AIA Vitality: It’s not a loyalty program – it’s a science-backed wellness program with incentives and rewards

A fascinating interview with Candice Smith - Head of Wellness at AIA Vitality

NOTE: I am not a customer of AIA Vitality nor providing consulting services. The article was written based on my desire to understand how brands use incentives and rewards to change customer behaviour.

In many cases, a brand’s motivation to change customer behaviour focuses on a customer’s purchase behaviour – spend more (increase basket or share of wallet), spend more often (frequency of visit) and remain an active customer (retention and lifetime value).

There is also a desire to change attitudes and beliefs - ‘love for the brand’, ‘trust the brand’ as well as generate word-of-mouth. However, in the main changing behaviour is about maximising purchases.

Loyalty programs, with variations on a name (see my definition at end of the article) are often a go-to strategy to motivate a change of a customer’s purchase behaviour.

When a friend mentioned AIA Vitality to me and all the ‘rewards they were receiving for healthy activities’ I was intrigued to investigate further.

I met with Candice Smith – Head of Wellness at AIA Vitality to find out more…

1. What’s the background to AIA Vitality?

It was initiated in South Africa (Discovery Insurance) 20 years ago and was launched in Australia five years ago (and New Zealand this year).

Its purpose is to make Australians (the focus of this article) the healthiest and most protected (from an insurance point of view) nations in the world.

Specifically, AIA Vitality aims to reduce health problems related to smoking, poor diet, physical inactivity and excessive alcohol. These are controllable and can be shifted to healthier outcomes.

While AIA do sell insurance (health and life), they aspire to move from a ‘payer’ - pay your claim to a ‘partner’ – help you towards a healthier life.

It’s very clear.

If you are healthy in mind and body, you benefit. Collectively society also benefits.

For AIA, the benefit is reduced claims on insurance and the resulting commercial gain.

There is a genuine mutual benefit. It is transparent.

AIA Vitality call this ‘shared value’.

2. How does AIA Vitality work to deliver the ‘health outcomes’?

As the website explains, AIA Vitality’s science-backed wellness program rewards you for getting healthier …

 ‘You get to know your health, learn how to improve your health and enjoy the rewards for doing so’

Using behavioural economics, technology and data, AIA Vitality is a strategically structured and curated incentive and rewards program with points as ‘the collecting mechanism’ earned for healthy choices and activity.

As you earn more points you go up the status levels (bronze to platinum) and enjoy greater rewards (lifestyle, travel, retail) of greater value, including reduced premiums.

This is a typical ‘loyalty program’ points structure with a not-so-typical focus – your health.

The exciting and refreshing part of AIA Vitality as a ‘wellness program’ (that’s not a loyalty program), is it solves a problem.

In this case a real and very important one – our health and wellbeing.

(Note: I believe all other ‘loyalty/ rewards programs’ need to continuously look to find a customer problem to solve. (Read the SUPERSUPER case study for another problem solved with a rewards program).

3. What three challenges does AIA Vitality currently face and what are your plans to overcome these?

  1. Lack of consumer recognition of the AIA brand

We are embarking in a large mainstream brand campaign and continue to build our thought leadership profile to gain more earned media.

  • Finding partners congruent with our ‘shared values’

While we build scale and keep the focus on shifting the health of the nation, we are looking for partners that match our ‘shared value’ purpose rather than just a transactional partnership.

  • Simplifying the message to market

AIA Vitality is deeply set in science, data and technology and we need to keep refining the message so that it resonates simply with the Australian consumer.

They need to move from awareness to understanding to action quickly and start engaging in healthy activities to earn the rewards to reinforce those activities. That’s when behaviour change starts to happen.

4. How important is the tiered structure of the Wellness Program?


Incentives motivate behaviour changes and tiered structures drive the desire to strive for more rewards and therefore behaviour change.

The gains in health keep evolving from there. We have 20 years of data to back this and prove the shift in behaviour and we know that each additional gym visit (as an example) can be correlated to reduced medical costs.

5. What results have AIA Vitality achieved to-date in Australia?

Since launch in 2014, AIA Vitality has helped more than 160,000 Australians better understand their health. AIA Vitality members have:

  • had over 25,000 health checks
  • completed 250,000 health and wellbeing self-assessments (including mental health)
  • taken nearly 90 billion steps which equates to 30 return trips to the moon
  • visited partner gyms more than one million times
  • received almost $26 million in total rewards

6. What’s the secret sauce of AIA Vitality’s success?

Being obsessive about tracking and monitoring the impact of healthy activities and iterating based on our findings.

7. What’s next for AIA Vitality?

We’re launching in New Zealand (at time of article, this was about to happen) and launch our mainstream brand awareness campaign.

The next version of AIA Vitality will be released in 2020 and our commitment to build a community with more experiential based engagement relating to health and activity. Finding partners with the same ‘shared value’ philosophy continues to be a focus.


It’s hard to capture in this article the enthusiasm and intense obsession that Candice has for AIA Vitality, it’s 20 - year heritage and proven success (backed by science and data) to change the health of humans who are engaged.

For me, the intersection of solving a problem with the use of a ‘loyalty program’ structure  - points, status, tiers and rewards as the underlying platform to motivate a change of behaviour, is fascinating and exciting.

Have a happy loyalty day!

Definition of a loyalty program: 

“A defined structure of rewards and recognition designed by a business to enhance a member’s life (emotionally, financially & with simplicity) in exchange for desired behaviours that benefit profitable business growth (income, insight and advocacy)”. 
Adam Posner – The Point of Loyalty