GDPR is not just a business issue for marketers -- it’s an ethical challenge for brands to do the right thing. The decision brings with it a financial implication, however, as brands need to face up to losing customers from their database.
That was the stark warning at today’s Festival of Marketing in London from Jayne Clarke, head of marketing and research at RNLI, the charity that operates lifeboats around the UK coastline.
Clarke pointed out that the ethical questions surrounding how charities raise money prompted the organisation to switch to opt-in only. With the press full of stories of vulnerable supporters feeling hounded by multiple charities, the RNLI felt it had to set an example.
“We were going fully opt-in regardless of GDPR because it was simply the right thing to do when there was so much concern about how charities seek donations,” she said.
“It was a massive decision and we had to talk to our trustees, our staff and our volunteers because we knew it would have a massive impact. We’re aiming to be fully opt-in for the start of 2017 and have spent the past year asking people to sign up. So far we’ve kept 45% of our lists, but we’ve lost around half a million people and we estimate that will cost us GBP35m over the next five years.”
The charity advises that any brand that is going fully opt-in, as GDPR requires, needs to talk openly internally about the impact of the move. They may also find they get a wake-up call on how they need to talk to some customers to remain relevant.
“It’s been good to get permission to speak to people again because people appreciate being asked, even if they don’t want to be contacted anymore,” she said. “What we’ve found is the people who choose to stay on our database are generally older and, to be blunt, they’re not going to be around as long as younger people. So we have the marketing challenge now of how we reach out to younger audiences and remain relevant. It’s shown us we need to be relevant beyond our core, older audience.”
So opt-in is in the post, whether EU email marketers like it or not. There will be small databases -- that will cost your brand future income but it just might also show you how irrelevant you have been to a specific audience and prompt a discussion on how to reverse this.