Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last year, you’ll know that the biggest shake up of privacy regulation in 20 years is coming. On 25th May General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come into effect, transforming the way companies of all sizes deal with people’s personal information.

With data the lifeblood of modern day marketing, what will the new world order mean for customer acquisition and retention?

First, a quick recap. As more people wake up to the value of their information, GDPR is designed to give them greater transparency and control. In part that means the current default on data gathering will shift from “we’ll take it unless you say we can’t”, to actively getting informed and unambiguous consent. It also ensures people have the right to be forgotten, meaning companies must delete all data they hold on the individual. Those who don’t comply face fines of 4% of global turnover.

But getting GDPR-ready is much more than a tick-box compliance exercise.

CMOs should see it as an opportunity to shift to an earned-first strategy that can increase marketing effectiveness.  Here’s why:

First, the banks of customer data accrued over the last decade will be redundant. Unless people have explicitly given you permission to collect their information and fully understand what you’re going to do with it, you can’t use it. Any existing data on customers harvested through pre-ticked boxes on emails and forms will be useless.

This obsolescence creates opportunity rather than armageddon. If the information you hold is about people who actually agreed to interact with you, it means no more dead money on direct marketing campaigns to people who don’t want to hear from you and will never open what you’ve sent them – and more budget for more effective campaigns.

More significantly, GDPR will make it drastically harder to use third party data for targeted advertising.  All companies will need to re-obtain consent and build a fully documented permission trail. That’s a near impossible task for providers of third-party data. Inevitably, its availability will be massively reduced and so too its primary benefit of scale.

The upshot of all this is that first-party data will become significantly more valuable.

CMOs should therefore be focused on strategies that allow them to regain ownership of customer relationships and the earned-first data that comes with them. That means focusing on earned-media campaigns, not advertising ones.

Because it’s not paid for, earned-media content is inherently newsworthy and shareable. It earns attention. So it will more effectively give you engaged audiences – people more likely to share their information with you or say you can contact them in future.

Once you have that valuable earned-first data, you can more effectively make decisions about paid content; what to boost and who to target it at.

GDPR represents much more than an opportunity to hone direct marketing. It should be a catalyst for CMOs to create earned-media campaigns that will deliver the earned-first data they need for more effective marketing.

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