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Well, here’s the obvious answer: it depends.
Over the past 24 years, The Lacek Group (TLG) has designed, built, and managed dozens of loyalty programs for airlines, cruise lines, car rental companies, automobile companies, hotels, banks, credit cards, wireless companies, retail chains, theme parks, etc. Each program had its own challenges and branding issues.
Some loyalty programs are closely integrated with their parent brands, so it makes sense that a program’s voice, look, and feel should fit firmly under its corporate brand. This is usually the case with airline programs, for example.
Throughout our history, TLG has worked with dozens of airlines. OnePass (Continental), SkyMiles (Delta), and MileagePlus (United), for example, each wanted to align its program brand with its parent brand. Additionally, when Alaska Airlines rebranded its entire company several years ago—from stationery to livery—we simultaneously redesigned its loyalty communications, using the same brand standards and guidelines.
Other companies want their loyalty programs to stand alone—complimentary to, but separate from, their corporate brands. This is often the case when a program serves multiple brands under one corporate entity, such as a hospitality company.
When we designed the popular Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) program, for example, at its inception were just two hotel brands: Sheraton and Westin. Today, 11 brands exist under the SPG banner, and we’ve helped redesign the brand look and feel several times over the past two decades.
In a case like this, the organization often uses the loyalty program as an entry point to its multiple brands, so it makes sense that the program has its own brand.
For rental car programs, we’ve created strong loyalty brand identities for some, and not for others, depending on the features of the program, the strength of its legacy, and the makeup of its customer base.
So, should your loyalty program have its own brand? It likely depends on your organization’s loyalty mindset: How does corporate leadership value the program? Does the program operate under a separate P&L? Does the program have its own leadership and organization?
If your loyalty program is a subset of a powerful, singular brand, and it is managed that way, it often makes sense to align the program closely with the parent brand. But if you believe your loyalty program needs to be a cohesive, unifying thread across a larger brand portfolio, a unique program brand is a powerful tool.
John Jarvis serves as executive vice president and chief creative officer at The Lacek Group.
About The Lacek Group (TLG)
TLG is a customer-engagement agency that develops marketing solutions at the intersection of brands, data insights, and creativity. TLG designs and optimizes highly successful customer-relationship management initiatives, loyalty programs, and customer communications across all media for some of the world’s most respected brands. The agency’s clients include Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Carnival Cruise Lines, U.S. Bank, Enterprise Holdings (National Car Rental, Alamo Rent A Car, Enterprise Rent-A-Car), United Airlines, Ford Motor Company, DuPont Pioneer, and DuPont Crop Protection. TLG is a specialty agency of Ogilvy & Mather. Learn more about TLG at lacek.com.