Mypoints.Com: Flying High as a United Airlines Acquisition
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Holmes Report

Mypoints.Com: Flying High as a United Airlines Acquisition

When G.S. Schwartz & Company began its work with in May 2000, MyPoints was known as a consumer-effacing loyalty company with just under 10 million members but very little of MyPoints revenue was actually generated from consumers.

Paul Holmes

Just 3 months into the program, MyPoints completed the acquisition of its largest competitor, Cybergold.  Just 10 months after that, in June 2001, unquestionably as a direct result of a sustained and comprehensive PR/marketing program, United Airlines announced its intention to acquire…
When G.S. Schwartz & Company began its work with in May 2000, MyPoints was known as a consumer-effacing loyalty company with just under 10 million members.  However, very little of MyPoints revenue was actually generated from consumers.  While their strong consumer member base was a sales point– they sought recognition amongst marketers building brands – potential advertising, media and redemption partners.  At that point public for over a year and being subject to adverse Internet market conditions, MyPoints executives were interested in mergers and acquisitions as a PR/marketing objective as well.   We agreed on a two-tiered PR program, one geared to sustaining the momentum of rapid member acquisition, and the other to support an aggressive regimen of client acquisition and retention.  The business-to-business PR program developed was comprehensive.   It involved not only a highly aggressive media relations campaign, but industry analyst relations, executive speaker platforms, and legislative outreach as well.
The Challenge/Opportunity
MyPoints sought exposure to three client groups advertisers, media clients, and redemption partners.  The challenge was to create recognition within MyPoints’ target client community in a large number of verticals including: retail, e-tail, home improvement, decorating, garden, computers, electronics, books, audio/video, food/gourmet, telecommunications, financial services, ISP, auction/collectibles, and others.  Many brands had no staff position allocated to interactive marketing decision making.  In some cases, it was a VP or CMO level marketing exec, others the CIO, still others the CEO.   This widened the audience – a challenge, but an opportunity as well…
Target Poll:  We conducted a perception poll among marketers in each of their target verticals, and within the overall interactive marketing space.  As predicted, most had heard of MyPoints, but had little idea of their specific products and services, and with interactive marketing still being someone new, very few realized how inexpensive it was.
Media Poll: A media perception poll was even more disappointing, few understood the infrastructure, were aware of the size of the company (300+ employees), its rich cash position, and its executive intellectual capital.
Our objectives became clear:  Build appropriate recognition among target verticals – and the Interactive Community through vertical trade and business media.  It was not enough that people knew of MyPoints, they needed to know what they did, and more importantly what they could do for them. An extensive plan was developed that incorporated virtually all of the business units of the company (attached).
Strategic Approach
We took a wide angle view of the program, with media relations being secondary.  The press coverage we obtained was exceptional, but we felt that that the proactive publicity on MyPoints’ products and services should represent the second or third time the brand name hit a target – not the first.  As such, we made a decision to strongly integrate third party influentials, industry events and ancillary issues into our approach.
Thus the program’s efforts focused not only on their core business services, but privacy, Internet economy related issues, speeches at conferences and events, and media executive profiles among others.
Campaign Execution
Vertical Approach: Utilizing the detailed plan to integrate all of MyPoints’ business units into its PR efforts,  weekly and monthly meetings were held with junior and senior level MyPoints staff to get front line feedback on what customers, potential customers, and partners were asking for. 
Analysts: The analyst community was kept constantly informed through regular tours.  Clear concise presentations were designed for meetings at Giga, Gartner, Jupiter, Forrester and others.  In between visits, analysts received press releases, case study information, and phone calls.
Industry Legislative Issues: We engaged CEO Steve Markowitz as a key player in the Internet Privacy debate with industry regulatory groups, state and federal legislators.  Markowitz was submitted and accepted for membership on industry committees.  He spoke with state and Federal legislators as appropriate.   GSS & Co.  obtained the option to have Markowitz appear on the podium with Presidential candidate Al Gore, should he
have decided to include Internet privacy in his New Hampshire speech.
Industry Recognition: The repositioning of MyPoints into the retail category of Jupiter’s Media Metrix report, was also key.  MyPoints had traditionally ranked #1 most visited loyalty site, but loyalty was not a category heavily tracked by media outside the marketing space.  Seeking the Retail categorization pitted MyPoints against brands like,, and others.  MyPoints is the only e-tailer, other than that has been a Top 5 Visited Site by consumers at home and at work for more than a year and a half now.  This credibility was important for MyPoints’ sales team to sell against.
Top Tier, Trade and General Interest Media Saturation: The program and all of its facets produced hundreds of clips per quarter.  It was not unusual to achieve an advertising equivalency in a single month of over $250,000.  MyPoints appeared regularly in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Industry Standard, The Red Herring, Investor’s Business Daily, BusinessWeek, BrandWeek, AdAge  and a number of target vertical trades that were designated critical - from Credit Card Marketer to Floral Marketer.  A sample of media placements is attached.
The targets, while broad, were clearly hit—John Fullmer, a direct marketing industry veteran, and venture capitalist, began seeing more about MyPoints in online media searches.  When Heidrick and Struggles ultimately approached him for the CEO spot, he immediately new MyPoints position in the marketplace – and took the job.
Summary of Results
MyPoints attracted a new CEO in February 2001, John Fullmer, who, when approached by the executive search firm, said he was very familiar with the company, having often read about MyPoints’ industry successes.  In an era of folding companies, and diminished values, MyPoints was bought by United Airlines’ Venture arm, United New Ventures in June 2001, a success they credit directly to the company’s PR and marketing efforts. 
Almost two years later, MyPoints continues to thrive - garnering new customers, attracting new employees and new talent.  In the 2001 “post dot-bomb” Internet economy, that is no small feat.   Despite the acquisition, the company remains as an independent brand with almost 12 million consumer members, and the addition of media clients like MCI, Burger King, Target, Mastercard, and many others. The fact that United, a worldwide entity decided to keep the MyPoints brand name, is a testament to its marketing and PR success. In fact, a PROMO Magazine study conducted online, indicated that MyPoints was the 4th  most recognizable promotional brands online, ranking just behind Pepsi, Tide, and Marlboro respectively and ahead of others including Coca-Cola.
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