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Loyalty360 Loyalty Live | Kris Tremaine and Tom Madden, Phaedon

September 14, 2023 Loyalty360
Loyalty360 Loyalty Live | Kris Tremaine and Tom Madden, Phaedon
Leaders in Customer Loyalty, Powered by Loyalty360
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Leaders in Customer Loyalty, Powered by Loyalty360
Loyalty360 Loyalty Live | Kris Tremaine and Tom Madden, Phaedon
Sep 14, 2023
Loyalty360

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.  

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

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.  

Mark Johnson:

Good afternoon, good morning. It's Mark Johnson from Loyalty 360. I hope everyone's happy, safe and well. I want to welcome you back to another edition of Loyalty Live.

Mark Johnson:

In this series we speak with the leading agencies, technology partners and consultants, and customer channel and brand loyalty by the technology trends and best practices that impact a brand's ability to drive unique experiences, enhance engagement and, most importantly, drive customer loyalty. Today we have the pleasure of speaking with Kris Tremaine, the chief executive officer, and Tom Madden, the managing partner of Phaedon. ICF recently announced the sale of its commercial marketing group and identified private equity firm Cohere Capital as the buyer. They will launch as Phaedon and today we're going to learn more about this transition and how Tom and Kris' teams will continue to serve clients seeking to enhance their customer loyalty efforts. Welcome, Kris and Tom. Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us today. I'm glad you joined us. How are you?

Kris Tremain:

Great, thank you.

Mark Johnson:

Kris. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself your work at ICF Next maybe previous employment, what you did there and now Phaedon. What is your role going to be with Phaedon?

Kris Tremain:

Sure, I'm Kris Tremaine. I have been in and around the marketing communications digital world for more years than I care to count, but we'll say over 30 at this point, and I've been specifically with ICF, ICF Next, for the past 16 and a half years, helped them grow their digital and communications and marketing capabilities within their the sectors they primarily serve, which is government and highly regulated industries call it utilities. They do a lot of work around climate and about three and a half years ago they tapped me to say, hey, come over, we really want you to lead our commercial marketing engagement loyalty business, and so I came over. During that it was just as COVID was starting, so that was fun, but really spent a lot of time with the team and I already knew a lot of the team because the business I was running was sort of parallel to the commercial oriented business and really kind of at that point, after a year and a half or so, really talked to our CEO and said you know, this just isn't a great fit.

Kris Tremain:

You know, ICF is a big firm focused on totally different things than us, and we were this amazing, you know, accelerated growth business that was just sitting in the long home and so we were kind of fourth, fifth, sixth on the priority list and that's sort of where we began the talks about you know what to do with the business and really settled on finding a great partner, which we did to really help us accelerate the business outside of ICF, you know, which again is, is built really around a different model and a different set of audiences and markets, and so that's what we're doing.

Kris Tremain:

We are launching Phaedon, which we are so excited about, and we will continue to do all the things that we've been doing. All of our clients, all of our people are moving with this and we have a wonderful partner behind us, Cohere Capital, that just is excited to help us continue to accelerate our growth. You know our loyalty, business being a huge driver of that growth, so very excited. A fun fact I actually live in South Carolina and on a lake, and so when I'm not traveling to our cold Minneapolis, where our headquarters are, or Chicago, I enjoy. Wake surfing is my passion, so I do a lot of wake surfing and it's a lot easier on the bones at my age than regular surfing and the boat actually pulls you up. So that is my passion.

Mark Johnson:

And Tom, I have one familiar with you and your organization. What you did at ICF quite reputable. I would love to know a little bit more about you, tom.

Tom Madden:

Sure for sure. So I'm talking today from Minneapolis, where it is actually in the 90s. So it's it might be below 90s in January, but for now it's nice and warm, although ironically I'm fighting off a little bit of a cold. But I spent my entire career actually in the loyalty management space, never on the client side, so I was on the partner agency side. But my background is a little bit unusual in that I've worked in all aspects of the business except I'm not a developer, but I've led entire operations parts of organizations, the strategy, parts of organizations, business development, client services you name it all to help our clients deliver on the promise of their loyalty promise to their customers.

Tom Madden:

I'm proud of everything that we do at Now Phaedon, then ICF Next and Loyalty and CRM, and we've got a great team that helps our clients succeed. From a personal perspective, you know, Mark, you and I have talked about this a little bit before, but I'm in the process of completing my major league baseball ballpark tour. I've only got a handful left. I'm going to chip away a couple more this fall and then I should be complete with all 30 parks by next year, which you know, that's over a good 10, 15.

Kris Tremain:

A lot of parks.

