60 Seconds with Rob Connors, Assistant Vice President of Marketing for National

60 Seconds with Rob Connors, Assistant Vice President of Marketing for National

National Car Rental’s Emerald Club is celebrating it’s 25th anniversary this year so we recently caught up with Rob Connors, Assistant Vice President of Marketing for National to see how the program is coming along 25 years on.

InsideFlyer
The Emerald Club was the industry’s first frequent renter program and it’s celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Can you tell us how National is celebrating?
Rob Connors
In celebration of the Emerald Club’s 25th anniversary, we launched a Facebook sweepstakes entitled “Blast from the Past.” Throughout the month of March, fans of National’s Facebook page could join the celebration by submitting their favorite memories of 1987–via anecdotes, photos or video–for the chance to win a $25 gift card. In addition, we have branded all of our customer correspondence with a special logo celebrating Emerald Club’s 25 years. Finally, St. Louis-based employees were recognized at a celebration at our corporate headquarters and all employees who have been with National for 25 years or more were recognized through internal company-wide communications from our executive management team. In addition, we featured employee profile videos on our intranet site as well as on National’s Facebook page.

IF
What other surprises are in store for members this year?
Connors
As part of National’s recently announced partnership with the PGA of America, we launched a Facebook sweepstakes in April, running through June 30th, offering our fans a chance to win tickets to the 2012 Ryder Cup. We are also working on providing more mobile solutions for our customers that will make their car rental process even faster and easier.

IF
When Emerald Club first launched, members had to pay membership fees, starting at a $50 fee for a one-year membership in the program. When and why were these fees dropped?
Connors
We found we were largely waiving them for large corporate accounts since the early nineties. We then decided to drop them for all members in 2008. The rest of the travel industry had largely dropped their loyalty club fees and we didn’t want any barriers between our great product and the consumer.

IF
How else has the program changed in the past 25 years?
Connors
When we first launched in 1987 we had only one tier: whether you rented once or 20 times per year, you picked your car from the Emerald Aisle. In 2004 we re-launched the program with tiers based on frequency: Emerald Club with zero to 11 rentals per year choose their vehicle from the Emerald Aisle. They earn a free day for every seven rentals. Executive Emerald Club members rent 12-24 times per year and choose from the Executive selection of the Emerald Aisle. They earn a free day for every six rentals. Elite complete 25+ rentals per year. They also choose their vehicle from the Executive selection of the Aisle and we guarantee them a car — even in a sold out situation (requires 24 hour advance reservation). Five rentals earn them a free day.

IF
Can you explain how members of Emerald Club can benefit from Enterprise rentals?
Connors
The way the program works is that Emerald Club members can earn rental credits when renting at Enterprise locations. Credits must be redeemed at National. We launched this program because many of our Emerald Club members have rental needs in the home city where Enterprise has an extensive network of more than 5,000 neighborhood locations in the U.S. National locations are primarily at the airport. So, as a convenience for our members, we offer the ability to earn a rental credit when renting at Enterprise.

IF
As you hear from members, what stands out as their favorite aspect of Emerald Club?
Connors
From our newest members to our seasoned veterans, the ability to personally select their own cars and to drive a variety of vehicles really hits home for members. They love the freedom and control that comes from the choice experience.

IF
We noticed that National has a presence on Facebook. What else is National doing in social media?
Connors
We continue to try new things in social media. The channel is still relatively new and rapidly changing, so we have to keep an eye on those changes and where our customers want to interact with us as a brand. Right now we have a strong presence on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Foursquare is interesting to us and we will continue to investigate new mediums.

IF
Members can choose to earn free rental days, airline miles or hotel points. Which option is most popular with members?
Connors
By far the most popular option is the free rental days.

IF
Emerald Club recently ran a promotion on Facebook, “Where were you 25 years ago?” So… where were you 25 years ago, 1987?
Connors
Believe it or not I was a senior in high school. I have been with National Car Rental for more than 18 years now and it’s been a blast watching Emerald Club continue to grow over my tenure.

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