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GDPR: Why Marketers Should Love It

The marketers I know tend to fall into one of four categories when it comes to preparedness for the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR):

  1. The fretful. (“I’m going to screw things up under GDPR. Oh, no!”)
  2. The resigned. (“I’m going to screw things up under GDPR. Oh, well!”)
  3. The ignorant. (“What’s GDPR?”)
  4. The apathetic. (“Boring!”)

I’m here to urge you be a fifth type: The eager. (“GDPR is coming! Oh, boy!”)

You read that right.

The obligatory rundown.

As discussed throughout DMN’s GDPR Week, as of May 25, 2018, organizations that collect and/or maintain the data of EU “data subjects” (a vague term) may face severe fines if they fail to adhere to strict rules governing how they can collect relevant people’s data — and what they can, must, and mustn’t do with said data.

Emphasis on “strict”. GDPR is perhaps the most far-reaching and complex data-stewardship regulatory framework ever (not that that’s saying a lot). Moreover, it may not even be applied consistently, because different member states will have a certain degree of autonomy in interpreting and enforcing it.

Naturally, people are preparing for the worst.

GDPR can be your edge.

So what’s a marketer to do (beyond try to get in and out of the company lawyer’s office without getting talked to death)?

Effectively, be a better marketer.

The lawyer’s way of looking at GDPR is “You have to do this” — because lawyers are straightforward pessimists (Editor’s note: Joe is a lawyer: see below). But you’re a marketer — stereotypically an imaginative optimist. Think of it as “You get to make data privacy a feature of your brand.”

While other marketers will be doing their utmost to undercut their data officer’s demands and engage in bare-minimum check-the-box compliance, you have a unique opportunity to boast about the measures you take to protect — and respect — people’s data.

While other marketers will be huffing and puffing just to make sure that their bush-league inbound strategies aren’t too dinged up by in-house counsel, you can use your marketing playbook to solve the legal problem by treating “explicit consent” as your latest product. From there, you can strategize how to market it accordingly to both new and pre-existing customers at each touchpoint.

Most importantly, while other marketers are throwing up their hands in frustration, you’ll be enjoying GDPR enlightenment.

GDPR means never having to say “Gotcha!”

The fundamental precept of GDPR is that you’re going to have to stop doing sleazy marketer stuff.

Of course, you don’t do sleazy marketer stuff — and I would never accuse you of doing so. But you probably have some marketer colleagues who do. So let’s talk about them, your offshoot underachievers – or “YOU” for short.

For instance, you know how YOU sometimes “helpfully” pre-tick those opt-in boxes for website visitors? (Which is a big no-no where GDPR compliance is concerned.) And similar tactics to fool people into engaging with YOU and sharing their data with no strings attached? Here are pretty much the only things YOU are accomplishing with these shenanigans:

1. YOU are getting people signed up for things they don’t actually want, leading some of them to attempt to unsign-up themselves.

The result: Twofold. First, to some degree (albeit likely a small degree), YOU will spend — waste — resources dealing with and accommodating these people as they try to reverse what YOU tricked them into doing. (The primary reason “unsubscribe” pages exist is because of people like YOU.) Secondly, and more importantly, YOU suffer automatic brand damage for each one of these malcontents — some of whom who, even if they aren’t a qualified lead, may well spread their tales of woe about the hassle YOU have caused them.

2. YOU are getting other people signed up for things they don’t actually want, leading some of them to suffer through the consequences without having the wherewithal — and/or, in some cases, the ability — to unwind what has happened to them.

The result: In these attempts to beat the hell out of someone into becoming a lead, YOU have given birth to a distinct marketing segment of people who hate YOU and are frequently reminded of exactly why they hate YOU.

3. YOU are causing yet other and more persnickety people to have to take a preemptive action to avoid the trap YOU set.

The result: Again, cumulative brand damage with each eyeroll and sigh YOU cause. Worse yet, persnickety people multiply the effects of negative word of mouth.

4. YOU are artificially inflating the marketing team’s engagement numbers with people who didn’t mean to take the action YOU tricked them into taking and/or people who just didn’t care enough to take positive action to evade any coercion.

The result: Whatever engagement YOU are trying to achieve becomes a vanity metric, negatively skewing the organization’s ability to effectively draw the correct actionable insights in the future.

In the end, in addition to giving you (and YOU) new opportunities, GDPR compliance will protect you from yourself; you will have to do grown-up marketer things like strategizing, analyzing qualified leads, determining and tracking KPIs, targeting, and managing your campaigns on an ongoing basis.

To wit, GDPR will force you to be great at your job.

So why not start now?

Note: This article is provided for informational, educational, and/or entertainment purposes only. Neither this nor other articles here constitute legal advice or the creation, implication, or affirmation of an attorney-client relationship. For actual legal advice, personally consult with an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.

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