The Boomerang Effect: Using GDPR as an Opportunity to Win Back Trust

JTN Article

The Boomerang Effect: Using GDPR as an Opportunity to Win Back Trust

The rule of thumb is that by the time regulators act, technology has moved on. It appears that GDPR is no exception to the rule. Now that the regulation's much-feared launch date has come and gone, it is the perfect time to consider how the changing data and technology landscape can be used to create a marketing edge in the future.At its core, marketing relies on putting the right message in front of the right person at the right time. Recently, the ability to target both individuals and organisations has been greatly enhanced by collection and exploitation of data. The need to ask permission, plus the right for people to withdraw their permission, could mean that finding prospects has just become harder. However, for the smart marketer, GDPR offers more advantages than disadvantages.

After cleansing and removing people who haven’t opted-in, a smaller database will almost certainly remain. While smaller may feel like“less opportunity”, people who consciously flag themselves as interested are by definition going to be more receptive to your firm’s message. Therefore,‘smaller’ here really means “tightly focused on interested people”.

Consider the volume of spam emails, texts and calls sent in pre-GDPR times. Is it any wonder that open- and response-rates fell through the floor? Fewer, but better crafted messages means those that are received are going to be more likely to get opened and read. Furthermore, GDPR has enabled organisations to look across their data sets and re-visit segmentation. As with all good marketing, better segmentation leads to a more focused, more appropriate message, which of course leads to better response rates, more prospects and more loyal clients.

With the power to disconnect firmly in the hands of the consumer, it's going to take creative marketing to hook and keep people interested.

The last decade belonged to marketing technology. With the rise of clever digital marketing, creative input has been somewhat overshadowed. Now more than ever, there is a need to engage the user in a meaningful way. With the power to disconnect firmly in the hands of the consumer, it’s going to take creative marketing to hook and keep people interested.

Marketers need to create better conversations, listen to consumers and learn from them. Messages need to be crafted in such a way that people will welcome them into their lives.

Sending messages with a clear purpose builds trust. Being clear with people about what data you hold on them, and why, is important. Letting them decide if they are happy about it and how to let you know what they approve of, is all part of building brand trust and loyalty. Ultimately, brand trust has a positive impact on intentions to purchase, and likelihood of repeat business.

Addressing GDPR also provides the opportunity to ask fundamental questions of the business.Clients are connected and informed on a scale as never before. The myriad search and engagement platforms available to clients offers them the ability to know everything that is known about a product or service, before they connect with your firm. What if your firm can provide tools that provide greater advantage to your clients? Considering the business from the perspective of the client journey offers new opportunities. Sales Enablement, the process that provides organisations with information, content and tools to help people sell their services more effectively, brings together responsibility for all aspects of the client journey including collateral, technology, training and operations. It ensures that every touch point is focused on making the process as valuable and frictionless as possible for the client.

Smart businesses are using Sales Enablement as away to enhance, extend or reshape their client value proposition. One example is using digital content in such a way that the client is able to co-create their own unique value proposition and can access it in the format, and through the touch point, of their choice.

Technological progress has, to some extent, madeGDPR obsolete even before it became law. As you would expect, Google has responded by recreating familiar marketing tools created by recent advances in technology, such as AI and blockchain.

Early forms of computer-based decision making, while useful for organisation, were almost universally disliked by individuals with the concept of “computer says no” derided by comedians.Yet better and lower cost AI also opened the door to increased nuanced systems across most professional services firms. However, a word of caution is necessary as GDPR includes the “right to explanation”. This means that when the algorithm says “no” clients have a right ask how and why that decision was made. With GDPR they now have the legal right to hold organisations to account.

Explaining the functionality of complex algorithmic decision-making systems and their rationale in specific cases, is a technically challenging problem.While difficult, it is imperative that organisations that deploy algorithmic decision-making systems are able to explain in non-technical language how a decision was determined and what a consumer needs to do to get a different outcome in future. Importantly, if the consumer disagrees with the decision reached by the algorithm, there must be a clear path for them to challenge it.

