Platinum, Gold or Silver..? The colour of your airline card is an easy way to categorise frequent flyers.
But the world of customer loyalty is far more complex, as are the relationships between customers and brands.
So here's a new way of looking at the loyalty landscape: through the lens of emotions and behaviours.
In an entertaining yet informative presentation at the CAPA Australia Pacific Summit 2016, Velocity Frequent Flyer CEO Karl Schuster suggested that frequent flyers – like any customers of a brand – can be categorised as intimates, distant admirers, prisoners and crazy ex-girlfriends.
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Prisoners are members who don’t like a brand or its associated loyalty program but are still forced to use it by their employer or others – “and what are they going to do when an alternative presents itself? They’re going to escape!” he quips.
On the other side of the chart, intimates represent the ideal frequent flyers: those who love an airline's brand and make a habit of booking with that airline whenever possible.
“That’s nirvana for us,” Schuster says. “We’ve got a lot of those at Virgin Australia… (it means) you’re delivering for them in terms of what they seek on that emotional plain, and at the same time, they’re giving you the maximum share-of-wallet.”
Mixing love with fickleness, you’ve also got distant admirers: people who may love a brand but can’t engage with it on an ongoing basis for one reason or another.
“I’ll take myself as an example,” Schuster comments. “I really love Ferrari as a brand – I may be an individual who has a Ferrari jacket and a cap, I watch motor racing and I absolutely adore that particular brand – but I’m never going to be able to afford it.”
In the world of airlines, Schuster explains that 'distant admirers' can encompass occasional travellers as well as seasoned corporate flyers who are required to book with another airline due to company policy.
That leaves the crazy ex-girlfriend (or crazy ex-boyfriend, for that matter): the people who have actively and deliberately disengaged with a brand they once loved.
“These are people who used to be really engaged with your brand but you’ve done something to tick them off, and they no longer really like you; they might actively disavow,” Schuster explains, adding that “we want to minimise this group as far as possible.”
But pegging individuals as a member of each of those groups is difficult task.
So if you’re worried about finding a “prisoner” or a “crazy-ex” flag on your frequent flyer profile, don’t be – although “if I could map people into those quadrants properly, it would be a lot easier to deal with them!” Schuster laughs.
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