This article was originally published by Shoutout DFW, an online media platform founded on the belief that meaningful conversations are at the heart of community building. 


We had the good fortune of connecting with Jenn McMillen and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Jenn, what’s something about your industry that outsiders are probably unaware of?
Consumers have been using loyalty programs for so long that they are probably unaware that there’s a tremendous amount of art and science that happens behind the scenes. The first loyalty program I ever built was Blockbuster Rewards back in the late 90’s, and it was an eye-opener as to how much financial rigor occurs to make a program work financially. Especially with free loyalty programs, there has to be enough of a reason to participate for the consumer (good rewards, easy to use) in exchange for their effort in using the program, but the flip side is that the programs have to drive enough business (more revenue, more traffic to the store or website) to make it viable for the business. Free programs aren’t really free. The business still has to put staff and money against it, while the consumer has to do some work on their part to make sure their participation is recorded and rewarded.

Incendio founder Jenn McMillen in front of mural that states "Winning isn't always about being the fastest, it's about refusing to lose."

What should our readers know about your business?
In today’s world, empowered consumers expect wow experiences; personalized, relevant messages and high value. Meeting these expectations sounds simple, but requires sophisticated marketing, technology, data, and integrated experiences. That’s where Incendio, my company, comes in. We build and fix marketing, consumer engagement, loyalty, and CRM programs using the data our clients already have. Our senior team is made up of people who have built and run some of the biggest loyalty programs in the US–GameStop PowerUp Rewards, Best Buy Rewards, Delta SkyMiles–so we are true loyalty program experts, not just an agency adding it to our list of services. I started Incendio to be the partner I couldn’t find when I was on the client side, with flexible options on how we do the work, how they can pay, or what kind of skill set they need for a particular project. We provide a big-agency approach to their marketing needs, without the big-agency cost structure, yet we are a trusted partner of some of the biggest brands in the US, such as PetSmart, GNC, NASCAR, JCPenney, Chipotle, Dave & Buster’s and many more. I started with an agile model–where my staff is located all over the US working wherever they want to work–and it has made a world of difference in keeping us nimble and responsive in these crazy times.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
For a relaxing, awesome weekend in Dallas, I’d start by taking my friends to King Spa (at 35/Royal) for a spa experience like no other. In Asia, people treat bodywork (massages, sauna, hot tubs) as essential to maintaining health and balance, but in Western countries, we tend to treat these things as special treats. So we’d hop into our standard-issue communist pajamas (supplied by the spa in color-coded sets), and just enjoy Korean food and relaxing without an agenda. We’d follow up with a delicious Tex-Mex dinner at Uncle Julio’s where I’d urge them to splurge & eat the Elvis Fried Chicken, gorge on chips & salsa & refried beans, and wash it all down with a giant margarita! After dinner we’d head over to the Gaylord Texan, where the rooms are big and the hospitality is even bigger, and settle down for a deep sleep with breakfast delivered to the room the next morning. Then we’d head over to downtown Grapevine for some strolling and shopping, then visit McKinney’s quaint downtown for lunch at Snug on the Square. If my friends told me “yes, we can shop til we drop,” I’d take them over to one of my favorite places in Frisco–the Frisco Mercantile which has 200+ shops with everything from art to antiques to chic boutiques. For dinner, we’d stay in Frisco and eat at The Heritage Table on Main Street if we wanted something delicious and upscale, or for more down-home eating, I’d take them to Babe’s Chicken Dinner House. Maybe we’d even do the chicken dance? For a real Texas breakfast the next day, I’d take them to Norma’s Café for migas with chorizo (hey, we’re on vacation!) and then to iFly, for some indoor skydiving. When do adults get to act like kids? Do it at iFly and give your stomach muscles a good workout post-migas. With all that activity, we’d spend the rest of the afternoon sitting poolside and just enjoying the Texas sunshine. Amen.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I learned everything I know about loyalty programs by working for Brierley & Partners, a Dallas-based firm that has been creating and refining loyalty programs for more than 25 years. At one point, if you flew on United, stayed in a Hilton, and rented a car from Hertz, you were having an end-to-end loyalty experience facilitated by Brierley. I wouldn’t be in an expert position now if I hadn’t worked for Brierley and learned the ropes.

Incendio Founder Jenn McMillen holding SMU Cox Business School Teaching Award