I have spent thirteen years in the loyalty marketing industry and have seen some amazingly complex algorithms for targeting consumers based on all kinds of criteria. There are lost shoppers, top shoppers, brand switchers, brand loyals, and various other categories of consumers that brand managers try to reach out and communicate to. Social media is changing the way that brand managers need to think. Check out this interesting presentation I stumbled upon on Slideshare today.
What is interesting is that consumers are in total control of when and how they receive advertisements and incentives. We have Tivo to fast forward past commercials, popup blockers to block adds, and we have the power to choose not to go to web sites covered with advertising. So now, brand managers must listen to their consumers and coexist within their networks. This is changing how we view loyalty. Brand managers need to reach out to social networks that have a large following of loyal community members. If they can get a well known person within a social network interested in their brand, many others will follow. When people like popular blogger Robert Scoble talk about a product or service it takes on a viral effect. When Scoble and the folks at Techcrunch started slamming Twitter and talking up Friendfeed when Twitter was crashing several times a day, huge numbers of loyal community members followed. Some of these popular bloggers have as much of an impact as a product review in the New York Times.
So what does this mean for brand managers? Well it means they need to pay attention to a new kind of loyalty marketing. I call it social loyalty. No longer do the brand managers have a captive audience where they can spoon feed us whatever message they want. Now they have to cater to consumers, especially the popular leaders within social networks. The game is changing and the companies that are not paying attention are going get left behind.