The airlines frequent flyer points program was hailed as the marketing program of the decade when it was introduced. Their program is held up by many as the ultimate “loyalty” program.  Is that really so?

Airline frequent flyer programs and other similar points or frequency programs don’t really drive zealotry action.  Why?  Consumers understand that they must perform – take certain actions, make certain purchases, jump through proverbial hoops in order to earn rewards.

On the other hand, think about the last time you received something unexpected. The waiter who comes to the table with an appetizer “compliments of the chef?” The fresh flowers upon check-in to your hotel room?  Your car freshly washed and detailed after a service appointment?

Which action engenders more loyalty – collecting points for a purchase or the unexpected touch?   Which one are you more likely to talk about or share with others?

The name of the game in Zealotry Marketing is referral.  It is clear to us that unexpected delights (or rewards) are much greater motivators of true guest retention than most so-called “loyalty” programs.  Consumers understand that earned programs offer value.  If I make multiple purchases, I gain additional value.  But, touches or actions that are unexpected create delight that is the basis of referral and Zealotry action.