Getting the mileage right

Your recent supplement on customer loyalty carried a somewhat odd “Comment” section by WWAV Rapp Collins client services director Steve Grout (MW March 24).

It opened with: “Air Miles was initially conceived to emphasise the difference between an airline carrier and its competitors.” As the only programme called Air Miles was conceived for an entirely different purpose – namely as a loyalty and relationship device for major non-airline companies and a source of incremental revenue for British Airways – this did not bode well for the rest of the piece.

The Air Miles programme has, in fact, built one of the most “information-rich” databases in the UK – combining multi-client purchase behaviour, travel history and lifestyle information. This is surely a shining example of what Grout says he is looking for.

I’m sure National Westminster Bank, Shell and BT do not see Air Miles as an airline “discounting technique” and neither does the airline.

The Air Miles currency is now used as part of British Airways’ own Executive Club scheme which combines hard and soft rewards and data driven marketing in a true relationship marketing programme, again exactly as Grout claims to desire.

If Grouts’ references to “Air Miles” were intended as generic comments on old-style frequent flyer programmes I wish he had made it clear.

I welcome all attempts by your magazine to discuss the issues and merits of loyalty programmes, but greater clarity and accuracy is essential.

Stephen Taylor

Marketing director

Air Miles

Crawley

West Sussex

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