Could the content publishing industry learn a few tricks from retailers – specifically the Tesco Clubcard model of monitoring customer data? Why not is the answer from Dunnhumby’s global head of media John Butler. The company invented the Clubcard but also works for Macy’s, Best Buy, it has casino clients – and now it’s making a pitch to publishers to say it can help them make the most of their customer data.

I asked Butler a few questions at the AOP’s event on Thursday – Unlocking insight from changing online behaviour – and the answers, I thought, were quite intriguing…

Later on, Butler gave a fascinating presentation – here are my brief notes:

– Butler says his favourite quote on the subject is from Mark Twain: “It ain’t what you don’t that gets you into trouble, it’s what you think you know that just ain’t so.”

– He describes the Clubcard as “more than just a loyalty programme”. It gives back many millions of pounds a year to customers in rewards – it’s even “hugely costly to Tesco”, but there are lots of other benefits too. Chief among them is understanding customer behaviour: whether they are loyal or promiscuous, whether they respond to promotions or not and whether they are swayed by brand names or happy with own brand products. Knowing what people buy mean knowing what to sell them.

– Attitudinal data is not the thing to base your customer analysis strategy on, says Butler. “We change the orientation of the retailer and the brand… attitudinal data, in terms of driving behaviour is very unreliable.” What people say they think about something can only take you so far, Butler argued, what’s more important is what people do.

– Demographic data is over-rated too: “I don’t really care about the demography – I want to segment you the other way (by what you buy)”.