In his powerful book Contagious: Why Things Catch On, Jonah Berger debunks the common misconception that virality happens by chance.

Unlike most, Jonah believes virality is a science that can be reproduced by ensuring that your idea/product/service covers a few essential bases.

In Contagious, he exposes the various elements that make things go viral and breaks them down into six foundational principles.

This article explores his six principles of “catchy” marketing in the context of loyalty and loyalty programs. Whether you’re interested in loyalty marketing, in the process of planning a loyalty initiative or running a loyalty program, these insights will prove invaluable.


1. Social Currency

What makes people buy overpriced clothing brands? Why are certain restaurants or clubs always full while others are always empty? Why are there popular kids at school that everyone else wants to be friends with?

People want to look good, and so will often align themselves with things and people that are considered by most to be better in one way or another.

In the context of loyalty, this means you need to make your program something people actually brag about being a part of. This can be done in any number of ways, including:

  • Exclusivity – Have certain offers, products, services that are only available to your loyalty members. This worked incredibly well with The Cabela’s Club and is easily adaptable to any market.
  • Design – Almost everybody appreciates great design. And your card is the perfect opportunity to impress your customers. Giving your customers a card that looks and feels unusual and interesting may encourage them to show it to their friends. Perhaps it’s an unusual texture or shape, perhaps it’s just a great picture. Get creative. And if you can’t, set up a project on where designers can bid for the work online.
  • Gamification – You can make your loyalty marketing dynamic and engaging with things like game mechanics, where people earn points for doing specific things, like following you on social media or sharing your content.

2. Triggers

Triggers work by associating your idea/product/service with something that happens regularly (weekly, monthly, yearly). For example, on Facebook, people often post old photographs on “Throwback Thursday.”

Common loyalty program benefits may be Monday Madness where all drinks are free for a restaurant’s loyalty members. Or 2-for-1 Tuesdays on select products at retail stores.

3. Emotion

Emotional connections with your brand strengthen loyalty. When you use emotions to connect with customers, they’re more likely to have strong positive feelings toward your brand. One way businesses do this with loyalty marketing is by promoting social responsibility.

For example, customers could have the option of donating the cash equivalent of their loyalty points to a charity. These campaigns can be particularly effective when promoted over social media, because people enjoy sharing when they do something they find socially positive.

Here’s a little more info on how you can setup and manager a charity campaign from using your favourite loyalty software.


People love to feel like they’re doing good

4. Public Visibility

You want your brand to be visible, unique, and recognisable. And to do that, you need to be out there where people can see you.

Getting people to find out about your loyalty program is easy, the main strategies you can implement as a loyalty marketer include:

  • Referrals – Create a viral loop where loyalty members get great benefits for getting their friends to join your program. This way people are incentivized to spread word about your program.
  • Gift cards – Give your customers the ability to buy new customers for you with a gift card. With today’s top loyalty software, this is as easy as setting up a rule on a dashboard online. You can find out more about this strategy here.
  • Social media – This can be powerful fuel for any loyalty program. You can build Facebook apps that are linked to your loyalty program, as well as spread word about the benefits of your program over social media.

5. Practicality

This is really all about real value. Whether we’re talking about a loyalty program or your core service, the more value you add, the more people will use it.

There’s definitely a sweet spot when it comes to cashback loyalty percentage and it sits somewhere between 5% and 10%.

The most important idea on the subject of practicality is that your customers need to understand your program, and your staff need to be able to communicate its benefits in a matter of seconds.

For the above reasons many loyalty marketers love the buy 9 get the 10th free model. It’s simple, easy to explain and understand.

6. Stories

We all love stories. And we can all connect to real stories. That’s why it’s so important to make your loyalty program a story worth telling.

This can relate to provide exceptional benefit/experiences to your loyalty exclusively, or it can be about making your loyalty members part of your brand, by going above and beyond to connect with them.

With modern loyalty software it’s quick and easy to send your loyalty members an SMS or email with a coupon code and a kind message about how much you appreciate their patronage.

Most people would tell their friends about this sort of thing and this makes your brand and program a story worth telling.


People always talk about exceptional service


Successful loyalty marketing is about more than finding the right price for a promotion or enrolling the most people in your loyalty program. To really make your loyalty program catch on, you need to address several practical and emotional touch-points for your customers.

When people’s sense of practicality and their emotions are engaged, they identify more strongly with your brand, and that’s superfood for your loyalty marketing program and your business overall.

For more info on how to plan and implement a loyalty program that works, visit this post now!


This article originally appeared on The Loyalty Box Blog and has been republished with permission.