Mark Johnson:

Indeed, those who may not be familiar with how ICF Next's commercial marketing group has historically supported a brand client's customer loyalty efforts, can you give us a brief overview of what work your team has done for brands and industries they have worked with?

Kris Tremain:

Yeah, I can start and then, Tom, I'll have you jump in. You know, at our heart we'll really work around the concept of how people participate with brands. So we think about our business as helping our clients really move their stakeholders along in creating more and more participation right with their brand. So, you know, among the services that we provide for our clients are sort of, if you think about, you know, the earlier stages of participation where you're creating understanding and awareness and driving towards affinity. You know we do brand activations and marketing and communications work around that. And then, as you move you know up, you know, in participation where you're trying to achieve true loyalty and even advocacy right with your stakeholders. That's where our business, that Tom leads around loyalty comes in and we provide, you know, a proprietary platform strategy and, Tom, I'll let you get a little bit more detail on that, since it's what you run.

Tom Madden:

Certainly certainly so, from a from a loyalty and CRM perspective. You know we really do. We really bring three services to the table. One is around overall strategy loyalty program strategy, loyalty program design or, as is more often the case these days, redesign, as programs may not be producing what the what our clients or what the companies we talked to are hoping they can produce. So we help them reestablish Um successful strategies.

Tom Madden:

We also bring to the table analytics, a very strong analytics team that helps with modeling, economic modeling, forecasting, measurement, looking at various scenarios To see what kinds of promotions might drive the most success In the light. And then, third, and by not by no means last, we've got our, our leading proprietary Loyalty platform called tally, which underpins well nearly a half a billion members globally and it manages over five billion transactions a year. It's integrated with nearly 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 there's, there's 300 there and we move. We move just under two trillion Points a year. That's massive. Right like this isn't you know, this isn't Tom's Local pizza store here, where we're the enterprise Platform under some of the biggest and most well known and successful programs in the world.

Kris Tremain:

I was going to say the other part of our business is really around transformation, so it kind of cuts across all these things. But it's really about helping our clients improve customer experience, whether it's internal, their employees or all of their various stakeholders. Um, again, helping ultimately with the goal of driving their participation with their brands.

Mark Johnson:

Part of the recent announcement included news that ICF Next is rebranding to Phaedon. Kris, can you tell us more about the announcement, the new brand and what the organizational looked like going forward?

Kris Tremain:

Yeah, yeah. So we're super excited. Um, we've been in a process for about a year and a half now of really, um, you know, deciding how we wanted to move forward with the business. Um, you know, as I said, I was at ICF a long time, sat in a different part of the business and at the end of the day, I think, um, we have this amazing business, this amazing team, all these incredible you know Fortune 100 plus clients, and we were just sort of sitting in a in a very, you know, a home that just wasn't the right fit, that was really again focused on government.

Kris Tremain:

It's kind of, you know, big, long processes for things, things that didn't enable us to be as nimble and agile as we need to be in the fast-pacing world of commercial all things commercial marketing, loyalty, transformation and so we made this decision and then we spent a lot of time talking to lots of different luckily, we had a lot of different potential suitors and partners to talk to and ultimately settled with Cohere Capital and Equity Partner, because really what we just needed was help you know, an organization that was highly growth focused because we really are on a great growth trajectory and someone that would support all the things in our business that we wanted to support moving forward and not be kind of a fourth and fifth priority in ICF, which is just a massive, you know, management consulting firm. So we just didn't get the kind of attention and, you know, investment that we deserved in light of being part of such a large company focused on different stuff. So that's how you know, and we had the opportunity, obviously as part of this, to create our new brand, because really it's what's leaving ICF, is this whole business, intact. But we will now be called Phaedon and I'm just thrilled about it.

Kris Tremain:

We spent a lot of time working on this name to really embody who we are moving forward. And Phaedon really comes from two Greek words which mean giving and light, and we really feel that, you know, in this instant light translates to kind of the wisdom and knowledge and support we bring our clients to help them solve their biggest challenges with their brands and creating loyalty, all the things they've talked about and really it's a manifestation of our point of view and action, you know, being success oriented, inventive, influential, but also we bring intelligent imagination to our clients and we help. You know, solving business and brand problems is really our playground. That's what we love to do, and so we thought this name really embodied all that for us, and our team and our clients that we've shared it with are just super excited about it.

Mark Johnson:

And what core services will be continued or even offered to brands when you begin to operate as Phaedon? Are the new services or shared services brands can expect?

Kris Tremain:

Yeah, I mean we will continue. Our core area is obviously loyalty, which is where you guys are primarily focused on, and Tom kind of talked about the areas within loyalty that we work. Again, if you think about this participation curve, we offer integrated communications and marketing support for clients. So you know, we create, do creative campaigns, we do brand activations, we do media relations and social influencer campaigns to help brands increase participation with their stakeholder. And then you know, we do a lot of work around transformation, as I said.

