Will plans for strict data law make for better marketers?

Lucy Handley

Marketers have attacked plans for new rules which may force them to gain more explicit consent from people to use their data for campaigns. But could tighter regulation mean that messages are better targeted and therefore more effective?

The European Commission proposes that companies will have to tell consumers ‘clearly, understandably and transparently’ how their data will be processed and used.

This will make life more complicated for data marketers who will have to spend time and money working out the best way to do this. The current system, where consumers have to tick or untick a few boxes, means they won’t get unwanted contact and it is easy to unsubscribe to emails.

But the proposed new rules may mean long explanations to consumers about where their information is going to go and how it will be used. The World Federation of Advertisers rightly worries that people will get bored and frustrated, something it calls ‘consent fatigue’. They might simply say yes or no to everything. So the explanations will take good design and clear copy to help get around this.

And, given the huge projected rises in the amount of data people generate and download, this will only mean more work for the burgeoning data industry.

However, telling people exactly how their information is going to be used could be a good thing. It might mean super-accurate targeting. Imagine if most of the sales calls or emails your team makes are to people already ‘warm’ to your brand – something you know because you have accurate information on them.

The DMA is concerned that the rules will restrict the use of data for marketing and will be ‘hugely damaging’, but having less but more accurate data could be a good thing.

Amazon is often lauded for recommending the things you want that almost seem to be a result of mind-reading. This might spook people a bit, but ultimately if offered something they need or want, it’s good for all involved.

Boots has recently started personalising its Advantage Card offers more (see this week’s forthcoming feature on vouchers and incentives). It is working to make sure it gets it right, so that someone who buys baby wipes but doesn’t have young children isn’t sent lots of irrelevant nappy vouchers, for example.

The draft data proposals will take a while to come to fruition – it is likely to be until at least 2014 to be enforced – so brands will have time to consider them. Until then, it’s good practice for brands to tighten up the use of data anyway.

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