Tuesday 6 January 2009

Air Miles is on the right track

It's certainly a sign of the times that when traditional brands are cutting back on their above the line activity it's the loyalty schemes which are bucking the trend and spending on it.

The new Air Miles TV advert is exactly the right thing for a loyalty scheme to be doing at this time when customers are looking for ways to make their money go further.

Air Miles as a brand has been around for over 20 years and although it has a loyal following, in reality it's been resting on its laurels for quite some time. Now it's back and it's recruiting!

Obviously the strap line "Make your money fly" fits in nicely with the current climate, but it's the other messages in the advert which interest me. The advert has 3 main themes which are:-
  • Reassurance - Everybody is doing it / you don't need to do anything different
  • Everyday Spend - Earning miles on your grocery and fuel spend (encouraging frequency usage)
  • No Hidden Extras - All flight taxes/fees included (previously an issue for many collectors)
The Air Miles member base is ageing and it needs to inject some new blood and this advertisement is designed to do just that by using messages you would typically see when on-boarding or looking to recruit new members to a loyalty scheme. The focus shouldn't be on the rewards but on how you get to the rewards and re-assurance that you're making the right decision.

Focusing on rewards day 1 works well in terms of attracting interest in a scheme, but very quickly consumers want to know how to get that reward today - working out the effort it will take (and the amount they need to spend) - and then thinking that this will be unachievable. Instead, hinting at rewards but focusing on earning allows members to begin to build up a balance initially and they can then see how far they have progressed - allowing rewards to be introduced later.

The no hidden extras message is also about re-activation - anyone who has been part of Air Miles previously will have experienced the extra charges that used to be levied - this is saying "we've changed - come try us again".

This can be contrasted with the Air Miles scheme in Canada which although a younger scheme (started in 1992) it is a much more mature scheme in membership terms. In Canada 2/3 of all households are active collectors and the scheme has 97% awareness - making it one of the top 3 coalition schemes worldwide.

Due to the popularity of the scheme, people who want it are already in it and they all understand how it works. The focus for this scheme then is not reassurance and education, but is instead aspirational, focusing on the rewards and benefits the scheme brings and more importantly, reminding people to carry the card.

However, that said, I have no explanation for the Yummiest Mummy promotion by Air Miles Canada... there are obviously still some cultural differences between us but one look at the "related" videos on YouTube tells it's own story.

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