GDPR doesn’t mean you can’t be creative in your communications

We’re all aware we have to be careful with how we’re using personal data to sell to either customers or prospects. The imminent GDPR legislation brings this more front of mind than ever. But there is another angle to consider – which is how you articulate your message once you’ve decided that the target audience is valid, relevant, and appropriately opted in.

Good communication needs 3 elements to work in perfect harmony. Firstly, have something interesting to say, secondly have the right audience to say it to, and thirdly, say it in a way that shows you recognise the recipient is a human being. Who, rather than primarily being the lucky recipient of our messaging, is actually just going about their daily business so their interaction with you is unlikely to be top of mind.

Marrying the science of data with creative is difficult but here are 3 principles for how to deal with a typical marketing (e-)mailing scenario to guide you on how to strike a balance.

  1. Just because you know something doesn’t mean you have to show it

You’re responsible for the company database.  You can see that an individual has definitively, explicitly, undoubtedly opted in to 3 product lists. Maybe at different times, but all within the last 6 months, so there is definitely GDPR compliant consent.

As a creative team should we use messaging that fundamentally says “You’re loving all 3 of my products, I saw you accessed our product page on these last 3 dates, let’s talk about them all in great depth”. Probably not. We should probably be a bit more subtle, make it look more serendipitous, reference broader themes that allow a natural leap towards our product rather than quoting the company’s product portfolio literature verbatim. You therefore use your data insights to inform your creative communications rather than dictate them.

  1. Initial interest doesn’t necessarily imply intent to purchase.

The consumer has engaged with your content. They’re clearly currently in market. Legitimate interest is definitely in play because they’re talking to you about specific products, clicking through on your emails, and looking for more information. But that doesn’t mean we should go on the sales offensive. Interpret the data driven action carefully and work out what need should be fulfilled – are they looking to be informed, supported with the next move, inspired to make new choices, or something else. Make sure you get the tone and purpose of the communication right.

  1. Take data as a clue rather than a fact

It’s easy to jump to a conclusion about an individual’s motivations because a couple of data facts that feature in your algorithms have appeared in their data history feed. But whilst we, as consumers, are incredibly predictable in large groups, individuals within those themes will be motivated by different nuances. So try not to second guess individual motivations based on your own experience. Stick to your brand promise and product truths in the context of the data clue, rather than use language that pre-supposes you know your consumers as intimate friends. Going too granular can be as much of a turn off as a reason to buy if you get it slightly wrong.

It is true that GDPR is about making better use of data to give consumers a better experience of your brand and making it matter to them, be that in the service/product proposition or communications. However, the point at which that manifests itself particularly is in the execution. Making the creative and data work together is where the magic happens, so it’s important not to evoke an emotional reaction by having a poor execution that goes in front of the consumer, rather than a positive rational one based on all your clever data work. Which, as we know, the consumer doesn’t know anything about.

By Sue MacLure, Head of Data at customer engagement agency, PSONA

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