Alaska USA Federal Credit Union members carry in their wallets one of the most flexible credit card reward programs available. But when they shop, they pull out the competitor’s card instead. This is because Alaskans have very few options when it comes to traveling to the Lower 48. They think the only way to earn reward travel on Alaska Airlines is by using the Alaska Airlines Visa card. So, they keep paying a high annual fee, using the card, and complaining about lack of availability of seats during peak travel times.
The Alaska USA card isn’t tied to a specific airline, in fact, it’s managed by a national online travel site, so points earned can be used on hundreds of airlines, hotels, car rentals, merchandise, and travel packages.
Alaska USA employees had done a great job getting members signed up for the card. But only a relatively small proportion of members kept the Alaska USA card front-of-wallet and used it as their primary card. Advertising, member communications, branch merchandising, social media, and web content expounded the benefits of the card, but members weren’t changing their habits.
A mailer was developed with engaging stories of prototype card users, combined with a clear feature comparison chart. This was sent to members with low card usage. It provided reasons to use the Alaska USA card while at the same time suggesting members keep their airline card for the one feature Alaska USA couldn’t emulate: the companion ticket.
How it was done.
Having been integral in the development of the platinum rewards program, I understand how the Alaska USA card benefits members. Consumer research was conducted to validate assumptions and to zero in on the key vulnerabilities of competitors.
Using this data, I developed a list of primary messages. Then the storytelling began. I developed about fifteen personas; stories about hypothetical members and how they used the card. Each story ended with a congratulatory remark, allowing the reader to imagine getting a big thumbs-up when they make the decision to use the Alaska USA card. The stories were presented to the client team. Three stories were selected for an initial mailing, while others were saved for follow-up communications.
The client was very pleased with the unique mailer concept, and they tracked increased usage of the card among cardholding members.