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Marvel has unveiled a new superhero — one with superpowers that are anything but traditional. At San Diego Comic-Con, the movie, video game, and comic book franchise launched into the realm of multichannel loyalty marketing with the introduction of Marvel Insider. This move signifies a rise in the adoption of loyalty programs across multimedia, entertainment, and gaming industries.

Multichannel isn’t unfamiliar territory to retailers like Ulta, TOMS, and Zumiez, some of which have been tracking and rewarding member purchases, information-seeking behavior, and engagement for years. Now we are seeing entertainment industry players like Ultimate Fighting Championship, Ubisoft, and Marvel deploy multichannel loyalty programs.

With the growth of marketing channels, and the wide variety of social, mobile, and digital offerings available, consumer touchpoints are becoming fragmented, and it’s difficult for brands to maintain interest and engagement. In a recent Forrester report on loyalty, 80 percent of marketers for large companies said loyalty is a top priority for them in 2016.  Fortune 500 brand marketers are turning to loyalty programs to forge deeper connections with customers, as they seek to turn occasional brand advocates into steadfast fans.

Blurring the lines between digital and reality

The evolution of loyalty programs began with simple purchase benefits; retailers began by offering benefits for tracked transactions. The flipside of consumer touchpoint fragmentation is that it now offers a wealth of communication opportunities that transcend brick and mortar. This is where we are seeing the entrance of entertainment and multimedia brands into the multichannel realm.

The presence of brands across multiple platforms is enabling companies to offer streamlined and satisfying experiences that engage consumers. In the case of Marvel, the rewards extend beyond the hypothetical — ardent members are getting special access to events, comic books, and more.

Rewarding activity and actions opens up an opportunity for brands to encourage consistent engagement across mobile, desktop, gaming devices, and allows them to connect to in-person experiences.

Building programs that prioritize personalization

Personalization is no longer a “nice to have” element that enhances the customer experience — it has become a must-have at the forefront of brands’ considerations. A Visa 2016 Bond Loyalty Report found that “brands whose representatives make members feel special and recognized have 2.7 times higher program satisfaction.” Marketers are highly aware of this, especially in entertainment industries, where a constant cycle of “new” tends to grab the attention of consumers.

Marvel and the platform provider behind the program CrowdTwist designed Marvel Insider to appeal to both casual and die-hard Marvel fans. It offers four levels fans can tier up to as they engage more, with True Believer as the ultimate level that every Marvel Insider can aspire to.

This new type of loyalty program offers rewards for valuable behavior that fans are already doing. For example, brands like UFC are implementing programs like UFC Rewards to offer VIP experiences to fans who attend events and purchase pay-per-view events.

Discarding stagnant programs of the past, brands are now turning to platforms with flexible options, so that loyalty and rewards programs can be changed with ease based on member feedback and new opportunities.

Drawing members to sub-brands

Part of the draw toward multichannel loyalty for entertainment brand marketers is the motivation of fans to explore new content. For example, Ubisoft recently rolled out loyalty programs to engage and reward fans for checking out new video games, like Watch Dogs.

According to marketers surveyed in a 2016 CrowdTwist study, discounts, brand experiences, and exclusive access are among the top discount rewards being offered to loyalty program members. Marvel will likely seize this opportunity to give Marvel Insiders exclusive access to new video games, comic books, and movie trailers, turning them into long-term franchise devotees and advocates.

serious_lianeLiane O’Neill is a Junior Account Executive at The Abbi Agency out of Reno, Nevada.

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