Sunset over highway in Romania
Photograph ©2007 by Brian Cohen.

All You Want From Loyalty Programs is a Bit of Honesty? Don’t Hold Your Breath…

“Offer a clear value proposition and stick to it. If you’re going to devalue be clear about what you are doing and give plenty of notice.

“There needs to be a clear connection between an offer, customer behavior, and a reward. When you offer benefits, customers give their business in order to earn those benefits. Declare by the end of February, say, what the next year’s program will look like. And stick to it.

“Tell the truth. Declare it openly, warts and all. And then deliver on your declarations. And your customers will love you for it.”

All You Want From Loyalty Programs is a Bit of Honesty? Don’t Hold Your Breath…

The verbiage displayed above is the conclusion of this article posted earlier today by Gary Leff of View From The Wing — and while I wholeheartedly agree with him, even I know that he knows better than that.

This article written by me gives examples of three e-mail messages from all three legacy airlines in the United States which engage in questionable marketing techniques complete with “click bait” designed to ensure that the recipient is curious enough to take the time and effort out of his or her day to read what the e-mail messages have to say — only to be greeted with content which would likely leave a customer feeling insulted, as though he or she were naïve enough to actually believe what was written.

Should we also include the bane of resort fees and mandatory facilities fees which have run amok in certain parts of the lodging industry? You know — advertising a significantly low room rate, only to have the prospective customer encounter that dreaded extra charge during the booking process?

Lack of Honesty and Disclosure: Not Just Loyalty Programs

How about we change loyalty programs to marketing from companies in general? I will give you a few blatant examples, as while traveling, I often find items I do not find when I am at home.

Hunt’s Snack Pack “Strawberry”
Click on the photograph for an enlarged view. Photograph ©2013 by Brian Cohen.

In one case — in what appears to be a food service package instead of one available for retail — I found this serving of Strawberry Hunt’s Snack Pack Gel Snacks, as you can see in the photograph to the right. It proclaims to have “10 percent real Fruit Juice.”

Look closer and you will see that any evidence of a real strawberry is not found in — or anywhere near — the ingredients of this snack. Rather, the real fruit juices included are apple, pear, peach and pineapple.

Perhaps adipic acid is the scientific name for strawberry juice? Is carob bean gum a new flavor by Wrigley’s?

Why not call the flavor of this snack fruit punch? I am sure there is not enough room on the label to call this Apple, Pear, Peach and Pineapple Hunt’s Snack Pack Gel Snacks — and I would consider eating a fruit snack named that, as it sounds good to me.

I have a novel idea: how about including real strawberry juice in this snack if it is going to be called strawberry? Are strawberries really that expensive that their juice cannot be used in this snack without losing money?

I have grown strawberry plants myself, and they are rather easy to grow. In fact — in the right conditions — they will multiply by themselves with offshoots or “runners” which produce more strawberry plants.

More strawberry plants usually means more strawberries. That has been my experience, anyway.

Here is another example of questionable marketing: back in 2003, a major brand name reduced the amount of yogurt sold from eight ounces — which had been a standard for years — to six ounces. The packaging was the same size; and the price did not decrease…

…but in a really bold marketing move in large colorful letters on the packaging, there was a declaration designed to sound euphemistic to consumers: there was now more room to mix your favorite toppings in your favorite flavor of yogurt.

I personally reported it to a leading publication for consumers, which actually highlighted this egregious form of marketing in its next issue.

Look at the current election campaigns for candidates for president of the United States. Do you really believe that any of them will keep their promises once they are elected to office? The lousy selection of candidates are enough for me to consider running for president of the United States.


Honesty and Integrity

Like you, Gary, I have written many articles over the years based on trustleadership, and maintaining perspective and adjusting expectations and regarding honesty and integrity — or lack thereof — pertaining to frequent travel loyalty programs.

For example, award redemption increases should not be implemented without notice.

I offer this example of what an honest marketing message might actually sound like after the recent announcement of a merger between two lodging companies.

Stephen M. R. Covey of FranklinCovey agreed with me about how the airlines should value the trust their customers have in them — especially for the day that they might really depend on it when the economy falters.

I can go on and on; but at least there is one bright spot: one former executive in the commercial aviation in particular industry exhibits a candor and honesty which earned the trust of customers — including frequent fliers.


Unless there is a significant economic downturn or intense competition, human nature for some reason precludes being completely honest when it comes to marketing a product or service. With few notable exceptions, that is the way marketing — which is the practice of promoting and selling products and services — has been since the concept was first introduced; and with few exceptions, marketing and customer relations will most likely continue to be practiced in that manner…

…and there are people who genuinely believe that there are those of us writing content for weblogs pertaining to frequent travel loyalty program miles, points and travel who engage in similarly deceptive and dishonest practices. While I may not always succeed — and that is not by design — I do everything I can to ensure that the content which I write for The Gate is as honest as possible for it to remain as “the world’s most trusted ‘blog’.”

Leadership is about modeling the way by practicing what you preach — and that includes being as honest and transparent as possible to earn trust…

Photograph at the top of this article of a sunset over a highway in Romania ©2007 by Brian Cohen.

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