Loyalty Programs vs Tech Ecosystems

I’ve had many discussions with students lately about how essential it is for a viable Ecosystem player to include all ‘related’ or ‘adjacent’ categories. Amazon, fb, Google and Apple all play in several of these: file storage & sharing, photo storage & sharing, social media sharing, home security & home device monitoring, interactive voice recognition queries & trivia, home audio speakers, mobile shopping, personal banking, mobile payments,…

I’ve also had discussions with them about Macro (multi-channel) loyalty programs– Aeroplan, AirMiles, PC Optimum. Loyalty players, in contrast to Ecosytem players, need not be present in every category, but typically must tether to 2 anchors:

  • a partner providing the ‘dreamer’ in you an ‘aspirational’ indulgent incentive (a vacation); and
  • a low value frequent-use anchor that helps ‘rational you’ keep that loyalty tag/card on hand day to day.

Case in Point: Aeroplan lost both its Dreamer anchor- Air Canada- and its Rational anchor- Esso- but quickly regrouped, securing an Amazon partnership to fill a role on both ends.

But maybe this doesn’t describe the full list of success criteria for Ecosystem players or Loyalty programs.

What made this more evident lately? Evidence of their need to AVOID something- Leaks. And evidence they need to SHOW something- Respect.

iCloud leaks, fb leaks, Equifax leaks, etc make some consumers leery of ever joining a loyalty program. And undoubtedly cause others, to drop out.

Loblaws’ ‘transitioning’ of their trusting SDM Optimum & PC Plus loyalty members to a newly consolidated and – ahem- more efficient(!) loyalty program has been awkward for customers they should have respected & valued.  A few years ago, AirMiles not only accelerated point expiry; they also imposed a needlessly complex, restrictive new 2-tier- award redemption structure. The 407 famously de-certifies members who spend $3,000/year on their service, via a rude letter (“You no longer qualify….”).  I received one such letter; it provided some laughs with its inept wording (a new ‘Hall Of  Shame’ candidate, according to nearby CRM experts).

Loblaws, AirMiles and the 407 violate a basic principle of Loyalty programs: treat longstanding customers with some respect.

If you soon encounter press releases or Investor explanations about how tough the Loyalty industry has it, or how consumers are being more difficult, etc, feel free to join me in a laugh or two at their deserved expense.

Of course I could be wrong.

I’d welcome any comments!



Marketers: Make some noise! Problems are Opportunities

Sorry to be insensitive but Problems DO signal opportunities for marketing professionals. Undoubtedly you have already ‘heard’ of some obvious solutions to Noise Pollution –> increased opportunities for hearing aid chains.

But think a step further away, Marketers! There’s also growth in

  • noise-cancelling headphones;
  • improved  sound insulation for the New Construction/ Home Renovation industry;
  • New Product Claims such as quieter vacuums, dishwashers,…
  • New Services such as ‘Quiet Rooms’ where creative people can write their next great novel, screenplay or manuscript.


FMCG ‘old biz’ categories are- surprise! -increasingly shopped online

Omnichannel shopping. If you’re in FMCG marketing and believe that “online is a ‘future’ factor”, you’re already wayyyyyy behind, according to Nielsen.


Years of work enroute to ‘Overnight success’

This is good! http://business.financialpost.com/news/retail-marketing/luvabella-is-this-the-hottest-toy-of-2018

A fine article & video illustrate how Spinmaster Toys puts itself in a position to be ‘lucky’.

Years of work, and many iterations, to create the next ‘overnight sensation’. (Hmmm – that sure is poetic, or perhaps just pathetic).

This also gives tons of practical insight into the New Product Development process, eg the  iterations of development, costing & cost-optimizing at stage 1,and stage 2 and stage 3 etc; their inspired choices for R&D input for a doll (Mimes! Puppeteers!); and even their thoughts on estimating market size & growth (MRK200 students should def observe 6:00 to 6:33).

Enjoy, baby!  



