Many people have asked me why I own and work on Studebakers. The Studebaker Corporation no longer produces cars, but there are tens of thousands of Studebaker automobiles on roads, in garages and barns, and on display around the world. And unbeknownst to most, there is an entire community of Studebaker drivers and fans around the globe preserving the brand. The entire subculture fascinates me and is a study in niche communities, the wisdom of crowds, and digital (and offline) touch-points.

I came to Studebakering wanting to work on ‘something big’ with my father. What I found was a gathering of enthusiasts much larger than I could have imagined. For many in the club, their nostalgia for Studebaker revolves around their childhoods and early family life. For me, those memories are being created right now.

“Nostalgia. It’s delicate, but potent.” I hope these cars always transport me back to working side-by-side with my father.

IMG_0596 3

IMG_0632

From the ages of 9 till 13, skateboarding was my primary mode of transportation. I loved it. Then the bottom fell out of the skateboarding business I fell out of love with the sport.

At age 35, I purchased a reissue of my first board, a Powell & Peralta Ripper. At age 40, I purchased a reissue of my favorite board, a Christian Hosoi Hammerhead. In fact, I bought two Hammerhead boards; one to ride and an autographed copy to hand down to my son.

Riding a board brings back memories of endless summer nights in Los Gatos, California. It prompts me to share time and life lessons with my nine year-old and five year-old. And it brings me joy.

At my age, some would say that I have no right to skateboard, yet I feel that I have every right to skateboard. The paste up below (click to enlarge) is for my friends at Nike. I know that I have every right to skateboard, but there’s a legion of X-ers out there that need a little push.

levis-nike-older-boarder_JPG

Originally posted on wirestone.com.

This past November, Jawbone – known best for stylish Bluetooth headsets – announced the UP wristband. The UP is a smart device that tracks the wearer’s motion, sleep, and diet patterns, empowering its owner with personal analytics that can help reshape fitness and diet habits. The press welcomed UP’s potential with high praise and anticipation.

Roughly five weeks later, UP is down.  Pre-launch praise has been replaced by well-founded disappointment by UP’s early adopters, The New York Times’ David Pogue being one of them. Some owners are experiencing a handful of technical issues with their device – stories that are destroying UP’s future sales potential. Truth be told, things didn’t look good earlier this week.

But Jawbone got smart. They realized that in order to protect their early adopter audience they had to make good. Yesterday, Jawbone’s CEO announced that UP owners could receive a full refund or a credit for their next purchase on Jawbone.com. And today, the press, Jawbone’s user forum, Twitter stream, and Facebook page are abuzz with positive comments as well as requests for UP’s international distribution. For their part, Jawbone has paused production until all product issues are resolved. Even Pogue took notice, citing the good will from Jawbone’s smart customer service-oriented action.

From a PR standpoint, Jawbone’s CEO could have taken the podium a bit faster, but from a social marketing standpoint they executed well. Jawbone listened to its core audience, responded to customers where they already dwell online, paused product production to preserve the brand, made the refund process seamless – and hopefully secured future consideration by their most valued prospects and customers; those that will buy Jawbone’s products and tell others about their positive experience.

I wasn’t a Jawbone customer before buying the UP wristband, but I am now. I chose the Jawbone gift certificate over the refund, because Jawbone’s actions made me believe that they’re the kind of company that wants my business.

Originally posted on wirestone.com.

If stakeholders within your organization still view customer loyalty programs as purely a promotional marketing expense, or worse, a margin killer, they’re sorely mistaken. In today’s omni-channel retail environment, strategy-infused loyalty programs can be amortized across the organization to: fuel sales; inform customer insights; amplify brand awareness; accelerate promotions; and most importantly, to maintain an ongoing dialogue with customers.

Why do many organizations still shudder at the thought of implementing a customer loyalty program? Well, because they don’t understand the new mechanics of customer loyalty. Who’s doing it right?

Nordstrom’s Fashion Rewards program not only benefits the customer with “points” that can be redeemed with or for purchases, but they unlock services that play into Nordstrom’s core strength and brand promise: customer service. High-touch and valued services such as complimentary alterations, concierge service, access to exclusive events, free shipping, and more.

In exchange, Nordstrom creates a virtuous cycle of repeat touch points and purchases that feed a well-tuned database of your personal details and purchasing habits – amortizing the cost of acquiring you as a customer and better informing Nordy’s understanding of its customer segments. As a bonus, the customer is telling everyone that will listen about Nordstrom’s stellar customer service while wearing the goods they purchased from the store, by way of the web, app, or Nordstrom’s other businesses, Haute Look and Bonobos.

What’s so smart about Fashion Rewards? It’s focused on customer retention and lifetime value and not short-term customer conversion and ROI – both very important, but let’s remember to ‘protect the core’ while expanding the base.

Who else is doing it right? Foursquare.

Let’s face it, many web services would be dead if they didn’t remind us that they still existed. Foursquare was looking superfluous for a while, but then it struck a partnership with American Express that revitalized its relevance for Millennials – its core user base.

Foursquare not only used game mechanics to encourage repeat use, but its discovery tools dented Yelp’s armor by showing us both which businesses we should patronize and why. The incremental nature of Foursquare’s loyalty mechanics propelled it from a novelty to a platform that is now home to even more partnerships and service integrations … so much so that Facebook retreated from the “check-in” deals space.

Both of these companies are focused on creating value for the customer first and foremost and at each stage of the customer life cycle. Loyalty services are core to their businesses, and both firms are realizing gains in sales, utilization, customer feedback, word of mouth and digital social sharing, etc.

Getting customer loyalty programs right isn’t easy. Today’s omni-channel businesses need to espouse the multipronged benefits of customer loyalty programs across the constellation of decision makers within their organizations – from frontline salespeople, to the CEO, to the CFO.

If stakeholders within your organization still see customer loyalty programs as simply key fobs, gift cards, and coupons, they’re missing where retail and socially enabled businesses are headed. And soon, they’ll be missing their customers too.