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Loyalty Live: Q&A on ICF Next's Commercial Marketing Group Rebrands to Phaedon and the Latest Trends



A well-known name in customer loyalty for years, ICF Next recently announced exciting news for the company as the result of the sale of its commercial marketing group to private equity firm Cohere Capital, rebranding to Phaedon. With the team's core leadership and expert teams remaining intact, the newly introduced Phaedon is forward focused on helping clients enhance their customer experiences and develop stronger loyalty strategies.  

Loyalty360 spoke with Kris Tremaine, CEO of Phaedon, and Tom Madden, Executive Vice President, to learn more about the rebrand and get their take on the top loyalty trends.  

"We're super excited about the rebrand. We've been engaged in the process for a while now, deciding how we wanted to move forward with the business that would enable us to be as nimble and agile as we need to be in the fast-paced world of commercial marketing, loyalty and transformation," says Tremaine.  


New Partner, New Name 

To make this change, the Phaedon team spent ample time assessing the best path forward that would allow them to continue delivering at the highest levels for clients and be poised for growth. Finding the right partner that was aligned with these goals was key. With that now in place, the company is moving forward with a winning strategy that supports all parts of the business. 

Tremaine says they "spoke with a lot of potential partners and ultimately chose to work with Cohere Capital as our equity partner. Working with them will allow us to be more flexible and execute our plans on a great growth trajectory." 

The team is also excited to have a new name that better tells the story of the brand and how they bring intelligent imagination to solve clients' biggest business and brand challenges. The name Phaedon comes from the Greek words for "light" and "giving," and Tremaine notes how this name really speaks to how they spark participation and illuminate the possibilities for their clients.  

"Our loyalty expertise is well-known, but we also have extensive expertise in integrated communications and marketing. Our capabilities extend beyond supporting our clients' loyalty efforts to creative campaigns, brand activations, media relations, and social influencer campaigns to help brands increase participation," says Tremaine. 

"We have incredibly strong strategy and analytics teams as well, and great technology and data products that cut across different areas of business. We're really excited about growth in all these areas." 


How Phaedon Supports Client Brands 

The team at Phaedon is looking forward to building off their previous successes as they continue to partner with a number of enterprise-level clients to keep their brand's loyalty strategy fresh and engaging, which is critical to success for those brands.  

"Our work centers around the concept of how people participate with brands," says Tremaine. "We think about our business as helping our clients really move their stakeholders into further customer participation. The services we provide for our clients are not only creating understanding and awareness for brands but driving more brand affinity, loyalty, and shared identity where consumers feel a deep, emotional connection with the brand."  

Tom Madden points to three services as paramount to cultivating consumer loyalty for Phaedon's clients. "The first is around strategy, including loyalty program design, and, as we see more often now, program redesign and optimization. We also bring to the table a strong analytics team that supports success for our clients with offerings like our advanced analytics accelerators and our patent-pending economic modeling that allows clients to view numerous scenarios to see what kinds of promotions might drive the most success." 

"Third, we have our leading proprietary loyalty platform called Tally that underpins nearly half a billion members globally and manages over 5 billion transactions a year. It's integrated with close to 300 different technologies—anything you can imagine from an airline, or co brand partner to a particular technology to help process customer service functions, you name it. And we move just under 2 trillion points a year—that's massive. Tally is truly an enterprise level platform and it powers some of the biggest and most successful loyalty programs in the world." 



Realignment for Accelerated Growth 

Experienced leadership is key to future success. Assessing the capabilities of Phaedon's loyalty, marketing and transformation business allowed Tremaine and Madden to pivot effectively to garner incremental growth.  

"I've been with ICF for about 16 years, and about three years leading the commercial marketing group," says Tremaine. "Because our side of the business was running parallel to the non-commercial oriented business, we knew this wasn't a great fit. We were a part of this big consulting firm and saw accelerated growth potential, but we were sitting in the wrong home." 


The Evolving Loyalty Landscape 

The loyalty industry has changed along with every form of business since the COVID pandemic. The team at Phaedon has seen this change amongst their clients and how brands adapted their strategies to stay ahead during a time of disarray.  

"During the pandemic, companies were doing what they could to keep customers, even though the customers weren't necessarily spending a lot. Now brands are dealing with new challenges, like how leisure travel is overtaking business in the travel industry, which is something that nobody could even fathom 10 years ago. Within the travel and hospitality industry, brands are trying to ensure that their loyalty programs can meet and exceed the needs of the leisure traveler, so it's a whole new reality." says Madden.  


Gamification and Artificial Intelligence Trends in Loyalty 

Artificial intelligence (AI) and gamification have been making headlines across the world. When it comes to loyalty programs, these new technologies are making an impact in many ways, one of which is accelerating the collection of data.  

"In the loyalty industry, we've always talked about gamification and more and more it's becoming a great tool to garner valuable zero-party data. We've also been talking about machine learning for a number of years, and AI is the hottest thing you see in the stock market recently," says Madden. "AI has become significantly more helpful in getting the right messages to the right customers at the right time. This technology is at play in our proprietary analytics accelerators, through our Tally loyalty solution, and some other capability areas of our business. I suspect in the next couple of years, we'll see more realistic and successful growth for many companies with AI, at the most foundational levels." 

Tremaine spoke of world-renowned brands that were leveraging the available technology to effectively improve their loyalty programs.  

"We have a large hotel client running over 10,000 active promotions at any given moment. At that quantity, reaching all the different kinds of segments that are required without the help of AI is difficult," says Tremaine. "And some programs have 30+ years of data, which is a ton to sort through to pull meaningful insights without the support of this type of technology."  

Both Tremaine and Madden agree that AI can add efficiencies when it comes to data collection and analytics. And although the future is uncertain in many ways, building upon a strong foundation of technology and analysis is important to ensure future success. While AI and other emerging technologies are top of mind for marketers, Madden says it's also important to consider how these technologies fit into the brand's personalization efforts, with the end goal of driving emotional loyalty.  

"We talk about emotional loyalty in this industry quite a bit and it's a key area of focus for our teams. Our research finds that it's all about creating humanized experiences to move people into deeper participation with the brand, driving experiences that help cultivate true loyalty where the brand becomes a part of the consumers identity." 

For brands, it's a delicate balance of having the right foundational strategy and determining which technologies are the best fit for their loyalty efforts. And it's about dedicating the right resources to these platforms and capabilities to create a better, more personalized loyalty offering. This balance can be difficult to navigate for many, but finding the right technology, service and strategy partners to guide them can help brands more easily build engaging loyalty strategies that benefit customers and help the brand stand out from the competition. 


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