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Ritz Carlton

In 2011, a leading, global hospitality company in the luxury category approached Wolff Olins to consider the strategic positioning of their customer loyalty program and its holistic implications for customer relationship management throughout the organization.


The company has one of the strongest, most beloved brands in the luxury hospitality space and sought to create a loyalty program that engendered an even deeper level of connection and adoration among their best customers.


We worked with a cross-functional core team to design a global research approach to better understand the needs of the global affluent traveler. As a result, we traveled around the world to key target markets – core and emerging – where we spent time both talking with customers and on-property hotel staff.

The ultimate goal was to uncover fundamental needs and values of this nuanced customer set. Given the company’s acute emphasis on observing and anticipating customer needs, the on-property staff provided an anthropological understanding of their customers – a wealth of knowledge beyond our expectations, and even beyond customers’ own articulations.

Once we had a solid understanding of the customer perspective and a macro view of the evolving luxury landscape, we married that insight with the core strengths of the company’s brand and heritage to envision future possibilities for the loyalty program. The result was an idea based around intangible relationships – not tangible things.

Connecting with people, not incenting consumers with points and perks. Leveraging the hotels’ strong network of partners and people to facilitate
and grow real relationships. The concept itself was simple, but the execution would require focused effort, so we continued working with the team to create an actionable, 3-year roadmap to plot the path to success.


This new thinking helped evolve the concept of loyalty – creating true allegiance to a brand by way of people. By humanizing an otherwise easily
replicated and quickly commoditized offer (points-centric rewards programs) we created a personal, differentiated model with long-term potential – both for the business, the brand and for customers.