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Beating Vacation Brain: Using PTO Energy to Refresh Loyalty Programs

Ah, summer. After braving the cold and surviving the busy season, your long-awaited PTO is finally here. While vacation does wonders for your mental health, it can also accelerate your creativity and productivity at work. As a Creative Director and illustrator, my brain is constantly solving for the day's challenge. But vacation allows me to slow down, use different parts of my imagination, and truly see the world from a new perspective. These attributes are especially valuable for loyalty marketers, enabling them to evaluate programs with fresh eyes and breathe new life into existing infrastructure. Vacation puts marketers back into the world as consumers, allowing us to see the world with fresh eyes. Regardless of your destination, here are tried-and-true ways to keep your mind active while you're away, unlock new found inspiration from your travels, and use your 'vacation brain' to channel fresh energy into loyalty initiatives.

Be inspired by the moment

During your travels, allow yourself to step away from work and be in the moment, taking in the sights, smells, and sensations around you. Even a never-ending amusement ride line can trigger inspiration -- take Disney World, for example. When you're waiting to ride the Tower of Terror, consider the attention to detail the Imagineers have put into ambiance, from the ride's rundown lobby and flickering lights to costumed workers and eerie background music. Before even entering the ride itself, you are lifted from an amusement park and thrown into another world. In creating an immersive experience, the little things matter. Marketers must consider how they can go the extra mile to bring loyalty programs to life and insert excitement at each step of a consumer's journey. Can you overlay thematic music or AR integrations into an app experience? Or supplement loyalty programs with in-store activations and pop-up shops? While away, challenge yourself to remember the little details that will support a more emotional approach to your day-to-day work.

Explore new territory

The beauty of vacation is that it breaks you out of your routine. As you visit new destinations and cultures, you're hanging up your marketing hat and putting on your consumer sunglasses, opening your mind to a new way of thinking. When you arrive back in the office, try to apply the same sense of adventure. Internally, what are some departments that you rarely interact with -- what expertise can they bring to the table? Externally, take note of non-competing brands with similar audiences and values. Is there room to collaborate for a partnership or joint promotion? Their "culture" and associated routines may provide a fresh mindset to help transform your point of view. Changing your frame of reference can not only spice up loyalty offerings, but create new, engaging experiences for consumers to enjoy.

Slide the waterslide

While on vacation, don't be afraid to engage your inner child and give yourself a much needed brain break. After all, the fun stuff shouldn't just be for the kids! Slide the slides and ride the rides -- it's a great way to release endorphins and can bring much needed freshness to your work. Once you're back in the office, consider how to bring a childlike wonder back into your loyalty initiatives. Surprise and delight initiatives are a great way to insert a sense of joy into programs. Nothing can brighten a consumer's day like an unexpected freebie or discount, letting them know they're appreciated by a favorite brand while simultaneously exposing them to new products. Surprise and delight tactics can stand on their own, or easily be implemented into existing sweepstakes or branded games and activations.

Gather around the campfire

One of the best things about summer is the ability to enjoy the great outdoors with others. Campfires are a personal favorite, enabling us to go back to basics and connect with each other through meaningful conversation and fun stories. When you're back in office, consider how to apply this connection to loyalty offerings. How can you create personalized, one-on-one interactions with consumers? Marketers should leverage shopper data, including purchase and browsing history, to make personalized deals and recommendations to consumers.

Take into account their personal preferences, such as the frequency they prefer receiving emails or notifications, when initiating outreach, and work to send timely offers via beacon when they're in proximity to a store or running low on a product. Focusing on the consumer as an individual can help bolster emotional ties while ensuring value at every interaction.

Just because a vacation ends doesn't mean your vacation mindset needs to change. Allow the fresh perspective your time off provides to seep into your day-to-day, influencing the way you approach loyalty programs. Extending this mentality can not only boost your productivity, but allow you to reach new realms of creativity when devising and activating programs, creating experience that truly move the needle for consumers.

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