Forget data, privacy is the new marketing gold: 10 reasons why GDPR will boost your brand

With GDPR coming up on 25 May, we are standing before a new challenge, and I’m not talking about ‘being GDPR compliant.’ That’s not a challenge, that’s a self evident truth. The legal aspect is manageable. The big question, though, is: how will your brand profit from this call for privacy?

Because believe it or not, the GDPR – and therefore privacy – will be the new marketing gold. Brands that embrace it and use it properly will be the ones to stand out. Here are 10 reasons why privacy will boost your brand and give it the attention it really deserves:

1. You won’t lose customers

Let’s be clear. With the GDPR coming down the turnpike, what companies fear might come true. Customers will no longer accept brands messing around with their data. With recent privacy scandals like Uber and Facebook, we know our privacy is important and we’re willing to protect it. Brandhome research suggests that 67% will exercise their right to be forgotten. After being informed of the way their data is being used, 77% won’t use Uber anymore. So, you’d better be privacy-proof and show it, otherwise your customers will eventually turn their backs on you.

2. By embracing transparency, you earn the trust of your customers

One of the most important tips I’ll give anyone working in communication or marketing: act and communicate like a human being. People are fed up with the lack of transparency and unclear information concerning their privacy. Brandhome research shows that three out of four Belgians think their privacy is important, and 90% of Belgians expect more transparency from brands. So, no more endless paragraphs of legal lingo. If you do this right and adapt your language to your reader, your customers will reward you with their trust and loyalty. As I’ll be discussing in my upcoming book Age of Attention, brands that commit to authentic and transparent customer relations will – and already are – outperforming their competitors.

3. It will make your brand accountable and secure

Brands are now more accountable for their actions or negligence. The GDPR introduces the notion of accountability. It is the brand that has to take adequate but reasonable measures to organize compliancy and uphold data security. Of course, this is quite a process and it might seem a difficult task, but it is worth investing in. Today’s customers are more critical of companies that do not keep promises and don’t take their responsibilities seriously. Brands will have to innovate their own social conscience to connect with this shift in consumer orientation and buying behavior. This so-called Conscious Capitalism goes hand in hand with privacy and will shape the customer of the future.

4. Your brand will be more meaningful

Compelling communication will make people love your brand, not just see your brand. This communication needs to create meaningful ways to start a personal dialogue. This means data needs to be put into action to target customer hearts and minds. The target should be the things they find valuable and important. Rethink what kind of data you are collecting and scrap everything that is not really relevant to the core purposes of processing. Don’t keep asking for as much data as possible: ask for the data that really matters. This requires you to think about how you want to communicate instead of communicating based on the data you have.

5. Opportunity to turn one-way communication into a two-way conversation

Sending and receiving data from your customers is no longer a unidirectional relationship; a two-way relationship may provide the added benefit of understanding what customers find important and what not. No one likes listening to a monologue because that’s not a conversation. Brands have to show interest and should no longer send out communications that can poison their audience digitally. This is what they have to put all their force behind. If you want to strike up a relationship with a consumer, you need to know what she is really after. Show that you care about what someone finds important in life. That is what the Age of Attention will be all about, and it will make the difference between brands that people will fall in love with and brands that will be passed over.

6. A chance to expand your business and increase your revenue

One of the most remarkable outcomes of our recent privacy research is the fact that people are willing to invest money in brands that protect and respect their privacy. Do you already see the money flow?

There is a big win in investing more in privacy-oriented marketing. Research suggests that almost 30% of Belgians are even willing to pay mobile providers at least 2 euros a month extra if their data is erased immediately. Moreover, the data that we do collect will be more meaningful. You can provide your customer with the right offer at the right place, the right time and in the right format. On a more strategic level, this data can be used to create more custom-tailored products or services that will increase your streams of revenue and provide more value for your customers and your brand.

7. If done right, it will contribute to your brand experience

Since everybody is trying to be compliant, privacy is on the agenda in every company. You will only stand out by offering creative ways to interact with customers. These interactions will build the brand experience customers have with you. When a brand uses data from its customers, it should do so only to improve the brand experience. For example, nearly two-thirds of shoppers are interested in personalisation as a part of their online shopping experience. Brands need to start thinking about creating ideas and experiences that consistently add new value to people’s lives. Again, don’t ask for as much data as possible – ask for the data that really matters and contributes something to your customers.

8. You adapt to the demands of customer 2.0

Today, the millennial generation is already making itself seen and heard as critical, empathic, demanding and truth seeking. So, when marketing to millennials, a strong brand isn’t enough to get them to buy you. Because they are largest generation in US history and they are reaching their prime working and spending years, their impact on the economy is going to be huge. Although this “missionary twist” is not just a millennial phenomenon – it encompasses nearly all demographics – it is a good representation of what customer 2.0 will look like. Customers are highly demanding and want brands to be more purpose-driven, which goes hand in hand with honest communication and transparency about data and privacy.

9. Gain a better ROI

When investing in privacy, you’ll be able to focus on personalised and more efficient marketing. Brands are in a better position to understand customers and build compelling, personalised offers for them. Furthermore, customers who give permission to use their data are more open to messages of your brand. With privacy-oriented marketing, you’ll reduce the time and resources spent on non-involved customers who are not engaged with your brand and invest them in customers who are more open to your brand and messages. Win-win, right?

10. It ends the data discussion once and for all

Data might seem the way forward for many brands. But with all the recent privacy scandals and the GDPR scheduled to go into effect this month, consumers are more aware of the importance of their data. They will ask for more transparency and will protect their privacy with all the (newly created) means at their disposal. One thing that’s for sure is that the current data bubble will burst. Privacy will take over and make your brand stand out and your profits increase.

After embracing privacy, you can take a look at your (meaningful) data again. Because that’s what it’s all about: you want to be meaningful to your audience, you don’t want a huge database with data that don’t say anything. GDPR will sharpen this transition from big data to smart data. But first things first: invest in privacy and transparency and open up before it’s too late.

As a conclusion, I can say that smart brands should not fear the GDPR, but learn to work with it and see it as an opportunity to be more future-driven. Privacy will be the new holy grail for brands, and once you do this right, your marketing activity will have higher success rates and your brand will stand out from the crowd.

Erik Saelens is founder & executive strategic director of Belgium's Brandhome group

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