GDPR – marketing in the new age of consent

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Was this the face that launched a thousand ships?  Dr Faustus’ meeting with Helen is one of the high points of Marlowe’s play. Yet all is not what it seems. Helen, like all the riches, wealth and knowledge promised to Faustus, is just an illusion. Dr Faustus doesn’t get what he signed up for. He wanted the whole woman – instead he just got the face. But, unlike GDPR, there is no opt out.

And this brings me to my point. Now that the May 25th deadline has been and gone organisations should have updated their systems, processes and database in line with the new Data Protection Act. But there’s much more to the new Regulation than sorting out your privacy policies and cleaning up your database.


The end of vague or blanket consent

For me, one of the most far-reaching aspects of GDPR is that consent should be specific and granular:

“Be specific and ‘granular’ so that you get separate consent for separate things. Vague or blanket consent is not enough.”


For me, this has very significant implications for Marketing teams.


Making content granular


To start, creating granular content that is truly personalised and relevant to an individual’s interest means Marketing Communications teams need to think differently. However it’s not easy to make this change.

When I was in Ricoh Europe we tried to run granular campaigns around customer interests, and we had significant difficulties finding suitable content. I mean how granular can you get with a new Digital Printer product launch?

Nonetheless I believe it’s important to persistent and not revert to blanket communications.  So how do you do this?


Variety and Quality

There are many types of content that could be of interest to your subscribers. All the marketing teams need to do is to use a little imagination.  I actually changed my credit card company because – literally – all they communicated to me about was balance transfers.

So, as well as providing product information or sales offers, what about –

  • Customer stories
  • Human interest stories such as Customer XX is running the London Marathon
  • Events – pictures / videos of relevant events
  • Significant milestones – we’ve just installed our 100th product


And does communications always have to be one way?  Why not use the User Generated Content model. For instance if you send a whitepaper – why not ask the recipient to rate it, and then why not ask them to recommend future topics etc.


Break free from the schedule


Traditionally customer communications are packaged up into Newsletters, “News” or campaigns. Then everyone or each targeted group receives the same content at the same time. If you think about it, this model is really about making life for the organisation easier, rather than delivering to customers content that they are interested in.

In 2018 do you really need a rigid schedule for customer communications?  Is anyone sitting waiting for your Friday email newsletter or #Mondaymotivation piece?

My advice is to only communicate when you have something relevant and interesting to say. This sounds obvious but I know from experience how difficult it can be to find content to meet rigid schedules for newsletters and so forth.  Does it really matter if you say nothing at all to your customers one week, then communicate three times the next?

So long as everything you communicate is quality, then you will help to build trust with your subscribers.


Rethink your delivery methods

Most organisations use email as one of their primary channels for Marketing communications.  Yet study after study shows that email is pretty ineffective for delivering quality communications. Email open rates can be truly shocking.  The industry average open rate for email is 13.02% (Mailchimp) – and this seems generous compared to other studies.

If you are delivering targeted, relevant communications then think beyond the usual emails.  According to the DMA 57% of people open Direct Mail (2018 Direct Mail Facts and Figures) .

But, more significantly, Direct Mail is consistently shown to be more impactful. Over 48.5% actually read Direct Mail and a significant number keep it, pass it on or file it for later.


DMA 2018 Direct Mail Facts and Figures


Email may appear to be cheap / free but it’s not the cost of delivery that’s important; it’s the response rate, and the quality of the interaction that’s ultimately most important.


Customers are now in control


There’s been a real sea-change in the public awareness of data privacy. This is a result not just the great work of the ICO to publicise the importance of Data Protection but also the high profile cases of data breaches such as Cambridge Analytica.

The result is that arguably people have never been more aware of data issues and their rights regarding privacy. As the ICO says, “genuine consent should put individuals in control”.  If you deliver granular and specific content to your subscribers then you have an opportunity to create a trusted value-added communications which will deliver more impact and long term value to both parties.   However if, you revert back to the bad old days of untargeted communications then you risk alienating and dis-engaging your subscribers.

And, unlike poor Faustus, your subscribers can and will opt out.

I’m a Freelance Marketing Consultant. Contact me to find out how I can help your transform your business for the digital world. 


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