Partnerships That Don’t Work Out For Product Managers

Sometimes marketing relationships just don't work out
Sometimes marketing relationships just don’t work out
Image Credit: Always Shooting

As a product manager, you want to be able to get your product out in front of as many potential customers as possible. However, this is something that sometimes your company can’t accomplish all by themselves. When you realize this, you often start to look for a partner – somebody who can help change your product development definition and introduce you to more potential customers. This is a great idea, but these joint marketing relationships don’t always work out…

How About Some Frequent Flyer Miles?

If you have a product that you want the world to get excited about, one marketing strategy is to pair your product with another product that has already established itself as being popular. The thinking here is that since people have already shown that they want the other product, if you can ride along with the other product more people will purchase your product. Hopefully after this happens, they’ll use your product and fall in love with it and make more purchases in the future.

It turns out that there is a group of consumers who have fallen in love with frequent flyer miles. These folks collect these miles like they were made out of gold and then they use them to pay for travel to far off places that they would normally not be able to afford to go to. Since you already have people who would be willing to purchase products if somehow that purchase could result in them getting more frequent flyer miles, you have a preexisting audience for your product if you could just pair it with frequent flyer miles.

A lot of other products have done this in the past. When the U.S. mint offered free shipping on their new dollar coins in order to get them into circulation, frequent flyer hoarders ordered them using credit cards that gave them frequent flyer miles and then paid for the coins using the coins themselves. In the past cereal companies have put frequent flyer mile offers on their boxes and when they’ve done this, their product has flown off the shelves often leaving them bare. Now that’s something to add to your product manager resume! Car dealerships have also offered frequent flyer miles to people who would be willing to come in and test drive a car.

What Does Love Have To Do With Frequent Flyer Miles?

If all of these other product pairings with frequent flyer miles were successful, you’d think that perhaps they could help the sales of your product out also, right? That is apparently the thinking that went on in the minds of the product managers at several online dating sites. The thinking was that if they could offer frequent flyer miles to new customers who signed up for their service, then they could probably attract more customers.

For what it’s worth, this appeared to be a very good idea. The offer was that customers could get 150 frequent flyer points from British Airways for every dollar that they spent on new subscriptions to They could also get 130 points if they signed up for eHarmony. An annual membership to costs US$215 and that meant that by just signing up a frequent flyer mile collector could gain 32,250 miles. That is a very good deal.

You know what happened here. Married people who collect frequent flyer miles started to sign up for these dating sites just to get the frequent flyer miles. It didn’t take too long for the dating firms to discover what was going on and they very quickly changed their minds. They refunded everyone’s signup fees and cancelled the frequent flyer miles that they were going to get. Apparently what had happened was that an outside firm that was tasked with getting more people to sign up for the dating sites had hatched on this plan without consulting the site owners. Lesson learned.

What All Of This Means For You

The idea behind pairing your product with a product that has already been shown to be successful is a great idea and should be a part of everyone’s product manager job description. Since people already like that product, they may be willing to purchase your product just to get that product. Frequent flyer miles are very popular among the people who collect them and pairing a product with them seems like a good idea.

In the past there have been a number of different products that have been paired with frequent flyer miles. These have included the U.S. Mint, cereal companies, and car dealerships. All of these have been successful programs. Some online dating sites decided to try pairing memberships on their site with a frequent flyer mile give-away offer. It turned out that this was very, very popular – a lot of people signed up for the sites once the new offer was announced. However, as the product managers started to take a closer look at just exactly who was signing up, they didn’t like what they were seeing. A large number of the people who signed up were already married and probably were not going to be using the dating website. These new members had their money returned and their frequent flyer miles cancelled.

What we need to be very careful of as product managers is that pairing of products needs to be done carefully. If the product that we pair our product with is too popular, it may serve to attract the wrong type of people who are really not customers for our product. That’s not going to do us any good in the long run. Instead, pair your product with a complementary product and allow both companies to benefit each time a customer selects your product.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: Is there a way that frequent flyer miles could have been given away by the dating sites that would have attracted the right type of customers?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Here’s an interesting question for you: how much time do you spend each day in your car? If you are like most of us, your answer is probably going to be at least a couple of hours when you take going to work and running errands into account. What do you listen to when you are in your car? The answer is probably “the radio”, but what kind of radio? The standard broadcast radio that you can only get in your town or the fancy SiriusXM broadcasts that come from a satellite? It turns out that there are product managers who want you to say that you always listen to SiriusXM.