Kris Tremain:

So, customer experience, transformation, all the things that go along with transformation organizational design, change management. You know, and, as Tom mentioned, you know we have a very strong strategy team as well as an analytics team great, great data. We have great data products and they really cut across and you know, kind of work with all of these different capability areas and those will continue and will continue to invest even more in our products or proprietary products like tally, our loyalty platform. And that's where really we're excited about it.

Mark Johnson:

Enhance Enhance engagement with brands that you work with. For sure you know how do these features enhance a brand's customer loyalty efforts.

Tom Madden:

So I would think of it as so everything we did under ICF Next is coming in whole as Phaedon, and so there are a couple, couple of three things I would want to point out. One is kind of pre-technology, if you will, in the sense of marketing technology assessments. Right, we have a lot of folks who come to us and say hey, we're not sure we might need a loyalty platform.

Tom Madden:

We're not sure what to do with what we got. So we've got a team that that assesses what they've got and helps them figure out if they can kind of piece it together in a different way to achieve what they need, so they don't have to make an investment in additional technology. Then we've also got, through our analytics team, a whole series of analytics accelerators that are all patent pending but they help businesses make decisions at a significantly faster pace. For example, five years ago somebody might ask for a loyalty program design and we provide two different strawmen coming out of that assessment with a couple of different models behind it. Now we literally have hundreds, if not thousands, of different calculations and like going on behind the scenes that enable clients to make significantly better decisions than they were capable of before.

Tom Madden:

And then and then finally, as I mentioned before, tali, which we've got. We've we've got continued investment with our new owners. They're excited to invest in Tali. We've got a very big road map, a very aggressive road map over the next couple of years for Tali that we're investing into to make some things happen to help our clients achieve their loyalty goals.

Mark Johnson:

Tom, as you consider the state of customer loyalty, what are some of the most notable, important trends that you are seeing currently? What do you see during the transition and what do you anticipate clients asking for going forward, and how will the new Phaedon organization be able to meet those needs?

Tom Madden:

Yeah. So I'd answer kind of on two different levels, mark, as you know. As you know, when we talk about trends we have to kind of step up a couple of thousand feet. And so, at a macro level, in loyalty, there's the, there's the pre COVID, there's the COVID where everybody was just operating lights on and then, as we were kind of coming out of that slumber, companies were doing what they could to keep customers, even though the customers weren't necessarily spending a lot. And now they're dealing with a situation where the, where the leisure, for example in travel space, is taking over business, which is something that nobody could even fathom 10 years ago. And so programs are really working to ensure that they can meet and exceed the needs of the leisure travel in the case of travel and hospitality. But secondly, you know, and all of that is about, really continues to be about getting the right message to the right customer at the right time to help them make good decisions and fulfill what they're looking to do in their lives.

Tom Madden:

But secondly, you know, there's always technology trends and the like, but there is a, there is a general trend globally around data privacy. This is coming, you know. We've got a couple of instances in the US that we've all accounted for, but we've got some things coming out of Germany and China and other places that we're staying on top of to help our clients achieve those, those challenges. And then also just overall, you know, continued movement to the cloud beyond the US space. Right, a lot of people are in the cloud in the US only, but people need to be getting into the cloud globally to, frankly, to help with the data privacy or data residency issues you mentioned your loyalty management platform, tali.

Mark Johnson:

With a rapidly evolving technology landscape, brands are facing broad choices with regard to technology and it's creating some challenges. You know how can brands leverage new technology or enhance capabilities within loyalty platforms. You know artificial intelligence, gamification, machine learning. How should brands be looking at those? Yeah, it's certainly the hot.

Tom Madden:

It's certainly a hot topic right now. Right, ai. You know we've always talked about gamification, we've been talking about machine learning for for number of years and AI is the hottest thing you see in the stock market. You see it where investments are going. I'll tell you how we work with it today, because this is what is resonating with the companies we speak with.

Tom Madden:

But today, ai for us is really behind the scenes and more of the foundational elements at the moment. But it's becoming significantly more helpful in getting the right messages to the right customers, as I mentioned before, and anticipate the customer needs better. This is happening through. This is happening through the analytics accelerates I talked about. It's happening through the programming for Tali and some other things. So AI, I kind of think about it in terms of days of the week. I think we're really only at about a Monday evening in terms of AI and I suspect in the next two years we'll maybe get to a Wednesday morning, but so there's a lot more to come. But right now, I think AI is most realistic and successful for most companies, helping at the foundational levels.

