Quickly Pivoting Your Loyalty Programs and Promotions in a Pandemic | Marketing Maestros | Blogs | ANA

Quickly Pivoting Your Loyalty Programs and Promotions in a Pandemic

April 15, 2020

By Chris Wayman

Visual Generation/Shutterstock.com

Consumers’ preferences, attitudes, and behaviors are heavily influenced by social, economic, and political factors. Marketers must often deal with sudden shifts in these areas; however, the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly affected almost every aspect of our lives in unprecedented ways. While we hope this is short-lived, it’s critical that brands are sensitive to the rapidly changing environment, particularly with respect to their consumer engagement and loyalty initiatives. Consumers already have high expectations from brands and their interactions with them. Now, more than ever, it’s imperative to assess your current marketing initiatives and quickly pivot in the appropriate ways to ensure that consumers are supported, acknowledged, and rewarded in tangible ways that matter to them right now.

As disruptive as these changes are currently, things will eventually return to normal. It’s vital to ensure your promotions and loyalty initiatives are relevant, engaging, and successful during this fluid, stressful time — whether you’re looking to modify a current initiative or preparing to launch something new.


Ensure Your Rewards Strategy Fits Today’s Climate — and Tomorrow’s

Right now, consumers’ priorities are focused on keeping themselves and their loved ones safe and connected at home. Rewards and prizes that center around fulfilling basic needs, providing at-home entertainment and indulgence, and staying healthy are highly valued. Also consider that people are looking for ways to help those who have been affected financially, as well as those they rely on, like health care workers, grocery store clerks, and delivery people.

Relevant reward ideas can span essential needs such as food and grocery delivery services, gas cards, cash, and bill pay assistance, but can also serve entertainment needs like video streaming and music services, console or computer games and systems, board games, and art supplies.

It’s also important to consider consumers’ fitness, health, and connectivity needs, as they are now likely to be home more than ever. This can include anything from fitness streaming subscriptions, custom vitamins, and online counseling to standing desks, monitors, and smart video devices. Fitness studios such as Orangetheory and Planet Fitness are live-streaming free workout classes for those both with and without memberships.

The last thing to consider is that charity and social good will also be top of mind for many consumers. Think about reaching them through matching donations to charities or repurposing brand resources to provide any in-demand supplies or products.


Provide Helpful or Fun Content and Experiences for Consumers at Home

Right now, on top of being kept from their normal routines and activities, consumers are stressed and worried. Instead of keeping marketing initiatives status quo, or worse yet, pulling all marketing entirely, brands should consider how they can offer unique content or experiences that consumers will appreciate. Doing this will not only keep your brand top of mind, but forge connections that drive long-term advocacy that will be invaluable once things return to normal. Look across your existing brand partnerships to help amplify these initiatives.

Think about content from both the helpful and fun perspectives. What might be helpful to consumers as they react and adjust to changing restrictions and mandates? Perhaps instructions to stock a pantry and freezer, meal prep ideas that focus on shelf-stable must-haves, or virtual work and school tips. As for fun, consider content and experiences like “spring break at home” ideas, entertainment tips like FaceTime Game Night, custom Zoom backgrounds, or at-home makeover tips. Netflix is one brand who has already stepped up to the plate with their new Netflix Party feature, which allows multiple Netflix users to sync and watch movies on the platform together.

It’s also important to offer consumers a way to have connected experiences while at home. To help overcome isolation and loneliness, brands can consider offering events like sponsored virtual hangouts and reward engagement with discounts for online purchases, or invite influencers to livestream exclusive performances and ask for viewer donations to raise money for charity or medical supply assistance in exchange. Chipotle has even begun hosting virtual lunch parties via Zoom, with celebrities and giveaways, adding in that loyalty reward element.


Changing Chance-to-Win promotions? Make Sure it’s Legal

Decisions to modify or cancel a live marketing program that includes a game of chance carry legal and business risks that must be weighed as these decisions are being made. You’ll want to ensure that all necessary parties are aware of potential risks, including your marketing and legal teams.

It’s important to consider certain factors regarding a promotion’s specified start and end dates. Chance-to-win programs must comply with applicable law, may have been registered with New York and Florida, and are generally subject to requirements to award all prizes as stated in the promotion terms. Advertising may also be in market, so you must be confident that your marketing communications and direction regarding existing programs effectively describes changes to consumers.

Additionally, if consumers have already registered, played, or otherwise engaged with the program and it’s now being cancelled, they may complain to your customer service, criticize on social media, contact a consumer affairs agency, or even pursue legal claims.

Other considerations include prize and reward choices, supply chain concerns, whether a promotion is tied to a particular event that is cancelled, and whether the specified method for consumers to participate is still possible, such as in-store engagements.

People will be seeking trusted brands that are engaged in above-board marketing programs during this crisis. The FTC is already acting to alert consumers to avoid Coronavirus scams as bad actors are at work with spam misinformation and offering fake treatments. The consuming public will be encouraged to engage with trusted brands they know that offer high quality and legal marketing engagements.

As the pandemic eases and consumers begin to re-orient themselves and their lives, marketers will need to consider how things have changed. In a time of such uncertainty, we can count on this: consumer expectations, preferences, and needs will continue to shift. Brands that remain focused on building emotional connections will remain relevant, and those that don’t risk being left behind.

Chris Wayman is EVP and GM of promotion and loyalty solutions at Merkle.

The views and opinions expressed in Marketing Maestros are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

comments (1)

Leslie Pennington

April 22, 2020 2:12pm ET

Great ideas!

You must be logged in to submit a comment.