SQN Viewpoint: Opportunity or Threat? - Privacy, GDPR and Marketing

In this guest post Chris Ritchie, COO, SQN offers his views. First published on the European Sponsorship Association blog on 15th December 2017.

As with many things in life, the answer to this question depends on your perspective.

It must be viewed as good news from a consumer perspective, but can the industry embrace these changes as an opportunity?

A good proportion of the output from the mini-industry that has appeared in the last year around GDPR has been focused on fear, uncertainty and doubt, with perhaps an over-emphasis on talk of fines, compliance and lots of jumping through hoops. Sure, organisations need to be prepared, but does this approach reflect the reality of the situation or can we, as marketing and sponsorship teams, look at this more positively? It must be viewed as good news from a consumer perspective, but can the industry embrace these changes as an opportunity?

Many people in the audience were naturally keen to understand what they wouldn’t be able to do on May 26th 2018… 

This was one of the key themes of the recent ESA event on Privacy and GDPR, delivered by Infosaas,  Clayden Law and Sine Qua Non. Many people in the audience were naturally keen to understand what they wouldn’t be able to do on May 26th 2018 that they can now, as well as what they need to do to be compliant.

Trust and reputation are differentiating factors that are not replicated easily or quickly, so are you up for the challenge?

Although there was talk of readiness, compliance and the risk of potential fines, the emphasis throughout the breakfast briefing was on the opportunity this change represents. Rather than firing out messages and getting little response from audiences that wonder why we are bothering them, does GDPR give us a chance to flip the model around and focus on quality rather than quantity? How about if we view this as an opportunity to build trust with a smaller but more receptive audience, ultimately creating more value for them and us? Trust and reputation are differentiating factors that are not replicated easily or quickly, so are you up for the challenge?

Freely given, positive and unambiguous consent, means that post-GDPR audiences will be indicating to us that they actually want an on-going dialogue.

One of the strengths of sponsorship as a marketing strategy is the emotional connection and engagement it creates with all stakeholders. Let’s capitalise on that. Freely given, positive and unambiguous consent, means that post-GDPR audiences will be indicating to us that they actually want an on-going dialogue. Surely that is one of the aims of all marketing?

Even if personas are a trendy new word for tightly defined segments, profiling, personalisation and predictive marketing are powerful tools for brands that offer recipients real value when used properly.

The other medium-term issue discussed at the event was the apparent contradiction of the relentless development of technology and data-driven marketing with the need for greater transparency and consent under GDPR and e-Privacy regulations. Even if personas are a trendy new word for tightly defined segments, profiling, personalisation and predictive marketing are powerful tools for brands that offer recipients real value when used properly. This paradox and its implications are explored further in this SQN blog.

In addition to these strategic aspects there was much concrete advice on preparing for the arrival of GDPR. Clayden Law and Infosaas offered some practical tools to help navigate through this initial phase of learning and compliance. Attendees were provided with a link to a free Infosaas GDPR readiness assessment, consisting of 135 questions. They advise that if you score between 50-75% you are broadly on track. Clayden Law has worked in conjunction with the Chartered Institute of Marketing and award-winning e-learning provider, MeLearning, to develop an e-learning course. As the interpretation of the regulations is still evolving, they also offer a GDPR newsletter to keep interested parties informed of developments.

So, to answer the original question, and without sitting on the fence, the new regulations around GDPR and e-Privacy are both an opportunity AND a threat. How that balance plays out is largely in your own hands.