Mark Johnson:

Can you provide some examples of how brands are successfully integrating these new technologies or enhance capabilities? Into their customer knowledge strategies what's working?

Tom Madden:

Yeah, you're seeing it in Hilton, for example, has over 10,000 active promotions at any given moment. That stuff gets hard to do at that quantity and at that reach, with all the different kinds of segments that are required without the help of AI. When you're looking at some of the programs, when you manage to have 30 years or more of data that is a ton of data how are you going to get through that with analytics? You can sort through it with human hands, where you can really utilize AI to get to insights at a significantly faster pace and a more effective pace as well.

Mark Johnson:

As customer expectations evolve and loyalty programs and strategies adapt, how do you envision the future of loyalty programs in your respective clients' industries?

Tom Madden:

You know, I think you know Kris talked about helping our clients try participation with their customers all the way from the awareness side of the curve to where the customers actually identify with their brand name and it's kind of personal to them. You know, creating a humanized experience is always going to be at the core of what we need to do. You know we talk about emotional loyalty in this industry quite a bit and that's really based off of some proprietary research that Denise Holt and her team from ICF NEXT o n n n nhaden commissioned a number of years back and have done some follow-up since. But it's all about creating humanized experiences to move people up that participation curve.

Tom Madden:

Look everybody we talk to still gets excited about new shiny objects and new technologies. But all of those things exist for the sole purpose of enabling us to drive humanized experiences so we can create true loyalty where people feel an identity with the brand.

Mark Johnson:

Kris, when you look at the future for Phaedon, what's the next big things brands can expect in the way of technology opportunities, tools strategy?

Kris Tremain:

What's the next big thing?

Kris Tremain:

You know, I think again, I think there's this fine line of leaning into the technology to support all the things we've been talking about bringing a more personalized experience.

Kris Tremain:

I think, you know, obviously, using AI and other tools to do that is really important.

Kris Tremain:

But I do think this more holistic approach to and what we're driving and calling participation which is certainly not a new term, but the way people interact with brands has changed so significantly over the past, even just a couple of years, and certainly if you look across the decade, that it's getting harder and harder to cut through the clutter and get to them and then drive them up this participation curve we're talking about to be coming not just loyal right, you know, and you can offer points and all the different programs that we do but even, ultimately, advocates, right, people who are out talking about your brand because that's ultimately what you want, right, you want to say, hey, you know you've got to become, you know, hilton Rewards member or because of this, you know, and you want those advocates of your brands, right?

Kris Tremain:

So I think that thinking more holistically about how you, you know, we tend to think about, even within communications and advertising and marketing, and loyalty. We think about these in buckets. I think continuing to bring those together around a continuous, continuous model for helping people. You know our clients, you know businesses get their stakeholders to participate more actively with their brands. That's the future, it's the now, but it's going to just continue to become more and more important in the future.

Mark Johnson:

The last question I have, tom, when you look at piece of advice or thoughts about the industry, customer loyalty is obviously growing of importance and impact. You know what are initial initiatives that you have in the works for you and your team as we head into the end of 2023 and into 24?

Tom Madden:

Well, I've shared a lot about what we're doing with with the analytics team under the leadership of Emily Merkel, and the strategy team with Denise Holt, as well as Tally, with Mark Hulterman who heads it up for us, and Cindy Roseland at the head of our clients. So we've got a really strong team with a lot of experience in loyalty-specific solutions to help our clients. But, honestly and selfishly, I'm most excited in the coming months and into next year telling the world about Phaedon. We're excited about it and the clients are. All of our clients are coming with us and they're all excited too. I'm excited to see a lot of my friends and colleagues at your next gathering, which I believe is in November. So you know, we're just gonna. You're gonna see me out there smiling from ear to ear, talking about Phaedon and most importantly most importantly, how we can help our clients achieve their their loyalty goals.

Mark Johnson:

Kris and Tom, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us today. It's an exciting time for Faden and your clients. We look forward to hearing more about the transition to Faden and seeing continuing to see the great work that you do within the industry, and thank you very much for all that you do for customer loyalty.

Kris Tremain:

Awesome. Thank you so much. Also, I want to thank everyone for listening today.

Mark Johnson:

We look forward to having you back on another edition of loyalty live soon. Until then, have a wonderful day.

Intro
Tell us about yourselves
Can you give us an overview of the brands and industries you work with
What does ICF Next look like organizationally with regards to rebranding to Phaedon
What services will be offered through Phaedon
Enhancing Engagement
Trends in customer loyalty
Technology landscape
Integrating new technologies
Future of loyalty programs
Next big thing for technology and opportunities
Piece of advice
Outro