We need only look at how Facebook has sullied the word friend. They've taken something imbued with childhood escapades and the experience of genuine bonding, a word that we've come to know as essential to our humanity, and they require us to extend it indiscriminately to anyone. In order to counter this we've had to create a whole new type of friend –a Facebook Friend. When a person refers to someone as their "Facebook Friend" we know they mean a person they may or may not actually know and someone they may or may not actually like. We also know the person is not among their real friends because a real friend (even one who is connected via Facebook) is never denigrated with the FF label.
Just like the word Facebook sucks the soul out of friend, so too does program suck every last meaningful shred of value from loyalty.
Say it out loud. Loyalty Program. Did you hear the wooshing sound? That was the sound of everything you know and love about the meaning of loyalty being stripped away by the addition of program.
Humans have long held loyalty up as one of the highest social values and one of the greatest human qualities to seek and strive for. We expect it in our relationships. We're fanatics about it with our sports teams, churches and political orientation. Heck we even use it as the rationale for why dogs are superior to cats. Loyalty gives us a sense of comfort, safety, belonging and bunch of Maslow's other higher-order needs. Then along come the marketers. We're smart enough to identify the human value of loyalty and slick enough to try to capitalize on it. But we get it all wrong because our intention is really not about loyalty. Almost every example of a loyalty program I've looked at had absolutely nothing to do with fostering loyalty --it's about sales, retention, and entrapment. Those are all perfectly fine things to do (well, probably not entrapment) but we're not fooling anyone -- it's not loyalty.
We need to stop doing this. Words matter, we of all people should use them correctly.