How can Marketers Stay Personal in an Age of Privacy?

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With the imminent arrival of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), media conversations about the potential implications continue to incite panic among marketers. The relationship between marketing and data has continued to grow alongside digital development, to the point where it is now difficult to imagine maintaining relationships with customers without a heavy reliance on data. It is, therefore, understandable that marketers feel anxious about what the future holds after May 2018, when GDPR comes into force.

One element of GDPR which is causing concern among some marketers is that of ‘consent’, otherwise defined as the permission given by an individual to allow the processing of their personal information. The new GDPR states that current rules are insufficient and is set to impose much stricter guidelines that require businesses to obtain unambiguous consent from individuals in order to process their personal data. Though there is still debate over what ‘unambiguous’ entails, draft guidance issued by the ICO earlier this month indicates that pre-ticked opt-in boxes will no longer be valid and organisations will instead be required to obtain consent from consumers with active opt-in protocols, after first providing granular details on how the data will be used. Furthermore, consent requests can no longer be tied up in other terms and conditions or be a precondition of signing up to a service. And for each channel through which a brand can communicate, consumers must be given separate consent options so they can select which ones they do and do not agree to.

For online advertising and the use of data in Data Management Platforms (DMP) and Demand Side Platforms (DSP), this is effectively a new requirement as the number of organisations gathering consent for online advertising as a media channel is extremely low. At present, an implied consent based on email is often used as a surrogate, which will no longer be valid.

The changes should be taken seriously as brands will need to demonstrate a more transparent approach to their data processes to avoid crippling fines. Though this may sound daunting to those who are used to a more lax approach, the new rules will ultimately promote more profitable relationships with customers so should be welcomed with open arms. However, the question on everyone’s lips is: how can marketers ensure they source this all-important consent from consumers in order to maintain relationships in the wake of GDPR?

There are various provisions brands can put in place to maximise their chances of securing data permissions from consumers. Implementing highly targeted marketing campaigns around consent is likely to be the most effective method and is something which marketers should be considering now. By segmenting existing customer databases and developing personalised, relevant campaigns based on lifestyle, behaviour and communications preferences, brands can demonstrate the advantages of data sharing in ways that are relevant to each customer segment.

This process will ultimately yield the most valuable customers and enable brands to further refine their marketing strategies going forward. Those that choose not to share their data are likely to be unprofitable anyway, and those that do will appreciate the open, honest and transparent approach your brand has taken, contributing to their profitability in the long run.

Whilst the widespread confusion and ambiguity has resulted in pessimistic forecasts, it’s important to outline that GDPR is not a negative development for marketers. In fact, the new rules offer a huge opportunity for marketers to re-evaluate and build better relationships with consumers. As we enter an age of data defined by quality, not quantity, it won’t take long for marketers to experience the benefits of this fresh approach. Whilst it’s inevitable that any legislative change will be met with a level of apprehension, GDPR will have positive implications for brands and consumers alike, and should be embraced readily by all.


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