Just a few years ago many South African companies had large databases of customer details and they didn’t know what to do with them. They used them to send out various communications about uninteresting and unpleasant things like ‘confirmations of contract renewal’, ‘terms and conditions of new policies’ and the dreaded ‘notifications of late payment’.

Then some bright spark in the marketing department realised that in addition to depressing their customers with the usual stuff they were sending out, they could also irritate them by sending out a never-ending stream of irrelevant communications designed to squeeze every last cent out of the customers’ precious wallets.

Now sending a steam of unsolicited special offers on unwanted products is not a good way to build your brand in the customer’s mind, or to make them like and respect you. Yet, everyone will tell you that the reason they do it is because it works.

The philosophy behind the nihilistic practice of bombarding customers into submission reminds us of the old joke about the guy who propositioned every girl he met – he got a lot of slaps, but he also got a few dates along the way.

There’s not enough subtlety in bombarding customers with a repetitive stream of nearly identical offers, day in and day out for years on end. Seducing customers into liking and respecting you and your brand requires a marked degree of variation in the approaches made to them. Sometimes you make them laugh and sometimes you make them cry. Sometimes you spoil them with gifts and sometimes you tempt them with offers on the things you know they like. (By the way, you have to stop sending offers on nappies to people who you know don’t have babies. This type of practice goes beyond being irritating.)

As more and more brands climb onto the customer bombardment bandwagon, we predict the number of slaps will increase and the number of dates will start declining. It’s already happening.

So give some thought to how you can use your customer list to nurture a brand community which you can use to seduce your customers into loving you rather than commandeering them into submission.

If you would like to have conversation with us, call Megan on 072 060 5241 (megan@alltold.co.za)