Framing as status or benefits? Consumers’ reactions to hierarchical loyalty program communication

Palmeira, Mauricio, Pontes, Nicolas, Thomas, Dominique, & Shanker, Krishnan (2016) Framing as status or benefits? Consumers’ reactions to hierarchical loyalty program communication. European Journal of Marketing, 50(3/4), pp. 488-508.

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  • A fundamental aspect of hierarchical loyalty programs is that some consumers get rewards that others do not. Despite the widespread use of such programs, academics have long debated whether these benefits are outweighed by the potential negative impact of the differential treatment of customers. This study extends our understanding, examining the impact of message framing on consumers’ reactions to hierarchical loyalty structures.


  • Three online studies were conducted. Study 1 uses advertisements to manipulate the message frame’s emphasis (benefits vs. status). Study 2 manipulates consumers’ frame of thought by directing their attention to either changes in benefits or status. Finally, Study 3 uses the proposed framework to reconcile contradictory findings from past research.


  • Low-frequency customers who do not expect to qualify for a superior customer tier tend to reject hierarchical programs when thinking about status. In contrast, when these customers think about concrete rewards, loyalty program messages produce no negative reactions. High-frequency customers are positively affected by communication regardless of the type of benefits framed.

Research limitations/implications

  • All studies were done online potentially limiting the external validity of the results. Nevertheless, the impact of message framing on perceptions about the loyalty program seems to be quite robust across different studies and manipulations.

Practical implications

  • When communicating with low-frequency customers managers should avoid promising status; customers should instead be motivated based on concrete rewards. High-frequency customers are indifferent to alternative emphasis of communication frames.


  • Marketing academics have acknowledged the importance of being able to reward top customers without demotivating light and moderate users. Our research is the first to provide a solution to this issue.

Impact and interest:

0 citations in Scopus
1 citations in Web of Science®
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ID Code: 92140
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Loyalty programs, hierarchy, status, rewards, low-frequency customers, framing
DOI: 10.1108/EJM-02-2014-0116
ISSN: 0309-0566
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > COMMERCE MANAGEMENT TOURISM AND SERVICES (150000) > MARKETING (150500)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2016 Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Deposited On: 21 Jan 2016 03:41
Last Modified: 26 Jun 2017 21:01

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