Amazon finds Key To Rebecca…and Rita & Jake & Jamal &…

According to updates from RetailWire, Amazon ‘Key’ delivery service aims to offer:

  • more convenience than some other models eg BufferBox, or pickup/drivethru at Loblaws- and
  • more security  protocols than some other cheap & available home delivery models- a certain Mass Merch behemoth delivering via cheapest, no secuirty cleared driver- and
  • more gegraphic reach than the market-specific icons eg Longos.

Should be interesting to check in on its acceptance and return customer rate.

Amazon to begin making in-home deliveries in 37 cities

grocery channel- shopper trends

Worth reading: a fine article by Canadian Grocer on shopper trends:



Practical Progress: converting Eco Intent vs Action

If you view my upcoming videos or have had me as Instructor in Applied Marketing Research, you will know I warn ppl against putting too much faith in respondent survey data on topics that I refer to as Survey Sirens. One of those is ‘eco-intent’.

First- TRIVIA TEST! In what year did  a nationwide USA CPG brand first launch a national eco-responsible line extension? Was it2005? 1999? 1995?

Would you believe… 1990? John Cook, Mitch Gumma, John DePaolis, Marie Blomquist, Mike Ziemke- and  I- were on Kimberly-Clark’s brand team, with tons of logistics help to coordinate 5 manufacturing facilities to source, qualify, test, contract, QA verify and –  eventually – launch Hi-DriTM Recycled Paper Towels. It was an awesome adventure, and an awesome succcess. Consumers actually paid slightly MORE PER ROLL to do the right thing.

Until 1996.

Oh yes, the recession. When it hit, the same consumers would still claim to want to do the right thing- but they looked after the household first- and pennies were pennies! Hi-Dri Recycled retreated as mightily as it began.

The Moral: Don’t always believe Consumer Intent scores about eco-solutions. Intending is not the same as Acting. Intent does not always lead to Acting. Survey respondents may answer optimistically; it validates a more pleasing self-image. And the time gaps & psychological gaps between filling out an at-home survey, and when they see the options in store at shelf – can be vast! Lots of time for cognitive dissonance- ie to escape your own self-commitment!

So it’s delightful to see savvy USA Retailers tighten that time gap & psychologcal leeway. Ahold’s Giant and Stop & Shop banners have installed powerful ‘eco-ranking’ Point-Of-Sale signage- No, sorry, even better, not ‘point of sale’, but ‘place of decision’- ie at the store shelf! Putting those eco-flags in your face, leaves you less room to wiggle out of your own commitment.


Ahold- you have earned my endless respect- and let me time travel a bit back to 1990 Wisconsin, to boot! Thanks!


Online Vs Store Shopping by Generation: Assume Less!

Cool article reveals some shifts in Boomers through their offspring Generation Y. While Boomers are shopping online more, Gen Y members are increasingly shopping multiple physical stores in parts of the USA.

It’s wise not to assume too much about shoppers by age: eg avoid the trap of “old people will do/want this, and younger ppl will do/want this”; there are far better predictors of most shopper behaviours, than age.




The Strategy Behind Acquisitions

Acquisitions – why do they happen?  As an Industry guy involved in many takeovers (taking over, and taken over), I’ve seen many strategic reasons for an acquisition. Usually, there’s more than 1 reason in play. I’ve created a crude table (below) listing 17  key reasons.

This is another of those blog posts where I’d love it if industry colleagues would chip in some insights. Students eagerly await your wisdom!

Not shown here: a column describing ‘What Research Can Do’ in each scenario, so Acquisition decisions are made (and initial post-acquisition business moves are made) with greater wisdom. To see THAT column, you must be enrolled as a student at Seneca college – or be an industry partner to the college.

Membership – and paying it forward- has its privileges!


why acquire a company?


How many #trends can you spot?

A fine CSA article calls your attention to several trend-worthy #retail concepts.


Feel free to make your own notes on which particular ‘macro’ trends are driving or supporting each of these retail concepts eg CSR (charitable or community involvement), transparency, authentication, customized, artisan or locally crafted, VIP treatment, etc.

If that challenge seems like too much work (or if you’re on a NoThinkingRequired sabbatical), then maybe this article will be less taxing; just two of the above listed trends are driving this new Roots foray: