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What Can Marketers Do Post-GDPR?

Photo of Georgia Meyer
by Georgia Meyer

What Can Marketers Do Post-GDPR?

There was a predictable reduced presence at this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity held under the shadow of GDPR legislation coming into effect last month. AdTech firms in particular were notable by their absence, given that many of their business models are reliant on the types of data sharing that GDPR was designed to safeguard against.

Nonetheless, as the dust from the legislation begins to settle, the post-GDPR landscape is less a shadow over the industry and instead represents an opportunity to establish smarter and more effective frameworks for engaging consumers. However, this potentially galvanizing impact of GDPR on marketers will be felt differently across industries – with some able to capitalise on re-emphasised themes of transparency and influence more seamlessly than others.

A demography of increasingly consumer-curated content

There is evidence of a strong and demographic shift in consumers increasingly curating their own content feeds. MIDiA Research’s latest consumer survey data shows that internationally 16–19-year-olds over index (i.e. are above the consumer average) for following their favourite artists and brands on social media. This is closely followed by 20–24-year-olds, emphasising the youth-centric nature of this behaviour.

There is also an increased youth-centric trend to over index on skipping online ads and to stop paying attention to adverts on television. This is more evidence of the fact that as content distribution becomes ever more decentralized, content consumption also becomes increasingly personalized. Furthermore, it means that messaging from brands needs to be targeted more specifically – a somewhat interesting challenge post-GDPR.

Context, not content, is king

As we are now looking at a permanent shift in consumer behaviour, the challenge for marketers is to develop contextual messaging strategies – that seamlessly integrate with content consumption. The challenge is two-fold of course, as the logic which governs what message appears before a given user also needs to be GDPR compliant.

There is an art to distribution, as much as there is an art to messaging. Moreover, these new consumer trends indicate that distribution – or delivery – of branded messaging needs a further evolution. The very same consumers that increasingly curate their content and skip advertising where possible are also the most likely to actually seek out the brand messages they want to hear (via a brands’ social channel).

If deployed appropriately, strategies that integrate brand messaging via already established direct-to-consumer channels, are the most harmonious route to GDPR-safe consumer engagement. In this scenario, both consumer and brand have made an active and transparent choice to engage in the commercial space. For brands well placed to make use of the increasing ecommerce opportunities provided by social channels like Instagram and Snapchat, this adds a further – and crucially – financial legitimisation to the social sphere of consumer engagement.

Moreover, it would suggest that GDPR, far from curtailing the industry, is a welcome and well-timed legal framework that chimes with the emerging consumer trends of the decentralised branded messaging distribution space.

Not all contexts are created equally

There are two bigger challenges for brands who do have an already large social media imprint. Firstly, to make this strategy succeed requires high levels of consumer engagement on social channels. Secondly, sensible purchase opportunities need to be available within social. Even if a washing up liquid brand experiences extremely high levels of engagement on its IG stories, there is a question mark as to how many consumers would actually be likely to buy an item like that randomly, rather than as part of a bigger online shopping engagement.

For FMCG brands that are less likely to be able to make use of the direct to consumer (and to some extent GDPR-safe) logic that the social shop front offers, they also have a further challenge in voice-activated speakers. Online shopping has already removed one key marketing opportunity – the shop itself, replacing browsing with savable (and repeatable) shopping lists. Voice-activated shopping reduces even further the scope for many brands to place themselves into the consumers’ line of sight, literally.

The end of pursuing and prioritising ‘reach’

The concurrent trends of personalised content consumption (and so increasingly curated advertising), the privacy revolution, the rise of social ecommerce and the embedding of voice-activated speakers are all going to have profound effects on re-wiring the consumer and marketing ecosystems. So far it seems that a tentative conclusion from this will be that the volume of data in marketing circulation will be greatly streamlined and drive more effectiveness for businesses and consumers alike. However, there will be some industries that will find the new landscape more difficult to operate in. For these businesses, retaining and amplifying their existing user bases and will be more important than ever.

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