GDPR is not killing marketing – it is saving it

Image of a GDPR Lock

By Omaid Hiwaizi

Much of the narrative about GDPR has focussed on how it restricts what marketers can do, and how bad that will be. The truth is that marketers will thrive now that GDPR has changed the ways they access and use valuable customer data – and marketing will enter a new, positive era. Omaid Hiwaizi, Marketing Consultant, Marketors, explores marketing in the post-GDPR era

People dislike how companies use their data

Smart companies use personal data to inform strategies and shape the way they communicate and relate to their customers. Over and over we see the most powerful companies mastering and growing off the back of data driven marketing.

However, many consumers aren’t delighted by the idea of brands using their data, even if it means creating product offerings built around their needs or making them more aware of products and services that they might truly value. This is because consumers’ experience of marketing is largely mass, interruptive and irrelevant and uses data in luddite ways – like retargeting shoppers with ads for a product they’ve already bought.

Indeed multiple studies have highlighted the level of consumer concern over how their personal data is used by companies. One study commissioned by Gigya reveals that two thirds of UK consumers are worried about how their data is used. Another survey commissioned by Verint Systems finds 89 percent of global consumers believe it’s important to know how secure their personal information is, while 86 percent say it’s important to know whether their data will be passed on to third parties for marketing purposes. It’s not a relationship built on trust.

GDPR is about creating an equitable data relationship

Introduced in May 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a new digital privacy regulation that has a far-reaching impact for both companies and consumers. It protects the personal data of European citizens all over the world by standardising privacy legislations across the EU into one central set of regulations that will legally protect users in all member states.

Under GPDR companies are legally obligated to incorporate privacy settings into websites and digital products. They must acquire permission to use the personal data of each individual and in the name of transparency, they must document the ways that they use that data. They must also impact regular privacy impact assessments and any data breach must be communicated.

It’s safe the say the EU is taking GDPR very seriously – failure to comply will result in a fine of €20 million or 4% of the offending company’s annual global turnover.

So how can marketers provide the best possible communication and perform vital market analysis when access to valuable data has been dealt such a deathly blow? The truth is that GDPR is actually good for marketers. The flow of personal data hasn’t been cut off – it’s simply been refined.

A gift for marketers?

With customers required to ‘opt-in’ to companies using their data, marketers are gifted with a cleaner pool of data belonging to a core customer base that genuinely believes providing the company its personal data will provide them with some sort of value. In short, these customers want to continue their relationship with the company. For companies, this means the data will provide them with more accurate insights.

GDPR impacts email marketing managers by outlawing the practice of obtaining email marketing lists. Instead, individuals who make it onto email lists must be opted in. For consumer-facing brands, it’s simply a matter of ensuring customers are incentivised to opt-in.

Resulting email lists should bring about healthier open rates and click through rates because emails are being circulated to customers that value the brand, instead of email lists full of customers that perhaps shopped once and only occasionally open emails from that brand.

For B2B marketers, this presents a significant challenge and that is building email lists of sales leads that must be opted in before you can make contact. Providing website content that is relevant and valuable such as whitepapers and case studies is vital to encouraging sales leads to give up the data.

Stipulating that they must opt in to view the content on offer will provide the company with a valuable list of sales leads that will be more receptive to your email marketing efforts than an unreliable list of email addresses that has simply procured, which could ultimately drive down open rates and click-through rates.

As an example, the green shoots are already visible within the direct mail channel. The Royal Mail cites that GDPR has inspired numerous examples of cleaner, better qualified leads making this channel more attractive, achieving deeper engagement possible trough physical communication.

The dawn of a new era for Marketing?

Marketing has been dominated by ‘push’ based broadcast media for decades. This is driven by optimising efficiency of the reach which can be achieved – the value of which has been well documented. The issue here is that most impressions land with an audience who aren’t open to or interested in engaging with the brand at that moment. Add the data driven targeting opportunities which have emerged in the last decade and it’s easy to see why consumers can feel stalked, overwhelmed and seeking ad-blockers and finding reasons to avoid advertising.

For some years companies have been investigating ‘pull’ mechanics, where engagement is triggered by a need from the consumer, by seeking out a solution or a brand. Brands invest in online search, content and brand experiences (digital and physical) which are utility based – inspiring and informing the consumer on the problem, category and product. A wonderful example of this “Brand Utility” is the Benadryl Social Pollen Count app, which used data from the Met Office, Social Media and individual location data to produce the most accurate, real time pollen map and sensor to help hayfever sufferers pre-empt and minimise the ill effects of the condition, baking the brand into that moment and need.

Embracing GDPR will transform marketing

The three basic principles of GDPR change the data relationship with consumers:

Doing this will inspire the next generation of consumer-centric personalised marketing which will inspire deeper engagement, drive more behaviour and fundamentally create a deeper impact.

  1. gain consent,
  2. adhere to your data subject’s “right to be forgotten” and
  3. provide transparency on how you’re using their data.

About the Author

Omaid Hiwaizi is a Marketing Leader for Emerging Technology Start Ups and Scale Ups and a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Marketors.