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Brand partnerships: unlocking customer loyalty .. Chris Wilson, Ingenuity

Chris Wilson, Head of Brand Partnerships at new business consultancy Ingenuity, examines how the right brand partnerships can help marketers deliver successful loyalty programmes

Loyal customers are few and far between. The fact that consumer spending is currently at its lowest point in three years raises a red flag, especially as attracting a new customer costs five times more than retaining an existing one.

With 70% of consumers on the lookout for better deals, earning and maintaining customer loyalty is at the top of marketers’ list of challenges and priorities.

Consumers are in a position of power and brands need to adapt in order to keep up and remain relevant. Now more than ever, consumers have high expectations with regards to trust and loyalty. This means brands going far beyond reward points. Loyalty schemes in the digital age are being redefined by the likes of Virgin Red and Tesco, setting an example by delivering instantaneous rewards and greater utility and ease.

Many brands build partnerships as part of their marketing strategy. If implemented correctly, they can lead to significant surges in sales and awareness, and what’s more – they can help build a community of loyal consumers. It is fundamental to think outside the box and to deliver experiences and bonuses that give customers an extra reason to return.

Take travel. Brands should choose to partner with alcohol, music, adventure or sunglasses companies, boosting the holiday experience through added exclusive benefits. For example, British Airways and The White company have recently partnered to launch new bedding for first class long haul flights, tackling on board insomnia. The excellent bedding includes a duvet and padded mattress cover, a satin trimmed blanket, larger soft pillows, which will provide extra comfort and enhance flyers experience and rest, giving them an incentive to book with BA again.

More disruptive companies like Airbnb, TripAdvisor and Lyft are succeeding in identifying complimentary categories to partner with, positively affecting the loyalty of their customers.

Experience is vital to customer loyalty and retention, so how can brands give digitally-native consumers, who expect instant-gratification, what they want and keep them returning for more?

Go back to basics

Promotional marketing is the forefather of brand partnerships, however on pack promotions have transformed significantly since conception. To achieve success now, a brand needs an integrated targeting strategy and to continuously ensure that promotions are effectively positioned in accordance with the business’ growth priorities.

Tennent’s summer on pack promotion, in collaboration with, illustrates how you can win customers over through experiences – a competition to win one out of 20 holidays worth £2,000 was rolled out. In the leisure sector, Thorpe Park is a frontrunner, partnering with a variety of likeminded brands. People return to Thorpe Park as they feel part of a valued and advantaged community. This might seem like a lot of leg-work, but many companies outsource this function to specialists to make relevant introductions when there are qualified and justified motives for a partnership.

Data – the key to a brand’s eternal life

Consumer data can expand a brand’s reach and is of vital importance to ROI and analytics – cornerstones of modern marketing. Partnerships bring valuable and applicable assets including access to a larger array of customer data, that could foster loyalty by association.

Let’s get digital

Marketers must always ensure that loyalty programmes are adapted according to target demographics. For example, 55% of women prefer physical cards; 42% that are aged 18-24 favour online apps for offers; and 8% who are over 65 years old would not follow suit.

Getting this right is not an easy task. We’ve witnessed the challenges through our work with, who has a targeted brand partnerships strategy working to surprise and satisfy its present clientele, whilst also attracting a younger audience. Additionally, Virgin Red, shapes its rewards programme via customer spend and how ‘Virgin’ customers are, through app quizzes and games.

Integrated marketing campaigns can also engage with customers through CRM and social media, using multiple channels to convert consumers. This can be useful to brand partners, who can collaboratively solve marketing challenges and therefore enhance loyalty for both parties.

The battle for loyalty

Authentic, relevant and well-thought-out partnerships are the key to increasing brand loyalty. The only way to be on the winning side of the brand loyalty battle is to implement an all-inclusive, coherent strategy that marries data, digital and on pack methods. Increased engagement and offers of new exclusive experiences, ensure that customers keep coming back for more.

Customer loyalty retention is on all time-poor marketers’ agenda, but the prospect of creating and sustaining an effective brand partnership programme can seem daunting. Outsourcing to a wide industry knowledge facilitator, who has contacts and expertise, can lift off the weight and safeguard value-adding brand partnerships.

Chris Wilson, is Head of Brand Partnerships at Ingenuity, a leading new business consultancy founded over 12 years ago.

Acting as an outsourced facilitator, Ingenuity’s Partner Development division match makes brands, allowing them to form strategic alliances that support their overall business priorities.

Using tried and tested sales techniques, combined with an established in-house network of contacts via the Events and Content divisions, the team at Ingenuity looks beyond the obvious partnerships, focusing on finding common agendas – whether this is boosting loyalty, targeting new demographics, driving acquisition or increasing sales – and tackling marketing challenges in a collaborative way.

Brand to consumer relationship