It all began with three young entrepreneurs in a Toronto hotel room.
In the spring of 1991, Craig Underwood, Sam Duboc and Rob Gierkink jammed three desks into Room 2011 at the Cambridge Suites to create a makeshift office. Sharing one phone line and a single computer, the trio had pooled their talents to promote a unique business venture - a new kind of marketing program that would reward consumers' loyalty by giving them opportunities to travel.
Loyalty programs had been around for a decade or more in various forms, but this one was different. Instead of being sponsored by an airline or a single retailer, it would bring together a coalition of retail partners, all issuing a common loyalty currency that customers could redeem for rewards. Participating retailers would benefit from sharing the costs of marketing and operating the program. Even better, they would have a rich new source of data on customers' buying habits, which in turn would yield valuable insights to help the retailers market more effectively and build deeper long-term relationships.
The venture hatched in that cramped hotel room would soon be recognized as one of the great success stories in Canadian business: the AIR MILES® Reward Program. What began as an intriguing proposition for a few forward-looking retailers grew almost overnight into a genuine marketing phenomenon - studied in MBA classes, emulated by other loyalty programs worldwide and woven into the daily lives of millions of Canadians.
AIR MILES® Takes Flight
Officially launched on March 30, 1992, the AIR MILES® Reward Program attracted nearly 2 million Collectors in its first six months. From an original group of 13 Sponsors such as Bank of Montreal and Canada Safeway, the pioneering loyalty coalition evolved rapidly to include retailers in every major consumer category - gas, grocery, pharmacy, specialty retail - as well as credit card partners Bank of Montreal MasterCard and American Express. The AIR MILES brand became one of the most recognized in Canada, and the business behind it helped shape the loyalty industry across North America and around the globe.
Joining Alliance Data
In 1998, after six years of spectacular growth, the AIR MILES® success story caught the attention of Alliance Data, another young enterprise on a similarly rapid rise. As a leading provider of credit card and transaction services, the Texas-based company was interested in extending its loyalty and database marketing capabilities. So in July 1998, Alliance Data acquired Loyalty Management Group Canada Inc., the corporate parent of the AIR MILES® Reward Program.
Alliance Data went on to launch a successful IPO in 2001. The following year saw the acquisition of COLLOQUY, which was subsequently aligned with the AIR MILES® business under the umbrella of Alliance Data Loyalty Services. Then in 2004 Alliance Data acquired Epsilon, a leading provider of integrated marketing solutions with expertise in database analytics and technologies, loyalty program management, and the full range of direct and digital marketing services.
Meanwhile, the evolving capabilities of the AIR MILES® Reward Program gave rise to several distinct lines of business offering services that reached beyond the coalition. The group providing creative services to AIR MILES® Sponsors grew organically into a full-scale loyalty marketing agency, re-branded as Squareknot in 2013. Similarly, the analytics expertise developed through 16 years of working with Sponsors' data to gain shopper insights led to the creation of Precima in 2008.
As these various lines of business gained depth and scope, the vision behind them became clearer. The organization's diversity of specialized expertise could be distilled down to three key capabilities: coalition loyalty; customer analytics and customloyalty services. Now what the business needed was an overarching corporate brand that more emphatically summed up the vision.
A New Brand: LoyaltyOne
On July 10, 2008, Alliance Data Loyalty Services was officially re-launched as LoyaltyOne. At the same time, COLLOQUY's consulting arm became the consulting division in LoyaltyOne.
In 2012, LoyaltyOne unified its businesses under the LoyaltyOne umbrella as it expanded its capabilities and geographies in search of more meaningful insights and to enrich relationships between companies and their customers.
The LoyaltyOne story continues to unfold. Looking ahead, we'll continue to develop innovative solutions that deliver sustained business performance improvement for our clients and help to enrich the relationships between companies and their customers. . And we'll continue to exhibit the passionate commitment that has always driven LoyaltyOne as we set the pace and the agenda for the global loyalty industry.