What I’m thinking about today:
1. Brand loyalty programs
2. Social commerce
3. LeBron, for three…

1. Do brand loyalty programs matter? Based on the result of Bond Brand Loyalty’s fourth annual survey on brand loyalty programs, the answer is yes. But as this article shows, the expectations of those programs could pose some challenges for brands moving forward.

Consider millennials (defined in this study as 20-to-34-year-olds) alter their purchase behavior based on loyalty offerings. According to the study, 68% change when and where they make purchases to get loyalty rewards. And 60% will switch brands if incentivized.

But does that mean millennials are loyal to a brand? Or to the brand loyalty program? In my opinion loyalty programs – and consumers’ exploitation of them – is only decreasing brand loyalty as we, as consumers, have become fickle. Don’t believe me? Look at your keychain—how many little ‘tags’ do you have hanging off them?

On average people are enrolled in 10 loyalty programs…but are only active in 70% of them. Why is that? It could be because consumers are enrolling in a loyalty program when they make a big purchase (to save money; it pays for itself) or are just jumping from one loyalty program to another to get the deal/savings of the moment.

And as we jump from one program to another our tolerance for divulging personal information has waned. Last year 29% of consumers didn’t understand why brands needed so much personal information. This year that number increased to 32%.

Despite that, those brands who have the trust and loyalty of the consumer are rewarded in their own way – with almost full access to personal data. 49% of loyalty members who believe the program is trustworthy are willing to share information – which is over three times the average.

So what does are some of the best brand loyalty program out there and are the drivers of those programs? Here’s a list from the Bond Brand Loyalty Survey

Consumer packaged goods
Dove (total earning potential)

Dining/quick-service restaurants
Papa John’s PapaRewards (members were proud to be part of the program)

AMCStubs (total earning potential)

Payment Cards
Chase Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier (quality of rewards)

Kohl’s Rewards (total earning potential)

Giant Eagle Fuelperks (ability to reach desired awards in timely manner)

RiteAid Wellness (total earning potential)

Adidas (total earning potential)

Verizon (members were proud to be part of the program)

Air Travel
Jet Blue TrueBlue (quality or rewards)

Marriott Rewards (program is trustworthy)

Source: Advertising Age

2. Happy National Running Day. Ok, so it was yesterday. But I hope you enjoyed it and got your running in. I’m in a Walking Contest here at AKHIA so I have to walk. More steps that way.

One tie-in to National Running Day that I loved was another great use of social commerce. The Westin traditionally provides complimentary running gear to its guests (through a partnership with New Balance) who forgot theirs. What they decided to do, instead of giving it away, was to have it tweeted away by installing social vending machines in their lobbies.

Guests could tweet ‘I want to run with @Westin’ at the hotel and New Balance to receive free running gear – ranging from clothes to shoes – to celebrate…yep, you guessed it, National Running Day.

And while this article talks more about the trend of hotels helping out guests who are trying to stay healthy on the road (a good trend, no doubt) I’m more interested in the fact we are seeing more and more examples of social commerce. Given the previous story was about brand loyalty programs I think social commerce can redefine currency and rewards. Who needs money when brands are making their own form of ‘payment.’ Commerce isn’t money changing hands – it’s the buying and selling of commodities. Who says it has to be money? We are going to continue seeing a lot more of this. And I’m going to continue sharing them with you.

3. LeBron, the third. Tonight LeBron and the Miami Heat are starting their bid to be only the fourth franchise in NBA history to Threepeat. And four years removed from the decision I still feel the same way about the Heat. I hate them. They annoy the crap out of me. It drives me crazy that a franchise that has only been around since 1988 could have four titles already while my city and sports teams would give anything (I’m pretty sure ANYthing) to have just one title in any sport.

And while the sight of D-Wade, Chalmers, Bosh, Coach Spo, Pat Riley and all those assistant coaches whose names I don’t know but have watched in the huddle for the last four years almost make me physically ill, I have changed how I feel about LeBron James.

No, not because I want or expect him to come back. (I would welcome him back, by the way.) But because if you are a sports fan you have no choice but to admire, appreciate, respect and love literally everything about him. He has dealt with more than any one player in his position (best player of his generation) during one of the most challenging times to do so from a public perception and media standpoint (Thank you, social media). And he may be the greatest player to ever pick up a basketball.

When you consider the Heat have played five seasons in the past four (their playoff games in the ‘Big Three’ era through tonight total 82 games) you have to admire what LeBron has been able to do with this team even more.

When he was considering his options back in 2010 someone asked me “Would you rather LeBron win one and then leave or would you rather he stay here for his career and never win one?” My answer – win one and leave. Because that should be the mentality of everyone in Cleveland and anyone who is a fan – get the ring. LeBron was apparently thinking the same way. He will win his third title in four years. Which again, makes me sick considering we had him in Cleveland for seven and did nothing with the once-in-a-lifetime sports opportunity we were all given.

The Heat are going to win this series and pull off the Threepeat. For the same reason they would’ve lost it four years ago – LeBron. LeBron isn’t going to let them lose.

Tonight I’ll be rooting for the Spurs but cheering for LeBron.