Any review of marketing technology would not be complete without the inclusion of blockchain. While only created in 2008, the concept of transparent, traceable and totally immutable transaction ledgers has exploded to such an extent that it’s been claimed to be as disruptive as the development of the worldwide web. Most notably known for Bitcoin and other crypto currencies, blockchain offers much more than a new way of exchanging money. It provides a platform that demonstrates trust, which is after all the underlying basis of almost every commercial transaction. As it’s a platform which allows digital information to be distributed but not copied, it has the capability to exchange files and other information securely. Trust is namely the value that will define your business in the digital era, and a serious breach of trust means lost business, and asGDPR’s general focus is on the trust that individuals have in companies, blockchain is a game-changer for firms in terms of keeping personal data safe.

From a marketing perspective, crypto currencies may not offer the credibility, security and have the widespread appeal of traditional money. However, back in the late 90’s the internet was described as the “wild west”. Yet less than 20 years on, look how online shopping has devastated retail. Could the banks be next to be disrupted?


Just as organisations have got to grips with the needs and advantages of GDPR, the goal posts will be moving again. The European Commission has announced that it’s revamping its ePrivacy legislation. Updated regulations were originally intended to come into force at the same time as GDPR, however it’s looking more likely that they will apply from sometime in 2019. These are primarily targeted at the IP services like Voice over IP (VoIP)phone calls or Instant Messaging and are intended to bring them into line with the regulations that apply to phone calls and other types of communications.ePrivacy includes provisions to restrict “listening, tapping, storing, monitoring, scanning or other such types of interception, surveillance or processing”and use of such data by anyone other than the enduser is prohibited. It also reinforces the need for organisations to explicitly collect the consumer’s permission for further contact, or for consumers to ‘opt-in’ to communications.

GDPR isn't the end-goal for professional service firms. It is, in fact, the start of much stricter data privacy regulations.

With enforcement fines of up to £20M or 4% of worldwide turnover in the previous financial year, it appears ePrivacy will have the necessary teeth to make marketers think hard about compliance. But will it apply to the British as it may come into force after Brexit? The way the law is currently drafted suggests that it applies to anyone sending anything into what is being called the “European DigitalMarket”, which includes all citizens of the EuropeUnion, wherever they are located. In theory, that makes it a worldwide law that needs to be adhered to regardless of where you and your prospects reside. This highlights that GDPR isn’t the end-goal for professional services firms. It is in fact the start of much stricter data privacy regulations.


GDPR and the next wave of new marketing technology provides a number of significant opportunities. There is an argument that larger firms have the resources and scale to experiment and capitalise on the opportunities. Yet smaller firms may be nimbler and find it easier to adopt new systems and processes. Whatever size your firm, it seems reasonable to take these three actions:

  1. Consider how to develop a Sales Enablement function – this may be a dedicated department ora cross-functional team. Whichever you choose, ensure that its focus remains on exploring the customer journey so as to reduce friction and enhance delight, as it is all too easy to get distracted with day-to-day activities.
  2. Take the new regulation as an opportunity to improve your marketing functions for both your firm and your clients’ experience – of those who opt-in to your marketing efforts, get as much information from them about what they want, so you can improve your services.
  3. As GDPR is forcing firms to become more creative in their marketing processes, experiment with AI and blockchain – both are poised to impact marketing significantly. The marketers with a good level of knowledge and experience are going to be the people best placed to spot new opportunities as they arise.
The Boomerang Effect: Using GDPR as an Opportunity to Win Back Trust
Lucinda Moorefield

Lucinda is a Marketing Manager at JTN Group in London where she leads the Paid Social team. Outside of her work Lucinda plays sports on three continents and coaches and participates in international debating competitions. Learn more about JTN Group here.


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