Everyone knows that customer relationship marketing is great when it comes to driving changes in behaviour, but not many brands appear to use it that way, according to Felix Velarde, managing director for specialist customer engagement agency, Underwired. This article is copyright 2013 The Best Customer Guide.

In fact, Velarde has noticed that most so-called customer relationship marketing (CRM) systems deliver content based on "relevance" as described by unsophisticated segmentation, which tends to be drawn from demographic information and behavioural data. But, thankfully, some marketers have taken the process further and developed segmentation that also considers the extra dimension of motivation.

CRM based on relevance is of course where the foundations were laid. CRM that drives behavioural change is the basic level of competence for most brands. But it should go far beyond that basic level. By understanding the journey we want the customer to take, and how that intersects with where they want to be, we can deliver messages that move them on in a sequence of relevant and well-timed nudges.

For example, let's say you have just bought a car. The first thing we do is say 'thank you', following which we check that you are still happy, and then we set you up a service deal with your local garage - and so on, until it is time for you to buy again, by which point you are fully engaged and your propensity to re-purchase is higher than before. In reality, of course, CRM often also works by first reducing the customer's propensity to switch brands, but that's a whole other strategy.

So CRM drives behaviour. It's a simple enough idea, but we also need to include a third dimension: should it not be possible to use CRM to drive changes in attitude? Of course it should.

Take another (fictional) example, involving a food brand such as McCain, a popular maker of frozen potato products, with a surprisingly hard-to-deliver message ("McCain frozen chips are good for your kids"). Now, let's say you're a customer in a segment motivated by two things: concern for the wellbeing of your children, and a lack of time to do things that you really need to do. Imagine receiving an email that says, "At school your kids are going to be learning about where food comes from. Here is a colour-by-numbers picture of Farmer John and his big red tractor. Print it, and it will support what they learn." As a parent, you've got half an hour of safe, moderately instructional activity for your kids to do while you get on with whatever you've got to do.

The next email turns up and Farmer John goes and ploughs a field. The next one shows how potatoes are planted. The next shows how a potato grows underground. The next shows what happens at harvest time. Finally, the potatoes are in the McCain factory where potato plus sunflower oil turns into dinner. By the end of it you, the customer, know that McCain chips are, in fact, perfect to serve to your children - environmentally sound, no additives, and so on. The brand has never tried to deliver its message by saying something you won't believe but it has changed your attitude.

So CRM can be powerful, if the message and timing are right, and if it addresses the consumer's motivations. It can be very effective when you make use of all of its capabilities to engage customers, and not just shift behaviour but shift attitudes as well.