The Ties That Bond

How Bond Brand Loyalty’s Bob Macdonald is harnessing the power of customer relationships through comprehensive solutions in loyalty analytics and experiences

Bob Macdonald understands the importance of the customer. In fact, the CEO’s Toronto-based company is so dedicated to helping its clients that it made sure to include the words “brand loyalty” in its recently rebranded name. Specializing in consumer loyalty, customer experience, analytics, marketing research, and live brand experiences, Bond Brand Loyalty improves its clients’ customer attraction, retention, and experience, all under Macdonald’s guidance. On the heels of a recently announced management buyout from parent company Maritz Holdings Inc., Macdonald discusses how Bond is helping North American brands like Ford, Target, Scotiabank, and Johnson & Johnson attract and hold onto customers and how technology will continue to change the way businesses keep up with their customers’ interests.

What have been the keys to Bond Brand Loyalty’s success during your time as CEO?
I’ve had the great pleasure of working with a strong executive team to evolve our offering in response to the changing needs and trends of the market. When I took over as CEO, 15 years ago, we were primarily focused on B2B and sales enablement strategies. In the last 10 years, we’ve strengthened our value proposition to focus on areas of marketing that influence consumer behaviour and loyalty. I’m most proud of our strong financial backbone and our ability to be nimble because that’s what has enabled us to be good partners to our clients.

LESSONS LEARNED

“I keep reminding myself to slow down and listen to the insights of others. There’s typically gold in there somewhere, even though it might not be easy to find. I’d say to any new employee getting into this business, everything from your ability to add value to your client’s business, or finding success in your career, starts with having a curiosity for why something is the way it is and then finding a way to make it better.”

How has your vision helped evolve the company?
We recognized a long time ago that to continue growing our business and our services to our clients, we needed to be more holistic than a B2B agency. We needed a wider canvas to paint on. So 10 years ago, we began shifting our business to include both B2B and B2C. Even when we are working with a car manufacturer and resellers, which can be a very traditional B2B arrangement, we have the consumer at the core of everything we do. At the same time, we have the technology to help these brands build an awareness of who their members or customers are—and that’s something that is completely different from where we stood a decade ago.

What makes technology such a key component in your industry?
Today’s loyalty solutions are a combination of human experiences and digital interactions. Together they help create the kind of engagement that makes people feel closer to the brands they choose to buy—and often shows up as the mechanism that has them want to choose your brand repeatedly.

If we were limited to only human experiences with a brand, we’d find they’re too fleeting to be sustained. Conversely, if every interaction were digital, the relationship would likely not grow. Our belief is that technology enables and scales human relationships, but it’s not easily achieved. Our combination of direct, live, human experiences—whether in store, in dealership, in branch—are supported and maintained over time by those digital interactions that ultimately produce sustained engagement and loyalty. We believe loyalty is the highest form of hand-raising where somebody says, “Yes, I would like to have a long-term relationship with this brand or store or product.”

“We believe loyalty is the highest form of hand-raising where somebody says, ‘Yes, I would like to have a long-term relationship with this brand.'”

What are they keys to acquiring solid talent?
We have a saying painted on one of our walls: “Acquire them for the first time, keep them for all time.” Being in the business of loyalty, we know the value of retaining great customers—the same holds true for our people. We care a lot about creating a working environment that’s alive. I host regular “coffee talk” sessions where it’s an open forum because I care about what people are thinking—and that’s far more fruitful than any kind of talk that can happen at a water cooler. We put our people and their careers at the core of how we operate. Our culture rewards and retains great people—and those great people are key to attracting others like them.

What other goals do you have as you move forward with Bond?
Loyalty hasn’t secured a primary position in the marketing budgets of every brand—but it will. We know that every marketing motion a brand undertakes either builds or erodes a person’s sense of loyalty toward that brand. Our vision is to continue to be a strong partner for our clients and lead them through this wilderness of data and customer relationship-building—guiding them through the inevitability of shifting spend, and how to keep and acquire the empowered customers who expect more for their dollar and from the brands they choose.