Customers Are Giving Themselves Elite Status at Businesses Without Loyalty Programs

Loyalty marketing is a near-universal. It has two components, recognition (elite benefits) and rewards (rebates). Different elements move the needle more for different customers, different businesses can authentically utilize each in varying proportions, and some products can truly replace traditional awareness advertising with loyalty marketing while others need to first generate broad attention.

When a business develops a relationship with a customer it doesn’t always realize it. A program is a great way to formalize that, to ensure that recognition occurs. When a business owner fails to take that step, sometimes customers will cry out loudly for it such as at one cafe where a man declared himself customer of the month. (HT: Marginal Revolution)

Since the loyalty relationship wasn’t just one-to-one between the brand and a single customer, and other customers felt like they were just as important if not more so, things escalated to “involve[..] a projector, bespoke loyalty cards, custom uniforms – and after new developments late on Friday afternoon, a permanent tattoo.”

First another customer declares themselves to be the most valuable.

Then the first customer gave themselves an even higher elite status.

The battle rages on.

This guerrilla attempt to generate a loyalty program even resulted in makeshift membership cards and t-shirts.

And a tattoo.

This is truly something special. Customers who are so loyal and so identify with the brand that they’re clamoring for a recognition program and go so far as to create it themselves. Listen to your customers.

By the way one place where airlines went wrong is when they started discouraging mileage runs. These were customers so motivated by a loyalty program they bought extra product and spent extra time just to be more attached to a brand.

They may not have been the highest margin customers (although buying cheap fares presumably these were seats an airline didn’t expect to sell — so they may have been close to 100% margin) but they’re customer evangelists — something airlines certainly have too few of these days.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I agree with you Gary, I certainly wasn’t AA’s best ExPlat customer but I sure encouraged others to fly AA. Today, I tell my friends to choose on price.

    My most recent AA flight to Europe I earned more AA points from a car rental than from my AA loyalty card.

  2. I agree. My wife and I are travel addicts. We mastered the WackyWeekend(TM). We were for a number of years BOTH diamond on DL and executive platinum on AA. The new minimum spend will dramatically change our travel in 2020. We both work full time and flew approximately 300k miles/yr.

  3. I get why UA and AA have raised the qualification requirements and give fewer benefits to FFs, and cut the quality of onboard product to the bone – when every flight is pretty full, you will sell that seat anyway, so why spend the money. However, I think that may well be short-sighted, as it ensures that your competitors that also have full seats and better service can charge a premium and make more money. And if there comes a time when demand decreases, having a bad brand will come back to hurt them.

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