I can’t believe I’m writing about Specsavers

Chris Ferrie
5 min readFeb 15, 2024

Attention Conservation Notice: I’m due for a rant. This is something that has been bugging me since I moved house, which happens not to be near a particular franchisee of the Specsavers brand, an Australian optical retail brand that I’m pretty sure no one visits except out of convenience. I knew it would happen — “we miss you” emails and other vacuous market content. Oh, and Specsavers, if you’re listening (and I know you are because you somehow always know when my next eye check-up is due), it’s time to envision a new marketing strategy. I know nothing formal about marketing, and already I could give you a bit of advice.

“Congratulations {{FIRSTNAME}}, you’re special to us!” they proclaim to me, as they proclaim to every Tom, Dick, and Harriet on their mailing list. Without a hint of irony, it’s the optical illusion of marketing — a one-size-fits-all message masquerading as a heartfelt note just for me. But fear not, for today, we embark on a journey to explore the mystical lands of actual brand loyalty, a concept seemingly as elusive to Specsavers as the fine print without their products.

First, let’s take a trip around the world of effective brand loyalty campaigns, where businesses don’t just recognize their customers — they practically roll out the red carpet for them. Take the airlines, for example. With lifetime statuses, they’re not just giving you a seat on the plane, they’re giving you a throne in the skies. Every mile is a step towards a kingdom of free upgrades, lounge access, and the holy grail of flying — not having to wrestle for overhead bin space. If I live for nothing else, it’s to obtain lifetime gold status so I can at least once move my knees on an airplane.

Then there are the tiered kingdoms of Starbucks and Sephora, where your loyalty doesn’t just get acknowledged — it gets crowned and celebrated. Climb the tiers and watch as your average cup of coffee or lipstick transforms into golden tokens of appreciation — freebies, discounts, and the power to make your friends envious. Keep spending — you’re so close to the next level!

But why, you ask, do these campaigns work when Specsavers’ emails go straight to the land of forgotten promotions? The answer lies not in the stars, but in the science of psychology and strategy. When brands reward us, our brains light up like a Christmas tree in Times Square. Dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter, does a happy dance, and we associate that brand with the warm fuzzies. It’s basic science, really.

And in today’s digital age, loyalty isn’t just about stamp cards and points. Loyalty can be a consequence of feeling seen, heard, and being part of something bigger. Social media platforms initially promised this as passive spaces for sharing and interaction. But now they are highly engineered environments, leveraging sophisticated algorithms designed to captivate and retain user attention. These platforms study user behavior, preferences, and interaction patterns to curate content that maximizes engagement. This is not mere convenience or personalization — it’s a deliberate strategy to keep users scrolling, clicking, and, most importantly, returning.

The “loyalty” these platforms cultivate is far from the traditional sense of the term. It’s not about a mutual, beneficial relationship between brand and consumer but about creating a compulsive loop of interaction. The algorithmic exploitation of human psychology — our desire for social validation, our fear of missing out, our craving for new and stimulating content — turns platforms into digital labyrinths, where every click leads to more content, ingeniously tailored to keep us engaged, often at the cost of our time, focus, and sometimes, well-being.

In the brick-and-mortar world, loyalty programs reward customers for their patronage, ideally fostering a positive, two-way relationship. In contrast, social media “loyalty” is a one-sided affair, where the real currency is the user’s attention, packaged and sold to the highest bidder. This digital loyalty is less about rewarding the consumer and more about ensuring that their eyes remain glued to the screen, their data ripe for harvesting, and their attention perpetually monetized.

The unconscious loyalty engineered in digital environments is, in some sense, necessary because those brands offer nothing that we genuinely need. While coffee appears to be a lifelong commitment, Starbucks is not just driving you away from the competition, but also ensuring you stay addicted. Not only does Specsavers have competition in other cookie-cutter optical retail chains like OPSM, but they’re offering something we actually need — the ability to see clearly, an essential component of daily life for millions of Australians. And yet, despite the inherent, lifelong value of their product, their approach to customer loyalty is as lackluster and impersonal as a template email with a misplaced {{FIRSTNAME}} token.

Vision impairment isn’t a temporary condition. For many, it’s a lifelong journey, requiring regular check-ups, updated prescriptions, and new eyewear. What’s more, many customers have insurance plans that essentially give them money to spend on exactly the products and services Specsavers provides — most of which disappears every year as it rolls over into the aether. And yet, Specsavers, much like that one friend who only texts when they need something, seems to miss every cue, every opportunity to connect, to engage, to truly see their customers. It boggles the mind.

Specsavers appears only to know my name and the date my insurance cover rolls over. It doesn’t remember my last purchase and at least pretend to know my preferences or suggest the perfect frames for my face shape. Each purchase doesn’t get me closer to exclusive discounts, free eye health consultations, or even a free pair of glasses on my nonexistent loyalty anniversary. Specsavers is just a store offering no incentive but the same two-for-one “deal” as every other retailer. It’s a bold strategy, no doubt.

Any business that finds itself in the privileged position of offering something truly essential, should take note. The digital world may have its hooks in us, and boy does that fifth coffee taste good, but when it comes to the things that really matter, there’s no substitute for genuine connection, for truly seeing and being seen. In a world that’s increasingly digital, and increasingly transient, that’s a loyalty program worth investing in. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that I’ve spent thousands of dollars of my insurance company’s money in your shop, so give me a free fucking pair of frames already!

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Dr. Chris Ferrie



Chris Ferrie

Quantum theorist by day, father by night. Occasionally moonlighting as a author. csferrie.com