Adventure Loyalty

Jan 20, 2012

What do you get when you combine a globally recognized brand with opportunity to fulfill lifetime dreams? In this case, the answer is National Geographic Adventures.

An unsolicited catalog came in the mail yesterday and the eye popping graphics compelled me to pick it up for a quick browse. National Geographic is a brand that most of us grew up with and also one that has transformed itself forward. Over the years, the brand has changed in subtle ways, taking on the “NatGeo” titling to embrace a more up to date image and spark appeal with a younger audience. It has changed in more substantive ways also, moving from a single publication enterprise to one that brings every corner of the world to us through multiple forms of media.

Now, NatGeo has also brought us a collection of “unique trips for the active traveler” and it has also brought us the “Lifetime Explorer” loyalty program. At the top of the pyramid known as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, there sits self-actualization. The collection of adventure travel organized by NatGeo sits squarely in this frame of the pyramid.

In loyalty lingo, we’d call this aspirational travel. Whatever term you use, these trips are pretty awesome. You can choose from a hike across the Emerald Isle, Ireland or cover England coast to coast. Too tame for you? Then consider a trip to Machu Picchu, Peru or to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Still yearning for more? Take the Ultimate Challenge and go to Mount Everest Base Camp or climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

As you can tell, trips are organized by activity levels (Easy, Moderate, Strenuous, and Ultimate Challenge). They seek to keep groups small to maximize the experience of each traveler, and bios of the professional guides that lead the way are used to make the trips even more attractive. There are also options for “private departures” where a particular trip can be set up for a private group, making the trip of a lifetime possible as part of a corporate getaway or family reunion.

The loyalty program caught my eye because frequency is normally a key driver of successful programs and, after all, how many “trips of a lifetime” can a person take in their lifetime? Apparently, NatGeo hopes you become hooked on adventure travel and has given you reason to strap on hiking boots and a GPS watch more often.

Travelers who have traveled with NatGeo three times qualify for the program. That means you’ve probably spent between $15 – 20,000 enjoying the world’s treasures. Upon enrollment, members receive:

  • Discounts on all future trip (amount not disclosed)
  • Advance notice on upcoming new trips
  • Invitations to special trips not available to the public
  • Invitations to select NatGeo events around the country
  • Special email for Lifelong Explorers

This loyalty program is more club than true loyalty program, but we appreciate NatGeo using the term. Appealing to the mass affluent segment and possibly the high net worth group of consumers, the Lifelong Explorer program puts aspiration, personal fulfillment and customer experience front and center.

NatGeo is one of the unique brands with the cache to be able to create such a program and to capture the imaginations of those privileged to enjoy global adventure travel. It’s the right approach for NatGeo and certainly represents, at the least, icing on the cake for the adventurous consumer.