Origin of Reward Programs in North America

Did you know …

Trading Stamps & Carlson Marketing

Reward programs in North America date back at least as far as trading stamps, when people collected stamps from stores, stuck the stamps on cards and then redeemed the completed cards for rewards.  The first large scale program was S&H Green Stamps, a program created in 1896 as a business that sold stamps and stamp books to businesses.  By the late 1950’s approximately two out of every three American families collected some form of trading stamp.

Carlson Marketing, the giant loyalty company behind programs like TD Visa Travel Rewards and Vancity Credit Union’s Visa reward program, originated out of the Gold Bond Stamp Company founded in the US in 1938.  Today it is a sister business to Aeroplan and a subisdiary 0f AIMIA.

The Rise of Frequent Flyer Programs

Reward programs entered a new, more modern phase of development in 1981 with the introduction of the AAdvantage program by American Airlines.  The program exceeded all expectations and its success prompted other airlines to quickly follow suit and develop their own frequent mileage programs (including Air Canada’s Aeroplan in 1984).

As a result of its amazing success, the airline industry was then copied by hotels, credit cards, car rental agencies and a plethora of other businesses.  Marriott started its Honored Guest program in 1983, Hyatt implemented the Gold Passport in 1985, and Hilton began the Hilton HHonors program in 1987.  The rest is history: loyalty programs of all kinds are now everywhere.

Loyalty programs have evolved and complexified since the advent of the early frequent flyer programs of the airline industry.  Today, in addition to enhancing loyalty and being part of a defensive strategy, loyalty programs bring new meaning to customer relationship management.  They are are a highly prevalent and powerful tool in the world of marketing.

(Copyright PR Loyalty Solutions, 2011)


PR Loyalty Solutions is a customer loyalty marketing consulting firm specializing in reward program design, effectiveness audits, and coalition community reward program creation.  Need advice on how to create or improve a customer loyalty program?  Then Contact Us.

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