This week we were delighted to win at The Loyalty Magazine Awards for our work on Royal Caribbean’s Club Royal trade loyalty programme.  Our category was “Best Loyalty Programme of the Year – Travel” and there were some fantastically credible opposition and worthy candidates shortlisted, so we were delighted just to be nominated.  On the evening we triumphed which is incredible testament to the hard work and effort both client and agency side into the ideation, creation and ongoing execution of the programme.

It has however got me thinking as to what it is that makes a loyalty programme stand apart from the me-too offers out there and here’s my synopsis of the Top Seven factors:

  1. Give something back. Customers have plenty of choice as to where they spend their pounds, euros and dollars. Many things from product quality, breadth of range, competitive pricing, premium brand positioning are taken for granted when buyers make their selection.  A loyalty programme should be as much about recognising that customers have a broad choice and delivering that something special in gratitude, acknowledgement and appreciation as it is about getting the rest of the product mix right.


  1. Feel part of something special. We all want to feel a little bit special in life, to get the access to the inner sanctum where mere mortals do not dwell. Part of the success of Royal Caribbean’s Club Royal is that competitors do not go as far out of their way to elevate the status of their most important partners, the trade channel.  It is not just about a reward programme; it’s about making people feel part of a very special environment or community. A club that offers a broad range of benefits, that while it does include rewards, it also looks after members, taking top performers to money can’t buy or VVIP experiences, such as the Brits, inaugural ship sailings, trips to Paris, days at the races, club birthday parties, beer festivals and more. And while not everyone can access some of those exclusive experiences everyone has had the opportunity to access discounted high street deals, experience days or turn up at work to receive a surprise gift package especially from Club Royal. These initiatives are all about making members feel special and elevated as part of this exclusive community, that in turn drives meaningful partner relationships.


  1. Mix it up. The best loyalty programmes take nothing for granted and regularly shake things up a bit. This creates renewed interest in the programme and a great opportunity to reach out and create further dialogue with the programme population. Royal Caribbean recently launched the world’s largest cruise ship, Harmony of the Seas™, and as part of Club Royal we created Harmony Queue, where participants were rewarded against specific criteria including bookings and social sharing branded content to move up a queue and join the ship’s inaugural sailing.  The results from direct sales to social reach were phenomenal, reinforcing the passion and energy that members had for Royal Caribbean and Club Royal.


  1. It’s a long game.  Loyalty isn’t generated overnight. It’s about building mutually beneficial relationships and realistically that takes time. Even from an engaged audience, we are all pre-programmed to be a little cynical about marketing programmes by nature, however over time we can build a relationship and in turn that elicits brand preference over and above short term competitor tactical price campaigns.  Club Royal is soon to turn two, however even after building that relationship, we take nothing for granted and continue to innovate and invest in new initiatives that will continue to build on those established relationships and build new ones!


  1. Loyalty, like much of marketing, is about psychology. At Corporate Innovations we have invested over the years in better understanding of our customers and our customers’ customers.  Through better insight, we generate understanding on which we can build informed decisions as to what loyalty programme participants want and respond accordingly.  People want to repeat positive experiences, so securing insight into what good would look like for that audience is essential.


  1. It’s got to be personal. We are all different; we have different ages, demographics, religions and cultural backgrounds. So, how do we personalise a programme to such a diverse programme audience? In Club Royal we came up with the idea of offering member's rewards via a Club Royal branded prepaid MasterCard® reward card. With more than 30 million online and offline merchants through which members could spend their reward funds, they had unrivalled choice in how they spent their rewards that could be personally aligned with their internal drivers and value sets. Through providing choice, we can make the reward personal to each and every individual and additionally provide a run rate of redemptions that in itself is a visible evidence of the success of the programme.


  1. Finally, it’s got to achieve your business objectives!  A loyalty programme is a long term investment in protecting your brand and your customers from circling competitors. Like any other marketing initiative, it’s clearly got to have a return on its investment. There can be a range of different measures of success from improving knowledge of your products, driving short term behaviours against specific combat marketing activities, however the bottom line is that it is invaluable in reinforcing and retaining profitable customer relationships, drives volume, market share and run rate, all the while ensuring your customers do not requite seductive overtures of competitors! A loyalty programme isn’t a short term tactical play, but long term investment, however it should still be able to show demonstrable return on investment and achieve your business’ objectives.


Congratulations to all the runners and riders nominated and winning at The Loyalty Magazine awards, especially Royal Caribbean for Club Royal.  If you would like to know more about Club Royal or how Corporate Innovations can apply their know how to your loyalty or channel rewards programme, please get in touch.