Conventional wisdom in loyalty marketing, or just about any kind of marketing for that matter, suggests that one would want to promote a customer offer as much as possible. However, Apple has offered a discount-based loyalty program for some time now that the average consumer has never heard about.
The main reason for the incognito status of Apple’s …er, actually, it’s so secret it doesn’t even have a name. When I quizzed the rep at my local MacStore he shrugged and referred to it as a “loyalty program”. Sympathetic media outlets like AOL’s TechCrunch who recently reported on key changes in the so called “loyalty program” rationalize the reason for lack of publicity as “It’s not all that well publicized and for pretty good reason. It only kicks in if you’re the kind of person who spends more than $5,000 in a 12-month period.” Flagrant pandering aside, that is only half of the reason.
What the Fanboy nation and the execs in Cupertino won’t admit to is that the real Apple loyalty program has been hiding in plain sight – and it certainly is not this botched together anonymous discount program! On second thought, maybe they would admit to that.
The same reason why business schools, bloggers, and consultants try to compare everything to Apple using the phrase “if Apple were a [insert lame business here]” is why they have excelled at loyalty for a very long time. In fact what is happened is that Apple has created the upside of loyalty without a traditional loyalty program. They have done so through insanely successful brand loyalty.
The bottom line is that people don’t care about collecting points or getting discounts when they engage the Apple brand. They care about acquiring a well defined and infectious nirvana through the act of buying Apple products for full retail with no hope of rebates. No loyalty program can top that.
In case you were interested, the Apple loyalty program has three tiers triggered by spending $5K (green tier), $35K (red tier) and $200K (blue tier) in a 12-month period. Last week’s changes reported by TechCrunch improved the discounts of several items across the tiers. For example, if you belong to the Green tier, your discount on a Mac went up from 5 to 6 percent. On the higher tiers the discount approaches 8 percent. Not exactly jaw-dropping considering that you get less than a 10% discount after shelling out close to a quarter of a million dollars on Apple products in a year.