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Allianz marketing boss: 'email is still so important – it's the be all and end all'

Allianz's Tom Hughes

GDPR may have culled the number of people on a company’s email database, but the head of marketing for Northern Europe at Allianz has said that poor content is now the far bigger issue that marketers should be worried about when it comes to keeping people opted-in.

Since the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect last May it’s highlighted to many CMOs just how vital email remains in the marketing mix.

“Email is still so important. It's the be all and end all. So, the minute [a customer] opts out, [businesses] are like ‘crap, we're buggered’,” said Allianz’s Tom Hughes (pictured) at The Drum’s Future of Marketing event.

Indeed, according to a study conducted in the US last year by market research company The Relevancy Group, marketing bosses said email accounted for 21% of total revenues delivered through marketing channels at the end of the second quarter of 2017, up 17% from the previous year.

Though most marketers would have noted a declined in the number of people on their email databases, what they should have been left with, in theory, is a customers base which is more engaged.

Post-GDPR, that content now needs to be better. For the past few years, brands have aped the ‘Red Bull’ strategy of hiring in-house content producers, in many cases ex-journalists, to run their content marketing for them.

L’Oreal, Marks & Spencer, Unilever and Virgin Mobile are among those to have upped the talent they're hiring from this background, and are now producing more content than ever. But Hughes warns such a tactic could be a blunt instrument.

“There are businesses out there that will hire a team of journalists to do whatever you want; ‘we'll build our own newsroom’ [they say]. Please don't do that, you'll look like everyone else in your industry and you'll be boring, and no one will read your stuff and you'll say ‘I've failed’ and you failed 'cause you were boring,” he urged.

“Do things where you can add value, do things are interesting, work out what you're good at. Do less, make it better and that's where it succeeds. The number one thing is just to do less.”

Aside from creating decent, original and relevant content, marketers are also grappling with increasing distrust from people on how much data companies have on them, in part thanks to the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Also at The Drum’s event was Marije Gould, the vice president for marketing EMEA at Verint Systems, who discussed a recent survey in conducted into 36,000 people across 18 countries on their attitude to brands and personalisation.

It found that two-thirds of people said they liked brands that personalised content, but that was before Cambridge Analytica.

“Two years ago that number was in the high 70s and people are starting to realise that to get a personalised service, brands need a lot of data on them and they're not that comfortable with it,” she said. “There's a huge issue with trust. We've all seen bad examples of where it's gone creepy and we're getting tainted by it.”

Allianz's Hughes added that it’s a constant balancing act between achieving the Amazon-style ‘you might also be interested in this, because you looked at this’ kind of content that people have become comfortable with (largely as they understand the value exchange) and being “spooky”.

But down the line, he predicts there will be a tip in that value-exchange and consumers will be more in control of what a company holds on them and how it can be used.

“GDPR is the start of things changing. I see it going down the road where [people] monetise it more and say that if they want to be advertisers to, companies need to pay for that data. So, if someone says they're looking for a washing machine, you can advertise to me about that.... companies will then pay for that privilege. That's the direction of travel.“

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