Chick-fil-A followed the flock on their rewards program relaunch

When Chick-fil-A launched its loyalty program in 2016 I was thrilled to see them take such a smart approach. Instead of following everyone else and offering a standard issue points-based spend-and-get program, they built a program that led with convenience and time savings. It delivered rewards according to customer value but didn’t overcomplicate the customer experience by burdening the customer with a points balance to track. The program even offered a great way to connect customers to their local owner-operator through treats and events. Not only did I immediately become a big user of the app, but I also found myself using them as an example for QSR clients. They were offering a promised but “unpublished program” that delivered rewards according to value without setting customer expectations that would overwhelm the bottom line.

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About a year after the Chick-fil-A launch, I began to notice a significant uptick in the in-store promotion of the app, increased signage, offers and rewards just for using the app. It was becoming apparent they were likely struggling with adding new members. In recent work with our friends at Nike, we experienced first-hand the challenge often presented with a promised but unpublished value proposition (or reason for joining). It is the challenge we marketers face in this emerging world of 1 to 1 or hyper-personalized marketing. How do you communicate to all the value you will be making personal to each individual?

While these are legitimate challenges – after all, doing loyalty marketing “right” is not easy – with a powerful brand, like Nike or CFA, you have more to work with in addressing them.

As much as it pains me to say it (I confess, I love me some CFA), I was really disappointed to see their recent relaunch of the CFA program. Not only did they scrap the unpublished nature of the value proposition for a <your brand here> points program, but they introduced tiers. As a customer marketer who has worked for decades with loyalty programs, I can certainly appreciate the benefits of a tiered proposition in the right context. But as a consumer who is quite honestly a bit ashamed of my personal fast food consumption, I’m not feeling like calling that to my attention by rewarding me with a special status is quite the right fit for the brand. Hopefully they did the analysis and developed a thorough business case to ensure that this value proposition is sustainable and has a positive ROI. Once you’ve rolled out this kind of a promise it can be painful and often nearly impossible to pull back.

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I dearly love my friends and neighbors who sell this tasty chicken, so I am hopeful that they have in fact done all of that analysis and will see a positive ROI from this program. And I hope they maintain some of what worked well in the program before (especially the ability to localize the experience and other surprise and delights). In the fast food space, Chick-fil-A has always been a trailblazer, creating a truly differentiated guest experience.  It would be a shame if they chose their loyalty approach to be just like everyone else.