• Tom Pfister

A Year of GDPR – How Has it Changed Marketing?



In late May of 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) set of rules kicked into effect in the European Union, but with consequences that bled over globally. In anticipation of this, we wrote a piece last year that preemptively explained the consequences we would experience once the regulations went into place. Now, just over a year since GDPR was implemented, a lot has happened and many things have changed in many practices and industries, especially in marketing. Let’s explore what these changes mean so far, and what else could come down the pipeline - as it looks like the UAE is looking to launch a similar policy this year as well.

Six months before GDPR went into effect, Econsultancy found that out of 1,000 marketers surveyed, 83% were still reviewing their activities and only one-third had a marketing strategy in place that was GDPR compliant. Today, the overarching feeling is that GDPR has actually been good for marketing. How so, you ask?

  1. Opt-in measures: before GDPR was implemented, people would receive an absurd amount of e-mails on a daily basis that they hadn’t agreed to be party of, simply because their e-mails were being sold and acquired through distribution lists. This meant that people would most likely not open the majority of those e-mails and either let them collect, unopened on their mailboxes, or they would just mass delete them. Now, with GDPR in place and marketing platforms like MailChimp, Constant Contact, etc. cracking down on e-mail lists, people are receiving less unwanted e-mails, and the content they’re being marketed is considered relevant to them, opening up more avenues for a successful campaign for the sender.

  2. Data security: with GDPR in place, many people feel more comfortable doing business across the board, especially considering how digital sales have opened up new opportunities for problems with hacking, etc. With businesses being forced to handle data in a certain way, customers are more likely to provide their information, with the confidence that it won’t be misused. How are people sure that their data will actually be protected? The GDPR Authorities have been cracking down hard on businesses of all sizes with “proportionate and appropriate” fines depending on their infractions. The worst offender so far? Google itself got a 50 million euro fine from France due to lack of consent in advertisements. According to this report, there have been over 150,000 complaints filed in regards to data handling over the past year.

  3. Opportunities to win consent still abound: if the biggest concern of marketers is winning consent, customers are still happy to subscribe or opt into certain businesses for the right trade-off, and it doesn’t have to cost businesses much. The right landing page copy can encourage an unsure buyer to opt-in for more with lead magnets such as white papers, webinars, or other tactics that include the trading of information. As long as the customers feel like they’re getting something in return, and that it will provide value to them, customers are still opting in rather freely. In-person events are also a great opportunity to win your customer’s trust and consent, while offering a great marketing experience.

  4. GDPR has room to grow and improve, and as it sees sister policies being implemented across more countries, those in the European Union have been a pilot or test drive for the rest of the world to take note before their turn comes up. Many people globally who are subscribed to European services or product providers received the opt-in consent e-mail long before GDPR kicked-in, and businesses are still adapting their compliance to match the requirements. The bottom line for marketing is: GDPR is not a choice, but as creative marketers all it takes is some out of the box thinking to win that consent, and as long as your customer’s data is protected, the rest is business as usual.