Gamification was the hot buzz word this year for customer engagement,
but how does it relate to frequent flyer programs?

Gamification is defined as “the use of game mechanics for non-game applications”. Businesses are making their websites and applications feel less like “transactions” and more like games – although some will argue that you can’t put lipstick on a pig. Perhaps some transactions, like filing your taxes, are destined to be purely arduous, no matter how many virtual accolades, points, or medals you earn.

However, the true paradigm shift of gamification, is that it places more emphasis on product education and behavior-modification by rewarding these non-payment transactions. Reading advertisements, completing surveys, meeting deadlines are all examples of customer actions that can be considered as loyalty gamification. Frequent Flyer programs inherently have game-like qualities, but gamification of these programs gain the best results from rewarding a variety of pre-sale behavior.

FFPs have been ‘Gamifying’ for years with tier recognition
On your next trip to the airport take some time to observe elite frequent travelers and you will quickly appreciate the power of loyalty gamification – which incidentally FFPs have been executing successfully for years. Never taking the time to actually sit in the waiting area, elites like to impatiently stand close to the boarding door so they can fully exercise their right to board first, or at least immediately after first class. The whole thing can appear quite ridiculous in hub cities where 60 elites jockey for position to enter the Jetway first, all while passive-aggressively brandishing their credentials attached to their roller bags.

Managing elite status through gamification in many cases is more powerful than point accrual. Perhaps the biggest secret to successful elite status marketing lies in the takaway.  Every elite wants to keep their status and will go to extreme measures to do so  – all generating revenue for the airline. Barriers, like elite qualification, placed between the customer and rekindling a favorable experience that they have become familiar with can be a powerful leverage tool.

Customers inherently lack self-image and identity
Most people don’t give much thought to who they really are, especially if they are career-oriented business types. Sure, your average doctor knows he or she is a doctor, but is that who they really are? More people are allowing their careers to define their very existence, and in the process lose their own identity.

Video game creators cringe at the emerging use of gamification within marketing and loyalty circles. The primary criticism of top video game designers of gamification is that it lacks storytelling, a critical component of successful video games. In fact, storytelling is the next logical step in profile-driven loyalty marketing. In practice marketers are not concocting some fantasy, but instead using customer data to create the customer’s identity and a narrative for the customer’s new self to play in.

Most people are actually consumers, unwittingly floating in an artificial dimension of commercialism that marketers have created. Think of it as marketers being performers in a nightly Broadway show with a full house every night.  However, peoples’ opinion of that show is the only thing that matters.  It is then up to you to deliver a performance that engages, stimulates, and triggers the audience to give critical acclaim to your work on as many nights as you can.

Airlines are Winning the Loyalty Game

About The Author
- Roger is an internationally recognized expert on airline loyalty, alliances and ancillary revenues. He commands a consulting portfolio of top airlines and Forture 500 companies. Roger is also a professional photographer and cinematographer and works as a photojournalist for LoadFactor TV.