Pret’s loyalty campaign – a new way to enhance customer attachment

Pret a Manger has recently embarked on a new loyalty scheme, which does not resemble the traditional methods of encouraging customers to come back and collect points while shopping with a shop/chain store. This limited, yet very effective campaign has made me think about what we covered in Brand Communications class a couple of weeks ago – the role of emotions in Public Relations and how brands could utilise them to reach their audiences.

For the past couple of days, selected Pret customers have been given a special ‘Make Someone Smile’ sleeve alongside their drink and are being constantly encouraged to pass the sleev on further to other people, be it friends, family or strangers. Whoever visits the restaurant and presents this sleeve can redeem it for a free coffee or tea before the end of February (PRWeek). This small campaign links strongly to brand’s bigger, overarching campaign ‘Random Acts of Kindness’ which is still ongoing.

I received a free coffee from Pret a couple of days ago (with the special sleeve on), when I was yet unaware of the programme. Such a simple act made my day much more positive and my emotions towards the brand have shifted in the more positive way afterwards.
When I read about the programme on the PRWeek website, I began to wonder how this links to what we have covered a couple weeks ago in one of my university classes.
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During one of my university classes, we spoke about brands’ increased willingness to engage with the emotional side of humans, how it affects the way we perceive brands and how we engage with them later on. In fact, brands are increasingly shifting away from pure persuasion or displaying of product/service benefits and presenting them in a way appealing to potential customers and target audiences. To show the audience “what’s in it for them” no longer seems like the only valid way to go. I think that “the emotional trend” has good and bad sides to it. On the one hand, brands appear more humane, approachable and… normal. On the other hand, though, I think the balance between being real and being ridiculous/funny is blurry. We were shown the example of a Unilever spot, where the company was linking itself and its aims to Gandhi or M.L. King. As touching as the spot was, something was not right – the balance was lost, some said.
In Pret’s case, they did it perfectly. And customers loved it.

Since I have moved to London, I have been a frequent customer of the chain, and have always seen it in a positive light. I like their work ethics, I like the way they present themselves, and I like the food and drinks they serve. But ever since I have received the free coffee, I also started to see them as nice and friendly (exactly what they wanted me to think:). According to an interesting journal article by Thomson, the way the brand behaves and how it engages with its customers (including the emotional engagement) have great implications for the customers’ emotional attachment to brands (it’s worth giving the article a read). It’s important to remember for all PR professionals willing to embark on this kind of practice.

I think Pret’s example could be used to illustrate the balance that PR needs to achieve when utilising emotions (be it when preparing campaigns, spots or stunts, or anything else for that matter). The brand trend to increasingly engage with emotions can only bring positive results it prepared carefully, with all pros and cons considered. However, most importantly, the difficult balance between what’s right and what’s tasteless has to be achieved in order to hope for success.


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