How Has Social Media Changed Loyalty Programs For CPG Brands?

In 2006, Coca-Cola launched the My Coke Rewards loyalty program, which was both bold and innovative at the time. Almost 10 years later, CPG brands much smaller than Coke are acknowledging the value of building a customer loyalty program, desiring both the incremental revenue and an increased lifetime value loyalty programs promise to deliver. 

While a loyalty program is not novel, how you leverage it can be. Loyalty is more than just driving repeat purchase or earning points for prizes and rewards, which is what so many of the marketers I meet with think are the only components of a loyalty strategy. Many loyalty strategies are missing the one ingredient that can drive awareness and sales 10 or even 100 fold. This ingredient is advocacy. This is critical. Coke revamped its My Coke Rewards program in 2015 to include an advocacy component, and I’m betting that’s the reason why. 

As many marketers know, Facebook helped break a barrier and removed the fear that a CPG brand would launch a promotion and no one would show. Not only did fans show up, they showed by the millions, giving CPG brands permission to have direct relationships with consumers. 



Fast-forward many years. After building your Facebook audience and enjoying the organic reach, the rug gets pulled out and Facebook’s algorithm changes. The change caused marketers to pause and make a decision on the future of their social networking pages. Social media has raised the stock of a loyalty program and increasingly CPG brands, large and small, like Purell, are considering building them now. 

I recently participated in a large RFP process for a CPG brand looking for a traditional loyalty program. The brand message: “Buy our product, enter the code and collect points that can be redeemed for swag, free product or discounts.” Sounds like a no-brainer, right? As the brand went through the process, we all uncovered some key elements a traditional loyalty program may be missing. 

When considering a loyalty program, be sure to ask these five questions: 

1. Is it an owned community? Do I own the access to the data and the consumers? 

2. Can my brand engage with the members and does it offer an opportunity for a two-way dialogue? 

3. Can I identify my most influential advocates? 

4. Does it include social sharing? Can the members connect with my brand socially and also create advocacy on their social networks of choice? 

5. Can I reward members for non-purchasing activity, like generated word-of-mouth and social sharing?

Integrating advocacy to your loyalty program ups the value of your community. The landscape has changed and so have the rules. Your permission to engage with consumers directly has been taken up a notch, consumers will now do the talking for you. Since they have raised their hand to join, let’s give them permission to speak too, especially when it is on your behalf.

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