CAMPAIGN DIRECT: PROFILE - AMANDA MACKENZIE. Adventures in tailor-made marketing. Air Miles’ Amanda MacKenzie is keen to take the brand in a new direction, Robert Dwek reports

’We’re a collaborative brand, an ingredient brand. You get to us via other people,’ Amanda MacKenzie, Air Miles’ marketing director of the past 18 months, says.

’We’re a collaborative brand, an ingredient brand. You get to us

via other people,’ Amanda MacKenzie, Air Miles’ marketing director of

the past 18 months, says.



She made quite an odd career move by joining what is, arguably, the

best-known loyalty scheme in the UK - and one of the oldest at just over

a decade. Having spent 12 years in the ad agency world - two at WCRS,

followed by ten at DMB&B - working for big above-the-line clients such

as Mars, Procter & Gamble and St Ivel, Mackenzie now finds herself in a

very different environment: on the client side, in the travel industry

and up to her elbows in databases and direct marketing.



Still only 35, MacKenzie says that she decided, before joining Air

Miles, to cross the great divide from agency to client. ’I wanted a

broader perspective on how everything fits into a business and to

understand marketing in its widest sense,’ she explains.



Air Miles, now fully owned by BA, seems to fit the bill just fine,

although the learning curve was pretty steep. Well-versed in

above-the-line issues, MacKenzie soon discovered how little she knew

about the world of direct marketing. ’Being in meetings with these

people was like talking Russian,’ she recalls. ’Before I got to Air

Miles, I’d never said the word ’de-dupe’!



But I was upfront with them when they approached me. I said, ’if you

want a direct marketing specialist, don’t hire me’.’



The Air Miles bosses weren’t dissuaded. The company was entering a new

phase after years of rapid, but unfocused, growth. Having increased the

customer base from about one million to five million, Air Miles wanted

to reinvent itself and place more emphasis on segmenting its audience.

It may well be an ’ingredient’ brand, but this doesn’t mean it has to

remain in the shadows. MacKenzie proudly boasts that Air Miles has 97

per cent prompted awareness, with spontaneous awareness not far behind.

’Our logo has incredible strength. It’s enough to make people open an

envelope,’ she says.



These days, MacKenzie is pretty fluent in direct marketing speak and she

clearly has no plans to meddle with the backbone of Air Miles’ marketing

- its quarterly mailed statements and newsletters. She hasn’t been

dazzled by databases either. Instead, she finds the appeal of direct

marketing in its humanising intimacy and immediacy.



By way of illustration, MacKenzie fishes out a recent mailshot which she

wrote, apologising to 150,000 Air Miles customers for a mailing

mistake.



This letter, signed by her, generated a flood of thank you letters

praising her for being so considerate and direct, rather than hiding

behind technology or bureaucracy.



’The past 18 months have taught me the power of direct marketing when

used for specific things,’ she says. ’But while we will continue to use

direct marketing where appropriate, I don’t think Air Miles will be

quite so much a below-the-line brand going forward.’ She thinks the

internet is blurring above- and below-the-line together and, therefore,

will play a big part in Air Miles’ future. E-mail communication is

perfect for a more segmented strategy.



’You can engage customers much more vividly and quickly over the

internet,’ MacKenzie says.



The new marketing culture has recently been on display with what

MacKenzie describes as Air Miles’ biggest recruitment campaign. With a

pounds 1.5 million spend ploughed into radio and press, but magnified by

the independent marketing efforts of Air Miles’ biggest clients, the

’Who Joins Wins’ campaign was one of its highest profile campaigns in

years. It used a wide range of prizes to showcase the growing Air Miles

portfolio - now offering everything from cinema tickets to luxury

holidays.



So Air Miles’ marketing under MacKenzie’s guidance will, by the looks of

it, be just that little bit more sexy. A warm and animated person whose

extra-curricular passions include playing the piano and singing,

MacKenzie is aiming to bring out the adventurous spirit in Air

Miles.



She wants the brand to act as a bridge between the everyday (shopping

for groceries or filling up at the petrol station) and the exotic which,

essentially, means travel. ’Travel is one of the most appealing things

in the history of the world,’ she exclaims.



This exoticism rubbing shoulders with the mundane consumer world is what

makes Air Miles special, she argues. The encroachments of so many other

customer loyalty schemes by the likes of Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Boots do

not worry her. ’They can never match the sheer breadth of Air Miles, the

fact that we offer the most interesting and adventurous rewards, and

that the consumer has so many different ways of accumulating miles.’

This is particularly true if you also happen to use Air Miles for

business-to-business purchases, which is becoming increasingly

popular.



There are now about 250 Air Miles clients, about half of which are in

the business-to-business sector. Of course, the most important clients,

the inner circle, is what Air Miles spends much of its time on. It calls

these partners the Magnificent Seven, although since BT dropped out

they’ve become the Magnificent Six: Sainsbury’s, NatWest, Vodafone,

Amerada Gas, Shell and Scottish Hydro Electric.



There have been rumours of Sainsbury’s also heading for the exit but

MacKenzie says she has no idea where these came from, nor can she see

any logic behind them since the supermarket giant has ’had enormous

success with our scheme’.



With turnover and profits at record highs, Air Miles looks well-placed

to capitalise on its market-leading position. MacKenzie’s take on direct

marketing may well prevail: Summing up her philosophy, she says: ’I want

customers to feel we have tailor-made the scheme just for them.’





THE MACKENZIE FILE



1983: London University, psychology graduate



1986: WCRS, graduate trainee



1988: DMB&B, account manager



1993: DMB&B, board account director



1996: DMB&B, group account director



1998: Air Miles, marketing director.



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