Blog / Marketing in the Post-GDPR World: Pros, Cons, and Predictions

Marketing in the Post-GDPR World: Pros, Cons, and Predictions

When GDPR came up on the horizon, many businesses shuttered at its implications—if only because of the public paranoia it would induce around data collection, or laws that The New York Times would later call a “big, confusing mess.”

Whatever the case, companies had to face the reality that the industry was changing. Marketing couldn’t be hacked via purchased email lists or contact information. Some social channels, like Instagram, were starting to remove access to previously-free data or sunsetting ad targeting options.

Your company is likely feeling the impact of these changes and more. As the dust is still settling from GDPR’s May 25th launch date, we’re opening up the floor for the pros, cons, and predictions on how this regulation will impact your marketing.

The Basics

For starters, “GDPR” is short for The General Data Protection Regulation. It was introduced two years ago when the European Parliament first gave it a thumbs up and enforced beginning May 25, 2018. The law applies to any European Union citizen and (at a high level) gives them more control over how their data is used.

Citizens must effectively give you explicit permission to collect their data and send them emails, newsletters, and more. Companies must also document how they collect and use data, let citizens delete or review any data that they’ve stored about them, and notify consumers within three days if data is leaked or hacked. (Note: The law is complex and involves other stipulations. You can visit HubSpot’s GDPR Compliance suite for more details, or we recommend that you consult a lawyer for business-related matters.)

Why You Can’t Ignore GDPR

Aside from being bombarded with emails on privacy policy updates…it’s hard to ignore that the GDPR is far reaching. While it applies to EU citizens, it’s relevant to all of us. Any business that receives traffic or business from the EU must heed to the laws or risk fines of $23.5 million or 4 percent of annual global revenues, whichever is higher.

Most of your marketing software, including ours, or ad platforms, including Facebook, have likely adjusted its data practices to remain compliant with GDPR, too. These adjustments may include checks to keep you from illegally monitoring the behavior of people the EU, or ways for you to gain consent when collecting personal information.

The Cons

It’s been rumored that GDPR will take marketing five steps back. At a time when the internet is churning out staggering amounts of data on users—and automation software has emerged to identify, track, and target users on an individual basis—some worry that that targeting power will become diluted.

Individuals may opt out of sharing their data and being hit with ads online. Platforms may remove the ability for one-to-one targeting altogether, except for when you have proven consent. Personalization will require more work and due diligence to get right.

Some also fear that pending lawsuits against data giants like Facebook and Google will result in even stricter regulations across the world.

With current regulations, your company carries the burden of having to thoroughly delete any data that an individual asks you to remove. This means that if you have multiple records for one person, either containing whole, partial, or incorrect information, you need to be able to delete all of them upon request. So, your company may need to invest in a mechanism or entity-resolution platform, like Senzing, that establishes excellent data quality.

The Pros

Guess what? The GDPR actually protects direct marketing. It states, “the processing of personal data for direct marketing purposes may be regarded as carried out for legitimate interest.”

In plain English: you can still use cookies and personal data to personalize web offers or user experience (though you should be transparent about it). This is different from automatically subscribing users to your newsletters—which is still a no no.

funny cookie tracking notification by The Next Web

The Next Web adds a little humor to their pop-up notifying visitors that they use cookies on their site.


However, you can breathe easy knowing that the GDPR has your back. You can responsibly and responsively personalize your marketing, unless a user asks to opt out from that personalization.

Nevertheless, GDPR has prompted many marketers to think differently about personalization. This has effectively led them to adapt “privacy by design” models when asking people for their contact information, and to clean email lists of people who haven’t expressly asked to be contacted.

This, in turn, has helped to boost the quality of first-party data. It has also helped companies collect better information from the get-go through creative, more transparent means.

For example, travel gear company Pacsafe recently hosted a video contest to attract new eyeballs and simultaneously gain newsletter signups. The company asked visitors to sign up for their newsletter if they had an interest in traveling or winning a free vacation—earning them 25,000 new contacts with a confirmed interest in traveling.

This strategy involved collecting declared data—information that’s willingly shared by a person about his/her aspirations, intentions, and more. By collecting declared data, your company can stay GDPR compliant while establishing a real connection with a lead.

In this way, GDPR encourages more authentic brand-consumer relationships. By talking to a person and introducing your brand before asking for information, you can increase the probability of consumers recognizing your name and, perhaps, opening any future emails.

The Predictions

headshot of danielle glasser marketing manager at no standing

“Though consumers are being provided with more transparent information regarding marketing practices, it will be interesting to see how many people truly value the protection of their private information over the ease of use that opting into various programs provides. Over the past few years, users have been aware of the increasing amount of personal information that social platforms have been collecting, but the value that these platforms provide have outweighed the potential risks perceived. This is proven by the ever-increasing numbers of social media users. It’s crucial now more than ever that agencies actively remain at the forefront of these changes by constantly adapting their strategies to remain compliant from both existing and potential changes, rather than having to make these changes retroactively. The game has changed but it has changed across the board, so those who are too slow to adapt will sink, allowing for more proactive agencies to come out on top.” – Danielle Glasser, Marketing Manager at No Standing

headshot of stephanie kelly director of abm at terminus

“I think with the new guidelines set forth with GDPR, marketers will be continuing to shift to more account-based programs and campaigns versus traditional lead generation programs. Marketers will start to move away from mass emails and migrate towards customized, hyper-personalized outreach based to individuals at target accounts.” – Stephanie Kelly, Director of ABM at Terminus

headshot of jeff jonas ceo of senzing

“Outbound marketing to ‘non-opted in’ prospects is going to require organizations to first differentiate EU residents from non-EU residents, which will be particularly challenging if you only have an email address. As a result, some marketers may consider more online ad spending. Others may invest more in content generation in hopes of connecting with prospects via organic search. Put plainly, organizations that can’t fill the top of their funnels are going to die.” – Jeff Jonas, CEO and Chief Scientist at Senzing

headshot of rodrigo teiexeira digital strategist at dotgroup

“GDPR shows the necessity of a rigid policy regarding data protection, not only for individuals but also for companies regardless of size or revenue. Lack of a specific law regulating use or processing of user information in other countries may impede the growth of some database companies. Both companies and professionals deserve the right to anonymity and the right to be forgotten in cases of defamation or extortion.” – Rodrigo Teixeira, Digital Strategist at DOT digital group

headshot of alan steel cmo of zoomph

“Good marketers will understand this is a huge opportunity to gather declared data that will help them create stronger connections and mutually beneficial relationships with their customers.” – Alan Steel, Chief Marketing Officer at Zoomph


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