Loyalty to one's general, to the Emperor and to the Empire. Translating the concept to marketing may seem trite, but the principles are the same. Key among them: loyalty is a two-way street.
Take the retail sector, where loyalty is expressed via the reward card. Tesco's Clubcard remains nonpareil, partly because, as former Tesco chief executive Sir Terry Leahy recently explained ('You have to break the straitjacket', Marketing, 19 October), the card is the mechanism behind a relentless focus on current customers.
'Far too much marketing spend goes on chasing the promiscuous shopper,' he told The Marketing Society. 'If you shift more of your spend behind rewarding your existing customers, you'll get far more return on your investment.'
Now another grocer has just taken the plunge. Waitrose customers will no doubt be thrilled to receive the 'myWaitrose' card. The Royal-Warranted brand has overcome any dilemma that this could be, dare we say it, a shift downmarket. The UK has, after all, a 'coupon culture', from top to bottom.
MyWaitrose is, according to Waitrose CRM manager Leigh Rengger, the brand's way of 'saying thank you'. Actually, it's less altruistic than that; just ask Tesco. Loyalty cards should be that two-way street, and are as much about harvesting customer data as giving freebies.
Such data does more than create a positive feedback loop for that individual and their local store: it fuels the expansion of the retailer's business, and Waitrose is on a growth mission.
At a time of rising concern over data privacy, the challenge for Waitrose will be to 'do a Tesco' and ensure this value exchange pays out for both sides.