The holidays are a time to give back and reflect on what went right (um, and wrong) this year. During this convivial time, we’d like to take a minute to appreciate the ways in which companies gave back to customers via brand advocacy and customer loyalty this year.
The reward of doing so isn’t just the warm feeling you get from making people happy. Loyalty platforms, contests, sharing programs, and referrals also create authenticity and goodwill. You gain awareness from being so generous, and you instill stronger loyalty in your current customers.
Here are our top 12 picks for generosity and inventiveness…
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One of the most fun contests of 2015 (though it’s been ongoing for a few years) is Lay’s “Do Us a Flavor” promotion. The chip (or crisp!) company has customers submit ideas for flavors, and the winner is selected by popular vote. While it just sounds fun to make up a new flavor, the contest comes with a massive prize: $1 million or 1% of the sales profits from the first year, whichever is larger. This year, the winning flavor was “Southern Biscuits and Gravy,” which beat out “Kettle Cooked Greektown Gyro,” “New York Reuben,” and “Wavy West Coast Truffle Fries.” And don’t feel too bad for these 3 runners-up: the creator of each still got $50,000.
Nordstrom has been promoting its brand advocacy and social commerce programs with a
review submission contest. All users need to do is write a review, and they’re entered to win a $1,000 shopping spree at the upscale department store. Not bad!
Ellen Degeneres and her show, Ellen, are known for doing some fun giveaways. This year, one of their “12 Days of Giveaways” prizes is something basically everyone could use: a free five-year subscription to Netflix. The winner can then watch every holiday movie in existence, from Elf to The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Bed, Bath, & Beyond has a decadent ongoing contest for soon-to-be newlyweds. Couples who’ve registered with the retailer can enter to win a honeymoon in the Bahamas, with all the perks included. Moreover, it’s not just one couple that wins big–20 couples will enjoy trips courtesy of Bed, Bath, & Beyond by next spring.
Airbnb had an incredible Halloween-themed contest this year. The short-term rental company gave one winner (and a friend) the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to stay in the Paris catacombs overnight. Entrants had to submit essays explaining why they were tough enough to stay in the boneyard overnight, and Airbnb picked the winner. The company reportedly paid the city of Paris $331,000 for the night.
May 2015 saw the first major success of a new breed of loyalty program: coalition loyalty. Plenti, a platform not tied to any one single business or credit card company. Brands ranging from American Express to Macy’s to Rite-Aid to Hulu have joined in. Forrester notes that in the first two months, Plenti received sign-ups from more than 20 million members, who represent about 16% of US households.
Not too far behind Plenti, Starbucks revamped its rewards program in July of this year. We’ve discussed it at length, but it still deserves to be included in this “best of” list because of its novelty and value. Starbucks rewards members now get points for every Lyft they take, have access to certain New York Times articles within the Starbucks app, and can easily give Starbucks gift cards to Lyft drivers. Lyft drivers also automatically get gold-level status in Starbucks’ program.
Olympus Camera’s loyalty program launched this year, and it’s been a massive success. Their platform doesn’t just give customers points for making purchases, but instead regularly rewards them for advocating for their brand. Shoppers are community members, who get points for submitting photos to Olympus’s visual commerce gallery, referring friends, writing reviews, and even just for celebrating their birthday. In the past year, Olympus’s American program has garnered over half a million members,
Walgreens’ Balance Rewards have been a huge success this year, partially due to the program’s generosity. The real differentiator is that the drug store chain rewards customers for doing healthy things, like quitting smoking or tracking your steps and physical activity. It creates a more holistic customer experience and promotes the brand’s image as one of health and trust.
Sharing & Referrals
Google for Work’s referral program is notable simply because of the way it delivers rewards. Instead of giving a customer who makes referrals store credit or a percentage off their next purchase, as most companies do, Google directly deposits $15 in the customer’s bank account for every successful referral. Cha-ching.
On the other hand, Too Faced Beauty’s share and save feature is exciting because of the discount offered. Instead of the normal 5, 10 or 15% off that most sharing programs give advocates, Too Faced gives a generous 20% off their fun, upscale makeup to both the advocate and their friend.
Vivo Barefoot, a high-tech European athletic shoe brand, offers a similarly generous referral deal. For every successful referral, the new customer gets $15 off their purchase, but the referrer gets a whopping $35 gift card.
How are you planning on rewarding your customers next year?