You can divide today's loyalty programs into three different categories:

  1. At the end of the spectrum is the “safe bet” type of strategy like gas/grocery partnerships. This level of partnerships keeps a player in the game, but won’t necessarily captivate customer attention or redefine models.
  2. In the middle are focused strategies aimed at certain customer segments, like American Express Sync’s partnership with Twitter, which targets a mobile friendly youth demographic.
  3. At the far end of the range is the “go big or go home” move like the fully reciprocal partnership recently announced by Delta and Starwood Hotels & Resorts. This play requires the most time, analysis and resources to execute, but has the potential to turn a brand’s program into an industry leader.

What elements poise a partnership for success? How should you evaluate potential partners? What type of partnership is right for your program? Brands are finding answers to these questions and learning how to turn an entry level “ante up” move into a value proposition that’s worth betting on.