“Scheme” is one of the most used words in the loyalty industry and when we hear businesses and marketing leaders use it when launching their customer loyalty initiatives, we can’t help but wince.

Quite simply, it doesn’t do justice to the hard-won, sincere efforts that companies make to earn a customer’s trust. I mean, who wants to be part of a “Scheme”, when they can become part of an engaged community or a genuinely rewarding Loyalty Programme?

Here’s 5 reasons why, we’re asking you to remove “Schemes” from your lexicon:

1. It sounds underhanded.

What image does the word “Scheme” conjure? For us, it stirs up thoughts of all manner of unsavoury things: Mr Burns drumming his fingers while purring “excellent”; or an underhanded grifter hoping to dupe his next rube; or a storybook villain planning their next move.

2. Its neighbouring words aren’t too hot either.

The word “Scheme” is rarely seen on its own, but instead, it drags in other, equally sinister descriptors along with it. Schemes are “hare-brained”, “cockamamie”, “devious”, and “clandestine”. The word is rarely, if ever, used in a sweet or noble context: Superheroes, fairytale princess and biblical saints have no documented cases of scheming.

3. It’s not a word associated with trust.

Hey, don’t take our word for it. The Webster Dictionary is on our side too, describing a Scheme as “a clever and often dishonest plan to do or get something”. That doesn’t exactly warm the cockles of one’s heart.

4. People don’t like being schemed (especially more than once!).

If the word “Scheme” is off-putting and unsavoury in daily life, what do you think it means to customers when they hear it?

Any customer initiative or Loyalty Programme should be welcoming, mutually beneficial, and hugely enticing, both to newcomers and existing customers. It should not make customers imagine the business in black masks carrying a bag marked “swag”.

5. There are other, better words!

Thankfully, as reprehensible as the word “Scheme” is, we marketers are under no obligation to use it. There are literally millions of words that could be used in its place, and arguably dozens that could replace it in a loyalty context.

For a start, there’s “Programme” followed by “Plan”, “Strategy”, “Experience”, and just about any other word besides the venal, underhanded, unwelcome and unappealing “Scheme”.

Words have Power.

Handled the right way, a customer Loyalty Programme can blossom into a long, fruitful relationship, and in the shorter-term, turn a company’s fortune around. It should deepen the connection and level of communication with the customer, justifying its cost many times over, not just financially, but in the good will it generates: In other words, the opposite of a “Scheme”.

Whether it’s in business or day-to-day life, getting off on the right foot is key to a good relationship. And words have power; they create filters through which people view the world around them. A single word can make the difference between liking something and disliking something.

The next time you’re working on, or launching a Loyalty Programme to your customers or colleagues, simply refrain from using the word “Scheme” even in your own mind. A good customer Loyalty Programme deserves much more than that.