Six weeks ago United Airlines President Scott Kirby told financial analysts that co-brand credit card signups were lagging and they were going to change their marketing strategy as a result.
Kirby relayed that United didn’t pitch credit cards onboard because Chase wasn’t paying extra to market in that channel. That’s the wrong way to look at a co-brand credit card relationship.
The airline and bank issuer want to acquire card customers together, each customer has an expected lifetime value, and they work out the relative split over the value. Anything standing in the way of acquiring more card customers is a problem for both sides.
Kirby shared that changes would be coming. He said that onboard credit card pitches were the most effective customer acquisition tool when he was at American Airlines and he assumed they were for Delta as well, so United would start with that.
Flight attendants making announcements inflight certainly reach targeted customers — people actually flying the airline. And they do it when they have captive attention, it works better than a kiosk in the airport that people can simply pass by and usually do because they’re hurried trying to get to their gate. Inflight they may be bored, and certainly have nowhere else to go.
Customers often complain about the announcements precisely because they have nowhere else to go. On early morning or redeye flights the announcements can interrupt sleep. They interrupt inflight entertainment systems.
Something I learned in an earlier life writing political direct mail fundraising letters (I”ve written under the signatures of more than one Majority Leader of Congress) is that much of what works is also counterintuitive. People who complain about the pitches aren’t necessarily the ones who respond to them, and the complaints can be ignored if the technology works. Direct mail fundraisers pay attention to the data. And sometimes even the complainers actually respond as-intended (I’ve seen letters come back indicating a recipient was deceased — and then write a check the next time they got a letter).
As an interim step before beginning inflight credit card marketing, United has been distributing mints with a credit card ad. There’s likely not enough time or data to know how well this works compared to expected return on flight attendant announcements, I’d love to see that data.
Inflight credit card announcements begin on United July 1.
United recently announced a new marketing initiative intended to promote the Chase MileagePlus Explorer Card. While United has an extensive marketing program, it is believed that by distributing these applications to passengers onboard the aircraft, United will reach a larger segment of interested participants.
In order to launch the program, flight attendants need to go through a training about the products and to make sure they know the importance of accuracy in their announcements because false claims create risk of regulatory reaction by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The training and announcements are voluntary on the part of flight attendants, who will earn a commission for successful signups.
Participation in the program is optional. However, if you choose to participate, you must complete a thirty-minute, online CBT training module and it will be available from the Take-Off Learning Network.
(HT: commenter Dron)