up to help issues with which women are concerned daily had increased donations. If you as a brand try to piggy back off this by coloring one of your products pink as a shallow nod to inclusion, you will be found out pretty quickly.

Speaking to these charitable organizations and finding out what are their needs in order to address them, is paramount. Customer loyalty, particularly for millennials, is all about engagement. You can’t engage with people on a social cause if you exclude the people this cause affects.

Not only is this the right thing to do, it is also mutually beneficial. Engaging with the cause helps promote the cause among your demographic and your demographic responds by appreciating your effort and increasing their loyalty in an immersive manner.


You Don’t Have to Alienate Anyone

Choosing your cause may not be the easiest task. If you are a successful brand you will have customers across the wide social and political spectrum. While millennials see that socially responsible investment is important, their individual decision on where this responsibility lies is diverse.

This is why you need to utilize your customer loyalty program to the utmost. Use your loyalty software to better understand your demographics through their purchase history as well as surveys, feedback and social media interaction. A successful loyalty program will be able to tell you how customers personally invest and what social concerns are important to them.

Then you can transfer this demographic information to the individual customer profile. You can’t simply target these individuals with different causes as this will be disingenuous. If you are seen to be pandering by giving people the option to choose social issues at different ends of the spectrum, you will be rumbled.

What you can do, however, is use your loyalty program to choose a shortlist of possible causes. Customers can then choose to donate their reward to that which best suits their priorities and views.


What are These Benefits?

The rewards given to the individual cause is up to you, but requires some inventiveness. If you give something which is not actually going to affect change, then you have wasted everyone’s time. For example, it is unlikely air miles will benefit a person affected by homelessness in any real way.

However, you can use the positives of your brand to link to the cause. If you work in the food and beverage industry, then you are more likely to have the resources to affect someone in this situation. You can even simply devote your time by using volunteer reward schemes.

Using social mobility as a means to exploit the market for personal gain is both cynical and unethical. Incorporating a social cause into your loyalty reward program means believing in the cause and using your power as a brand for good. Understanding the difference is the key to a successful social centric loyalty program.

Kelly Rogan
CMO Social&Loyal
Kelly is our VP of Business Development and a loyalty and customer retention expert having worked with large brands all over the globe to grow true brand loyalty. She’s written for media outlets such as Forbes, Inc and Startup Grind on topics related to digital marketing and brand loyalty. She is passionate about combining behavioural psychology and technology to boost results.

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