Tuesday 2¢: We Screwed Up, We Have GDPR in Europe, But It’s An Opportunity

As marketers, we screwed up, we crossed the line. We used data so well that we legally annoyed people. Whilst we did this with the primitive marketing tools we had yesterday, the consumer now wonders about tomorrow.

  1. chevron left iconTuesday 2¢: We Screwed Up, Now We Have GDPR and It’s An Opportunity
Ian TruscottSeptember 19, 2017
  • Digital Marketing

As marketers, we screwed up, we crossed the line.

Well you and I didn’t, right? But marketing did. It was easy and cheap to use data, to buy lists, to spam people, to remarket to them on Facebook, to disregard how we might act in real life, to follow the letter of privacy laws and yet, still annoy the hell out of people.

Whilst we did this with the primitive marketing tools we had yesterday, the consumer now wonders about tomorrow. What will we marketers do with all the cool shiny stuff that makes today’s marketing automation look like the printing press? Will they be able to control our marketing influence and the tsunami of channels and content we will throw their way?

The consumer is scared.

Imagine if, right now Barry Scott from Cillit Bang beamed into whatever you are doing, like a Princess Leia hologram not appealing for help from Obi Wan, but to let you know that his sensors detect a grubby work surface and “BANG! And the Dirt is Gone!”. Or, still more creepy, that somehow all this new data and tech enables us to finally do the Jedi selling mind trick.

People buy what they like, but they prefer to make that decision.

Today very few people are comfortable with the blur between activities that Facebook remarketing creates. I was shopping and now I am catching up on gossip on Facebook, what are you doing here? I’ve ranted about this before.

The biggest failure, however, was not just that we did these things, but that we have failed to communicate the value of the perfectly lovely part of understanding a visitor/consumer: offering them a personalized service.

Yes, yes, yes Amazon claim it (yawn! Another blog post reference to Amazon), but in my experience they do a crappy job of Facebook remarketing (my personal view) and sometimes I wonder why I give this service (that I love) any data.

Yes, “give them data”, is no longer the secret guarded by industry insiders, today’s digital savvy consumers understand that they are giving data every tie they step into the online world and they want something in return.

That’s the mistake - did we explain that transaction? Has any brand explained to you the value of knowing your data? Have they entered you into a conversation about that and then listened to how annoying bad Facebook remarketing is?

No, we didn't. So we did a shitty job.

The consumer found it creepy and unable to have that nuanced conversation, fuelling the previously minority view about privacy and mading it mainstream politics. I am summarizing wildly here, but with only one tool in the toolbox (legislation), in Europe we ended up with GDPR:

"The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) replaces the Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC and was designed to harmonize data privacy laws across Europe"(Oh joy!)

And not just in Europe. The general view of privacy experts is that the world will surely follow. We drove them to their privacy pitchforks and fiery GDPR torches.

Now, a British pub chain is scared, it has chucked away all its customer data and I wonder what that means for those who were engaged with that brand, enjoyed its special offers, the loyalty bonus, or whatever good (for the consumer) that the brand did for its consumers with their data?

Imagine if Alfred couldn’t remember Batman’s name, or what he liked for breakfast, or his size of batsuit. I’m joking, but a truly personalized service makes life easier for the consumer, you are Alfred to your consumers Batman, you are a concierge helping them get things done.

Me, while I don’t think Amazon selling me the film I just watched on their platform in my Facebook feed the following day or treating me like a 15-year-old as it follows me around the Internet after I buy a gift, is the best of what we can do as marketers - I also understand that most content channels are ad supported and I’d rather see stuff relevant to me than feminine hygiene products. And I suspect most folks would feel the same if they understood the exchange.

I also suspect that they feel the same about service. I was recently surveyed by a restaurant, first question my name, the second what meal (lunch/dinner), the third what I ate, the fourth who served me..… and at some point I was sure that they would ask me a question they didn’t already know the answer to.

Using the information, I know they know is not creepy or a privacy issue, but a convenience. Not doing so makes them look dumb.

It’s time to reset, it’s time to have the conversation we should have had a while ago. I believe that GDPR gives us that opportunity, it’s a wake up call for global marketing.

Yes, there is work to do, for anyone marketing in Europe today GDPR is huge, but let’s grab that opportunity to show the good that data can do.

Ian Truscott
Ian Truscott has a passion for creating ART (Awareness, Revenue and Trust) for B2B software companies as a marketing leader and is a censhare alumni. Wanting to connect a like minded community and share something useful, he founded Rockstar CMO, a monthly digital publication, and is currently helping B2B companies create ART at appropingo.

Want to learn more?