Info You Can Use: Reward Disloyalty

H/t Daniel Pink who linked to a story about a “Disloyalty Card” being used by independent coffee shops in Singapore. If you go to one of 8 coffee shops and pick up a card, go to any of the other 7 to get stamps and then come back to the original, you get a free cup of coffee.

I know some arts organizations who have tried these sort of programs to encourage patronizing other organizations with mixed results. What appealed to me about this approach was the rebellious, counter culture feel of it. I had this image of a program that encouraged people to be disloyal to movie theatres and Netflix.

What probably works for the coffee houses is that they can create a bit of an edgy or cool vibe with their stores. If arts organizations are going to try this, they either need to have the same vibe or link it to a series of shows that have that sort of feel. No one is going to feel like they are walking the path less traveled if they find themselves in a staid, completely conventional experience.

My impulse would be to avoid using it during something like a First Friday event where it might look more like a bingo game where people breezed through to get their cards stamped. That doesn’t seem particularly productive. An opportunity to do it across the course of a few months to a year could encourage people to make a more deliberate progress- see a show one weekend, walk through a gallery the next month, go to a dance concert and take visiting friends to the contemporary art museum.

It doesn’t appear that the Singapore disloyalty program requires you to visit all 8 of the coffee shops, just frequent more than one. Even disloyalty programs need to be convenient so it doesn’t make sense to force people to wander all over the place just to get a free cup of coffee. The same would likely apply to a similar program with the arts. Even if all the participating venues were in close proximity, it wouldn’t really be effective to force people to frequent places that didn’t appeal to them.

Structuring the program to encourage people to try a few new things is good. There should be a variety of disciplines represented, but they should get credit for going back to the places they liked rather than only rewarding them for hitting every place once.

Heck, it probably shouldn’t be confined solely to places that were built with the intention of housing art. Get the coffee shop or bar that hangs work by local artists involved. Even better–approach the bars and coffee shops with some opera or classical music performances like the Yellow Lounge program in Germany I wrote about a few years ago or Opera on Tap. Getting these sort of performances into the mix would make for an interesting disloyalty program.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

I am currently the Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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2 thoughts on “Info You Can Use: Reward Disloyalty”

  1. Joe,

    Here in Portland we have two variations on this idea that have been successful for cross-fertilizing in the non-profit arts community.

    The first was an experiment in the dance community inspired by the realization that all of our major dance companies were performing on a specific weekend in October.

    We created a campaign called “Fill Your Dance Card Month” where we created little business card sized punch cards with the details for each of the dance events happening in October. Patrons got their cards punched at each dance event. When they had “earned” 2 punches, they received a $20 gift certificate to a new local restaurant that was hoping to build an arts friendly clientele. When they received 3 punches, they received a second gift certificate, and when they received 4 punches they were entered in to a grand prize drawing that included certificates to all of the participating dance orgs.

    The result was just what you are proposing- patrons already committed to seeing one dance event chose to see 2 or 3 that month, and the inclusion of a non-event related “prize” (ie, dinner certificates) made the program appealing to the patrons who would not have been interested in just a ticket discount. We gave away several hundred certificates and received glowing feedback from patrons who loved feeling rewarded for getting out more. You can check out the structure of the program at

    I’d love to see other markets steal this idea. We found it quite a success.

    • Tricia- Thanks for the info. Glad to see people have already struck on the idea. Nice spread of dance you had last October, including the dancing cowboys and ranchers of Oklahoma.


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