We thought personalisation was the new digital trend – but what about GDPR?

Debbie Lawrenson
  • Debbie Lawrenson
  • Head of Digital

GDPR – four letters that have been sending digital marketing agencies into states of panic and dread up and down the country. But what if GDPR isn’t just a confusion of red tape and regulation, set to butcher marketing strategies and decimate digital selling?

What if GDPR is actually an opportunity in disguise? Hmmm, there’s a thought. It may look like a nuisance, but underneath that alarming costume could there be a fairy godmother, waiting to make your digital marketing much more effective than it’s ever been?

GDPR? Bring it on!

GDPR – friend or foe?

Let’s start with a recap on what GDPR is all about.

  • GDPR stands for General Data Protection Regulation, and it’s an EU law that supersedes the UK Data Protection Act 1998. Although it’s an EU law, it will be drafted into UK law and continue to apply post-Brexit.
  • GDPR expands the rights of individuals to control how their personal information is collected and processed. It puts new obligations on organisations to be more accountable for data protection.
  • GDPR is enforceable from 25 May 2018.

For many of us as individuals, this looks like timely legislation, as it will make it simpler for us to control how companies use our personal data. Strict rules prevent the collection and use of personal data without consent.

On the other hand, some businesses, social media managers and digital design agencies have been getting nervous about GDPR and what it means for digital marketing strategies. That’s because it looks like existing methods of mass marketing through the use of data collection will no longer be possible in the same way. Things like using lead magnets to kickstart email campaigns are now much more tightly controlled and there are heavy penalties for non-compliance.

Let’s get personal

While the restrictions imposed by GDPR may seem like a marketing hurdle we can do without, deeper scrutiny shows something else:

GDPR requires all of our digital marketing activities to be much more targeted and more personalised.

That’s a tactic that can seriously improve the effectiveness of a marketing campaign.

We’ve been talking about the importance of personalisation in digital marketing for some time. Personalisation has been seen as the new trend for effective digital marketing for a while now. With the advent of GDPR it’s not so much a new trend as a requirement.

With GDPR, marketing strategies must be aimed at the people who are already listening – people who want to hear our messages and take action on what they hear.

Bye bye general, hello specific

Prior to GDPR, outgoing marketing messages have often been fairly general in content and approach, with the aim of casting a wide net to catch a few interested fishes.

With GDPR, marketers will need to work harder to identify those markets and audiences that really want to hear from the businesses they represent. Then they will need to work harder to retain the interest of those audiences. This might mean ramping up the value of content provided by the social media teams, alongside other, more personalised activity.

Marketing materials need to address individuals directly, offering goods and services that fit neatly into their specific needs and wants.

Yes, that’s quite a bit of extra work for digital marketing and digital design agencies. But that extra work should more than pay for itself by bringing in a much better return on investment. Targeted, personalised marketing has always been much more effective in terms of action and sales, whether it’s digital marketing or any other marketing activity. That’s always been the case since the first hunter-gatherer sold berries to a hungry villager.

It’s early days for GDPR and we’re set to see plenty of action in the way of new thinking and innovative marketing ideas. There’s tremendous scope for creativity, which could really shake up the relationship between businesses and customers. If all goes according to plan, that relationship will become more transparent, with a better understanding of what businesses offer and what customers want. And surely that’s good for us as businesses and as individuals?