August 21, 2018

GDPR’s Effect on Marketing – CMO’s View for the Long-Term


In terms of marketing as a practitioner, trying to market an industry (financial services, healthcare) that’s highly regulated has always been a challenge. So if you already know how to market and be creative in a regulated environment, then you are positioned well. GDPR going into effect has heightened the awareness of data privacy, compliance, and regulation across industries so businesses will be looking to those marketers who understand the mechanics of regulation and compliance.

Additionally, because there was so much visibility about GDPR, given the Facebook incident, consumers are much more attuned and aware. They will begin demanding transparency and data privacy before they “sign on the dotted line” and much of this will fall into the marketer’s domain — given that communication is a key component of compliance. How we market to, and communicate with, potential and current customers is just as important as the way in which we execute what we’ve promised them…in terms of their data protection.

What are the pros/cons of GDPR?

What effect will it have within the next 6 months

In the next 6 months, companies will be scrambling to ensure compliance, while also building renewed trust with their customers. This is ultimately a positive thing, although it will require companies to invest heavily in data protection…many are even hiring “DPO’s” (data protection officers). This could be seen as a con, considering how much it will cost upfront — and will likely affect other budgets — but in the long term it’s the right thing to do.

From a tactical standpoint, and I am sure many have experienced this in the past two weeks, firms are culling their email lists and shifting from an “opt-out” approach to a strict “opt-in” approach. We’ll see legacy email lists shrink quite a bit – it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out in terms of new industry email benchmarks, the quality of lists firms are using, prospect sentiments around email marketing, and the revenue that is able to be generated off of significantly fewer “leads” to market to.

What effect will it have within the 12 months

By this time next year, if companies implement the necessary changes and do this well, I believe that we will all be in a better position (this includes marketers) with our customers because we will have earned their trust back. There will be a shift from treating a customer like a number or data point, to treating them like a human: the latter of which is greatly lacking right now, and people can sense it on all fronts…from marketing to sales to compliance. I think marketers are in a tremendously important position — as those close to customer data, along with customer success — to reinvent how we approach legalese, in a sense humanizing it a bit.

What effect will it have within the 3 years?

I think on a large scale, companies in the privacy/harassment/compliance space will see huge returns. For example we have a client, LRN, that has been in the business of helping firms navigate complex legal and regulatory environments for nearly 25 years. The last 3 months their content and courses related to this topic has been in high demand. This is exciting, almost like the tech boom without all of the risky investment. In the same sense, companies who have always focused on the importance of their customer’s privacy are going to likely see the benefits of putting their customers first. From a marketing standpoint, we are going to have to ensure that the brands we represent are aware of the new environment, post-GDPR. The first question a CEO or CRO will likely ask the CMO is “How will this campaign drive people to our website to purchase a product?” and closely behind it will be “How are we handling the data of our customers to ensure they are protected from the second they enter our database?”

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