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Unique trade engagement programs need unique execution

Let’s beg to differ

I wonder. Does a Mason (Raj Mistry) really have loyalty towards a cement brand or is it obvious polygamy on his part? The Mason buys the cement for building a house to be made home by someone else. Does this phenomena demand a great level of emotional connect with the home and thus the brand that has been used for making that home? The Mason has a budget allocated and may be within that price range any of the 3 to 4 brands in his choice set will do, given his chosen brand is helping him gain something good at that point of time. A Gold coin, a voucher, travel….and the aspirational list continues.

If Loyalty among such fraternity is a utopia, why are cement brands working so hard to differentiate the engagement programs and build brand salience?

I wonder, companies are doing that because they have to do that. Isn’t it? Peer pressure makes it so risky for a brand not to do engagement programs, when everyone else around you is doing it. Though Marketing Managers are often not sure of what they should expect out of the trade loyalty or engagement programs, their apprehension is common. “If I do not do any, My Brand may slip” – The great fear of void but comfort of going with the tide. I completely agree, being sensitive to the marketing dilemma that exists, but the concern is that mere leverage of the program for schemes and incentives does not justify the effort.

However, who does not want to be unique to beat the clutter? That’s the common brief to any agency from the marketing manager of a cement brand. The billion dollar question is how and is it really differentiated. The sad part of the story is that there is hardly any barrier to imitation for any loyalty program and even if there is, it is so temporary. The good part is that even you can imitate without being a convict of plagiarism. Another bad part of the story is that the Mason (my HERO of this blog) is hardly loyal to your brand, but the good side is that he is neither to any brand. Please smile, this is a permanent opportunity in the market. Masons look for maximising his utility from any program. If on Monday, you are enabling that, he is yours but if on Tuesday you are not, then he is already married to another brand but again divorce may be around the corner on Wednesday. So do not let differentiation bog you down but focus on “best in class” execution of ideas even if they are not your original versions. Loyalty programs allow great followers to do better in business, than mediocre pioneers. Yes deep pockets are great help, but who defined deep?

Kept promises are wonderful levers of gaining mindshare, if not loyalty, atleast positive attitude towards your brand. Masons will appreciate recognitions, meaningful rewards and timely gratification or delivery of the made promise. All these can be done only if your operations are spot on, ensuring convenience and reliability. Ensure you have a system, which does not only help you to deliver your promises but also help you in deciding on what to deliver, when to deliver and to whom to deliver. An engagement platform that aids decision making, help you show empathy and enable you to have a dialogue is the one that will build differentiation but the trick lies in being consistent over time. Consistency is result of robust processes and systems, rest all made simple. Period.

Make sure you make your engagement program a robust marketing tool with the 5 evergreen elements;

• Variations in gratifications. Variety is spice that never loses fizz
• Digital optimisation. Please make your program available in all platforms and at ease. Convenience is key.
• Move beyond transactions only. Sell in collaboration and make the Mason your marketing partner. Ask him, influence him and pamper him.
• Make emotional connect beyond the beneficiary. Mason’s family may be your brand advocate. Engage personally with care.
• Relevance is never irrelevant. Make all program elements relevant and aspirational for the beneficiary.

Last but not least, even if you have ticked all the boxes right, let’s hope GOD is with you. All the best.

Authored by

Atanu Saha

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