Your customer database is potentially the most powerful weapon in your marketing armoury. You should be seeing the people in that database as important members of your “brand community” and start conversing with them as you would converse with your friends. Do this and amazing things start to happen.

A customer database is so much more than a tool to be used solely for promoting special offers and discounts. In addition to this it is as importantly a tool for brand building. (By brand building we mean the process of creating, reinforcing and changing perceptions about your brand in order to optimise the alignment of your brand with the needs of your customers.)

Most customer databases are only used to pump out special offers and to kick tiny percentages of each customer’s spend back to them. In other words they get used for the purpose of giving value away in the hope that customers will reward you with their loyalty.

The fact is you can’t build a brand on price alone. Yes, to some extent loyalty is earned by offering low prices and good deals, but mostly loyalty is earned by building your brand in the customers’ minds. Until quite recently, the route to brand building has been traditional media, but the internet has changed that. Traditional media audiences continue to steadily decline as consumers switch to the internet for their preferred content fixes. (Granted, there will always be people who read printed magazines and pandas are not extinct – though there are none living in the wild!)

Most marketers ignore the opportunity of building and using brand community databases for the purpose of engaging with their customers to build their brands in their customers’ minds. They only see the opportunity to boost short term sales.

Yesterday we published the 2017 Brand Atlas Retailer Loyalty Report – a thorough investigation of the impact on ‘most often store usage’ as well as on ‘brand perceptions’ of each of the major retailer customer programmes in South Africa.

The report proves that in most retail product categories, customer programmes do correlate with both ‘most often usage’ and ‘enhanced brand perceptions’. Some programmes do better than others on each of these aspects, and programmes like these do better in some categories (like grocery) than they do in others (like homeware).

We think that all South African marketers owe it to themselves to find out more about how brand community databases work and how to use them better to help build their brands in the minds of their target markets.