Over the years, gift cards have become a staple for most retailers. People love giving them, getting them and using them. They have become more and more customized and utilized…as incentives, bonus gifts and marketing tools.
But, is your gift card program working as hard as it can for you? What does it say about your brand? Does it say… “Let me buy you lunch? You’re funny! Or dude…wake up, and get some coffee?” And, what if you give cash, what does that say? Basically, it says you didn’t shop.
So, with this in mind, what can your gift card do to say “I’m better than cash,” at time of purchase, at time of giving and at time of use? As a retailer, you need to focus on these three key transactions to make sure you are getting the most return on your gift card program.
At time of purchase
The gift card marketplace is a crowded environment. A shopper spends an average of 30 seconds there, finding that right card. Those 30 seconds are valuable time for you to make an impression and rise above the clutter. Your gift cards are mini billboards. Not novels. They must make a play on emotion and compete on simplicity.
At time of giving
A simple yet emotional connection comes into play here as well. An effective gift card carries a clear message about its benefits and the relationship between the giver and the receiver. When giving a crisp $20 bill, the receiver gets the message that the giver cares…but only $20 worth. When someone gives a gift card, the receiver should feel, “This is better than cash, because the person who gave this to me actually thought about me and knows what I like.”
At time of use
This is the time to tell your deeper story. To work your brand into the experience of using that gift card. When you do that, you build brand equity, brand loyalty and grow your customer base.
You can stand out from the sea of plastic with a smart yet simple gift card program. Just remember these four essential guidelines:
- Win on Usefulness. Make it better and easier to use than cash.
- Win on Message. Communicate more efficiently and succinctly,
at the right times.
- Win on Design. Make your designs speak to the recipient,
invoking the giver’s thoughtfulness.
- Win on Brand. The best gift card is a gift card that isn’t just a gift,
it’s a brand experience.
Your image is a first impression that, if pleasing, leads to a second, a third and ideally a lifetime of positive experiences. Whether we’re talking about ourselves as human beings or as company leaders, the same principle applies.
Creating an image that distinctively communicates the essence of your company is vital, yet it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes research, strategy, insight and the foresight of seeing your brand as a long-term investment rather than a short-term expense.
So where do you begin? Try this right-brain exercise to start the discovery process.
Pretend your company is a person. What do you see? What is it wearing? Does it say, “Hi,” “Hello,” or “Hey dude, what’s up?” Is it male or female? What kind of car does it drive? How about its personality? Sense of humor? Buttoned-up or laid back? What do others say about this person? Who talks with this person the most? What do they want to know? Why?
That personality is your company’s brand. Determining your brand and creating promotional materials that are in line with that personality is what establishes the obvious difference between the amateurs who get lost in the crowd and the professionals who stand out and succeed.
Today, a brand is much more than a logo. It is everything from the words you put on paper to the message on your voice mail. Every opportunity to communicate with your audience must be true to your brand. Inconsistency causes confusion and leads to brand disloyalty. It’s like having multiple personalities and the customer won’t know what or who to expect.
To help you create a strong brand, take a look at a few tried-and-true tips:
It would be unimaginable for people to build a 30-story building without a blueprint, so why why would you try to build a company without one? Without a strategic blueprint, you leave the interpretation of your brand to your customer. Your brand needs to be controlled so you can navigate it through ever-changing trends and markets.
- Know your target audience.
Put yourself in their shoes and get inside their heads. The better you know your audience, the more effective you will be in communicating and connecting with them. Their wants and needs help drive your brand. By digging deeper your can hit on an emotional tie that leads to brand loyalty.
- Make sure your employees are true to your brand.
Educate them, excite them, show them exactly how their actions and interactions affect the company brand. No matter where they work in the company, everything they do says something about who your company is.
Whatever it takes to make your brand a true champion, the foundation is built on a well-planned brand strategy. Remember, develop your brand DNA, know your audience, and ensure that every employee communicates your brand.
It takes an investment of time and money but, in the end, it makes the difference.