Redefining Loyalty: Turning Members Into Fans

Redefining Loyalty: Turning Members Into Fans

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JetBlue’s TrueBlue Fandom

As loyalty programs continue to rise in popularity, more and more companies are adopting them in an attempt to build loyalty and better engage their customers. According to a 2014 Gartner report, loyalty membership in the United States alone is approaching the three-billion mark. However, an ongoing trend suggests that, despite these large membership numbers, program members are simply that: members. Studies have implied that people signed up for loyalty programs are not necessarily loyal to those particular companies or brands, but are instead looking to get the best value for their money – in the form of discounts, rewards and compensations. Entrepreneur states that the average American participates in 18 different loyalty programs, but they are only active in about half of them. So what’s the key to keeping members of a loyalty program actively engaged? Answer: turning program members into fans.

JetBlue has ranked highest in customer satisfaction among low-cost carriers 10 years in a row for a reason. And there is a reason its TrueBlue loyalty program was recently named “Best Airline Rewards Program.” Simply put, the airline knows how to treat its customers – and, in doing so, it has managed to establish quite an impressive fan base.

Dictionary.com defines a “fan” as “an enthusiastic devotee, follower, or admirer” of something. Given this definition, it becomes clear that JetBlue, along with its TrueBlue loyalty program, has amassed a large following of fans. JetBlue is a very social airline. The company has a renowned social media team that interacts with its customers in very unique ways, and TrueBlue Badges, a social-engagement extension of the loyalty program added in 2013, encourages members to engage with the airline and other members via social media. JetBlue’s dedication to social interaction has resonated with its customers and TrueBlue members, creating an entire community of fans who can certainly be considered “enthusiastic followers.”

One such follower, John, has created a blog to help other fans stay up to date on all things JetBlue. Travel on Blue is dedicated to helping fans keep track of “updates, deals, bonuses, points, hacks, churning” – pretty much anything and everything that has to do with JetBlue travel. The blog was only created in the fall of 2013, but it has attracted quite an audience. With nearly 100 posts to date, the blog’s most popular posts are all guides to earning badges.

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Badges are digital medallions that TrueBlue members collect; when earned, they come with additional TrueBlue points that can later be redeemed for flights, amenities, etc. TrueBlue Badges members can earn badges for, among other actions, linking their Facebook and Twitter accounts, sharing their program activity and connecting with other members of the Badges program.

There is also a popular group on Facebook that is solely dedicated to helping TrueBlue members earn badges. This group – which at the time of this writing has more than 600 people in it – was created for the members, by the members, in an effort to help them connect more easily and mutually benefit as a result.

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Serving as a social fan club for the TrueBlue program, members of the Facebook group post what badges they have earned, what badges they are trying to earn and seek to connect with others in order to earn additional badges. But the posts are not only about earning badges. Mixed in with the badge-related posts are posts about JetBlue news, JetBlue promotions and new JetBlue services – essentially anything that keeps fellow fans abreast of updates on their favorite airline.

As a true sign of fandom, many group members have changed their Facebook profile picture to JetBlue-related images: badges, the JetBlue logo and JetBlue aircrafts have been used.

One of the group’s members takes being a fan of JetBlue to a new level. Paul Brown is arguably JetBlue’s biggest fan, and with more than 100 badges, over 70 flights and more than 100,000 miles flown, he is uncontested at No. 1 atop the JetBlue Badges global leaderboard. Paul will be the first to tell you that his relationship with JetBlue is unconventional – he likens it to the movie Her, which tells the tale of a man falling in love with an artificially intelligent computer operating system. JetBlue even admits to having a “bromance” with Paul.

Paul flies JetBlue a lot and he interacts with their distinguished social media team just as much. So when he sent a valentine via Twitter to JetBlue on Valentine’s Day 2014, he did expect a response, but even he was shocked by the nature of the response he received. As he put it on his blog, the interaction embodied “one man’s love affair with an airline and how, on one special Valentine’s Day, they exchanged two special gifts.” After receiving his valentine, JetBlue responded by issuing Paul a custom, one-of-one badge modeled after his digital valentine – solidifying the airline’s relationship with one of its biggest fans.

PB-J_badge-3Another JetBlue’s fan – a self-proclaimed “huge fan” – is Gavin Donovan. Like Paul’s PB&J badge, Gavin had two unique experiences with JetBlue that demonstrate how the airline is able to redefine loyalty and convert its members into passionate fans. Gavin jokingly tweeted JetBlue and asked them to play his theme song (Hulk Hogan’s “Real American”). Much to the surprise of him and his fiancé, JetBlue again delivered, by not only playing the music before their flight, but also creating a welcome sign and allowing the couple to board first. And then there was the time when JetBlue figured out, from monitoring his Twitter feed, Gavin and his fiancé were getting married: a congratulatory sign was displayed, the newlyweds were allowed to board first, and when they entered the jetway, it was decorated with balloons and ribbons. The full story of both accounts can be read on Gavin’s blog post, appropriately titled “This is How I Became a Lifelong JetBlue Customer.”

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