On October 7, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines celebrated its 100th anniversary amidst major fanfare. And for more than 65 of those years, KLM has been gifting finely-crafted ceramic Delft houses in business class at the end of intercontinental flights. These mini-Dutch houses are filled with gin and essentially have become a collector’s item with 100 now in circulation — commemorating each year KLM has been in operation.
The Intelligencer has a fantastic piece on why this unique KLM Dutch houses tradition is not just a cute gift idea, but a genius business practice that promoted loyalty — predating the world of frequent flyer programs.
KLM’s porcelain houses, first introduced in the 1950s, should be thought of as the physical, low-tech precursor to the status designations we see today.
Long before airlines had smartphone apps with bar charts showing how far you had traveled this year — and how much farther you would have to go to be considered truly important to the airline — KLM was giving passengers the figurines they needed to form a physical bar chart demonstrating their importance to KLM.”
Physical and tangible rewards give a far more lasting impression than any digital one. Customers do want to create an emotional bond with a brand, and it doesn’t even cost KLM that much.
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