Points.com helps collectors keep track of their rewards

Loyalty programs have become so popular that, for many consumers, keeping track of all the programs in which they're registered can become a major chore. That knowledge has led an opportunistic Web-based start-up to create an online points management system....

Loyalty programs have become so popular that, for many consumers, keeping track of all the programs in which they’re registered can become a major chore. That knowledge has led an opportunistic Web-based start-up to create an online points management system.

"I am constantly struck by how people are so into their points programs," says Rob MacLean, newly named president of points.com, an online service that consumers can use as a central resource to track and manage their inventories of reward points from airline, credit card, retail and other loyalty programs. "And I’m also amazed at the difference in how members use their points. Some sit on them forever and others redeem them constantly.

"We are convinced there is an opportunity to help these folks – especially those who sit on their points – to manage their programs correctly so they get the most value. Managed successfully, points programs can effectively add five per cent to anyone’s annual compensation."

Points.com is one of four Web-oriented firms launched by Toronto-based Internet incubator Exclamation. The others include Bigtree.com, an office products vendor; ThinOffice.com, which provides server-based office applications to businesses, and Exponential Entertainment, which has developed Internet-based gaming technology.

Exclamation was founded in 1998 by chairman Marc Lavine, best known for launching Web service firm Cyberplex and Chris Barnard, formerly a partner with Toronto-based merchant bank HDL Capital.

MacLean is no stranger to the reward-points game. Prior to joining points.com, he was vice-president of North American sales for Canadian Airlines. While at Canadian, he was instrumental in refining and repositioning the airline’s Canadian Plus program.

"There are a lot more differences than similarities," he says of moving from an international air carrier to a fledgling online enterprise. "At Canadian, there was the big corner office in a corporate environment. Here, I’m sharing space with six other people in a start-up situation. But what has helped is that running a frequent-flyer program has given me a passion for the loyalty business."

"Loyalty points have become the currency for the new millennium," he says. "We are creating the relationships and tools that will make us a leader in this field."

Termed a "vertical portal," points.com will consolidate a variety of data in linking consumers with the companies offering the loyalty programs.

Based on cardholder interaction, points.com can even provide a form of loyalty program counseling to consumers.

For example, points.com could suggest alternatives for consumers who aren’t making the most of the programs in which they’re registered, says MacLean.

"We can also do event notification, or let you know when you’ve hit, say, the Gold level on Canadian Plus or Aerogold." This can be done on a passive basis, where consumers log on to find out for themselves, or through e-mail notification if the consumer opts for that.

MacLean says program providers are lauding the initiative.

"This requires that we work closely with loyalty program providers," he says. "And we can add value to their programs. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but the initial response from loyalty programs is very positive."

According to MacLean, points.com should be in market by late summer. Much of the marketing behind the launch will actually come from business partners, he adds, who will let their own members know about the program through newsletters and points statements.

From Karen Howe’s dining table: Creativity, COVID and Cannes

ICYMI, The Township's founder gathers the best of the best campaigns and trends so far.

Cannes Base Camp

By Karen Howe

I’m attending Cannes from the glory of my dining room table. There’s not a palm tree in sight, yet inspiration and intel are present in abundance.

Cannes Lions is a global cultural pulse check. The social course correction in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and BLM has delivered far greater diversity in the judging panels as well as the work. And we are all better for it.

I’m proud to say that creativity defeated COVID, which speaks to its power. Great work and big ideas flourished, despite unimaginable odds.

The work from the past two years spans a vast emotional range. From the profundity of Dove’s “Courage is Beautiful” to the hyper exuberance of Burberry’s “Festive,” they are opposite ends of the spectrum, but each answered a need in us.

Take note, the ascendency of gaming cannot be understated. Smart brands have embraced the channel. It makes sense, because gamers participate to meet others around the world, not just to play. And they represent a huge and powerful community. That’s why QSR Wendy’s gamified their iconic gal in RPG’s Feast of Legends.

Burger King sponsored the unknown Stevenage Football Club, transforming the team into online heroes and vaulting BK into the fray at the same time. Once again, the brand embedded itself in culture.

The birth of gaming tourism arrived when Xbox snuggled up to travel guides and created a brilliant baby: a travel guide for gaming worlds. It, too, embedded itself in culture.

From the standpoint of social good, Reporter Without Borders showed how it worked with Mindcraft for its “Uncensored Library” to bypass press censorship, with Minecraft providing a loophole to a space where young people could be educated. It provided youth with a powerful tool to fight oppression: truth.

COVID changed us in unexpected ways. We learned how to pay attention again and there was a notable lack of 30-second commercials. Instead, longer format content thrived. Apple’s WFH was seven minutes long. Entertainment reigned king, so we find ourselves returning to our advertising roots.

Seeing competitive brands form partnerships was one of this year’s other great surprises. The brilliantly simple “Beer Cap Project” by Aguila to reduce binge-drinking saw the brand reach out to competitive beers to join in. Aguila put incentivizing (keyword: free) reminders to drink water, eat food and get home safely on its bottle caps from all sorts of fast food chains, ride-share co’s and H2O brands.

On a personal level, I’m so proud of Canada again this year. Given that it was two years of work from all over the world being judged, even making the Cannes shortlist was an accomplishment. Canada is herding in the Lions in tremendous numbers – and it’s not even over. Fingers are crossed.

KAREN-HOWE-PIC-higher-rez-300x263Karen Howe is a Canadian Cannes Advisory Board Member and founder of The Township Group