Why GDPR-day is Valentine's day for brands
A view from Ed Beard

Why GDPR-day is Valentine's day for brands

GDPR, the brand relationship assessment, is only 100 days away

Divorce lawyer’s phones ring off the hook the week after Valentine’s Day. Why? It’s a wakeup call for many. It forces people to look in the mirror, and ask themselves one of the hardest questions, "Is this a relationship I want to be in?".

A hundred days out from GDPR the analogy is fitting. As brands are working out where they lie with regards to legitimate interest or consent, one thing is clear. Both they, and their customers, are going to have be clear about the relationship they’re currently in. And that forced reappraisal is going to get people thinking.

In the same way that good relationships successfully navigate Valentine’s Day perils of organised romance, good customer relationships will navigate the organised relationship assessment that is GDPR.

For Cheryl Calverley, marketing director at the Automobile Association, brands who put the customer first won’t find themselves in a messy divorce come June. 

"Whilst getting ready for the legislation is painful, as with much legislation of this kind, the best brands, with the strongest and most honest relationships with their customers will succeed. This legislation will level the playing field, allowing customers to once more express their true brand affinity and develop the relationships they want, rather than those forced upon them," Calverley said.

Over the past few months we’ve been carrying out research to try and understand what kind of brand behaviours generate a deeper level of trust from customers. And, crucially, what makes people more willing to trust brands with their data. The findings are clear and simple. They show that brands who have data at the core of their relationships, and make it very clear how particular data benefits both brand and customer, are those that people are more willing to give more data to. 

Think Netflix, ‘Because you watched Peppa Pig you might like Charlie and Lola’. Or Amazon, ‘Because you bought this you might like that’. We think of these brands as Data Natives. Brands who have grown up in the era of Data Everywhere. And who have chosen to make individual data a shared commodity between themselves and their customers. 

At the other end of the spectrum, we see businesses who have data at the periphery of their offering.  More often than not data is used in an asymmetric way. And not in the customer's favour. More efficient targeting. More repetitive messaging. More cross-selling. Unsurprisingly, customers appear less willing to hand over data to these brands. 

So, as we get ready to head out into the cold and nod appreciatively at people trying to sell us single red roses we should think about where relationships are heading. Once we’ve all got past the initial hurdle of May 25th we’ll be operating in a marketing world which looks fundamentally similar to today’s. Full of change. Full of disruption. Full of the unexpected. But once things are a bit more certain. We’ll only continue to have the customers we have if we survive the relationship assessment that’s just 100 days away. The relationship assessment which will make people wise up to the fact that they don’t have to be in relationships where all they do is give, and all the brand does is take.

Calverley’s advice to brands who are worried they won’t survive GDPR intact?

"Go back to basics. Focus on what you can do for your customer, and your customer will value you."

Ed Beard is strategy partner, CRM, at DigitasLBi