Profipoly: Marketing’s Fourth Wave and Final Frontier (Part 1)

The Delta Change

Mid-September, I got an email from Delta Airlines. (Postscript: Since then, Delta has modified some aspects of their loyalty program.)

For the first time, SkyMiles Members living outside of the U.S. will now earn Medallion Status via Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs). Starting January 1, 2024, all you will need are MQDs to achieve Status. No need to keep track of miles (MQMs) or segments (MQSs) flown. All currencies convert to USD at the standard exchange rate at the time of ticketing and/or purchase and will then convert from $1 USD to $1 MQD.

With many more ways to earn MQDs, this is what you will need to achieve in 2024 to earn 2025 Medallion Status:

Silver Medallion: $6,000 MQDs

Gold Medallion: $12,000 MQDs

Platinum Medallion: $18,000 MQDs

Diamond Medallion: $35,000 MQDs

Wall Street Journal explained the move:

Travelers won’t need to step on a plane to earn status in frequent-flier program—if they spend enough money.

Delta had been a holdout in keeping its SkyMiles loyalty program closely tied to flying even as rivals had shifted to reward credit-card spending more richly.

Now, the carrier is shifting to a model that ties status exclusively to how much people spend, either on travel with the airline and its partners, on co-branded credit cards, or by booking hotels, rental cars and vacation packages through Delta channels.

Elite status has long been highly sought after—and hotly pursued—by frequent fliers who cherish perks like early boarding, free checked bags, seat upgrades, and bonus miles to spend on award travel. Delta is the latest carrier to decide that flying is no longer a prerequisite.

Washington Post had this:

While the airline says its revamped system has “simplified” the SkyMiles program for repeat customers, it’s actually dealing a significant blow to the middle class of travelers, inciting outrage on social media and promises from some to quit flying Delta altogether.

… It’s all part of a massive shift from years of luxury travel perks for the masses, repeated status extensions resulting from the pandemic, and credit card acquisition tactics that sold unfettered entry into airport lounges. As airlines continue to benefit from a high volume of travelers, it looks like the beginning of the end for a golden era of status hacking.

By linking rewards and status to spending, Delta is ushering in the next wave in marketing: where customer value isn’t just about loyalty, but about actual monetary contribution, a shift away from simply retention to maximising revenue and profits. Welcome to Profipoly Marketing, where brands don’t just seek to retain customers, but actively strategise to optimise and maximise their revenue streams from existing customers and their networks. Such shifts, while potentially polarising, underscore the evolving nature of brand-consumer relationships in the digital age. As brands prioritise profitability, consumers will need to recalibrate their expectations and loyalties. In this series, we’ll unpack how the transition to profipoly marketing – the fourth wave in marketing and its final frontier – will redefine industries, challenge long-held beliefs, and shape the future of eCommerce.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.