GDPR: should marketers fear it?


Big changes are coming to digital marketing. In May 2018, the EU’s new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) will come into force – and no, Boris whistling in the wind won’t stop it applying to UK businesses, too. A major headline is that we’ll see much stricter rules regarding ‘opt-ins’ for direct marketing – with consumers needing to actively state that they wish to be contacted by a brand when submitting contact details to them, rather than brands providing an automatic opt-in and requiring a manual (and often tortuous) opt-out. And the fines for non-compliance are hefty, at up to £17 million or 4% of annual turnover.

It’s arguable that this type of legislation has been inevitable for some time – a case of the law catching up to reality, in a time where anyone can freely share every detail of their daily lives through social media. The audience might not be guaranteed – nor the quality, as countless blurry #foodstagrams prove – but a it’s no secret that the appetite for sharing more than ever before is considerable. What’s more, it’s likely we’re still only on the early part of the upward curve of this trend.

This has been manna for brands, who have a vast resource to draw from to help them understand and market to their customers and prospects. Many of Silicon Valley’s empires have been built on acquiring and selling this information, but as we as consumers begin to become cognizant of the value of our own online activity, there’s a question hanging over how we ought to feel about it.

Assuming you’re on the more private side, you might stick to channels which offer an optional degree of privacy, such as Facebook. You may cautiously review the odd Amazon item or restaurant, but by and large try to keep your online visibility light.

While you’re leaving less of a paper trail than prolific tweeters, your efforts will still largely be in vain. It’s nigh on impossible not to have data continuously acquired about you, unless you exclude yourself from the use of smartphones and almost all internet services. There’s no ‘ex-directory’ in 2017 – as ably proven by random number diallers for PPI – and you’d be hard pressed to get the family round for a look at your holiday photos versus getting a ‘like’ for them on Facebook.

You can’t escape sharing your data online, but that doesn’t mean you don’t want to start having a degree of control over it. It’s a dawning awareness that we as consumers are having regarding the value of our own data that makes the GDPR all the more important. The end-user is going to begin having far more control over their own information, at a time when the collection and use of that data is beginning to be more contentious than ever.

For brands, this should be looked at as an opportunity, not a threat. Can you remember the last time you made a claim for an injury via a cold call, or got a payout from a banner ad alerting you that you might be owed compensation for PPI? Probably not. This kind of brute force advertising is annoying to customers and ineffective for brands who are aiming to grow revenue through positive customer experiences.

GDPR should give brands the impetus to take a long look at how they’re using customer data. With digital offering so many more opportunities for brands to identify and contact potential leads, there’s a much greater need than ever to separate the wheat from the chaff. Executed effectively, it can mean better quality prospects and more effective and more targeted approaches to converting them.

No business wants to be seen as a pest – by using GDPR as a kickstarter for a re-evaluation of your approach to data-led digital marketing, you can ensure yours isn’t.

Still need a plan for GDPR? Talk to us about how we can help.