Can Marketing And Privacy Coexist?

Privacy is over. The concept of privacy as we know it has evolved. And privacy for you and me does not mean the same thing.  Many of us have relinquished our own privacy by oversharing our lives on social networks, which have been exploited in various ways.  In some cases, we revolt and claim that we have a right to our own privacy. But what is the answer to that claim?

Well, for starters, more governments in various countries are deciding to control the use of consumer data. Today, with regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which I discussed at length in a previous article, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), and other worldwide data privacy laws, governments regulate and control the use of personal information by companies. These regulations provide consumers with a new right: the right to be forgotten and a new power to counter today’s abundance of marketing messages, mostly through email.

Mass Marketing: No More?

Is it the end of mass marketing as we know it? It very well could be. To market to consumers or customers, companies will now have to “earn” the contact information of their targets.

In the United States, marketers have become so lax in their targeting practices that every one of us has to take several minutes a day to delete from our inbox — both professional and personal — the dozens of emails that are not relevant and clearly not welcome. The results: 1) Customers are tuning out email, deleting any email from unknown recipients without even reading them, 2) Any targeted marketing effort that may be relevant would be lost in this chaos and clamor of marketing messages and miss its audience and 3) “Spray and pray” tactics have seen diminishing returns in the last few years with very low return on investment.

Where does this leave marketers given the rise in data privacy?

With data privacy regulations reaching seemingly every corner of the world today, the mass marketing approach will soon no longer be allowed. Opt-in is now king, which means that marketing content must take on an amplified role to cut through the clutter and to make a meaningful impact.

Before long, we will see a world of double opt-in, with no databases to buy, no lists to purchase, no easy way to find contact information for the companies marketers wish to target. The question is: Will marketing be thrust 20 years into the past where email becomes less than 5% of your marketing and direct mail makes a comeback? It is all a question mark.

The rise of social selling and networking events in today’s marketing mix is indicative that some marketers are trying new things to reach and connect with their target audience. These new approaches take the data privacy regulations out of the equation entirely; instead, it becomes more about making personal, one-on-one connections and building on that in-person engagement while leveraging targets’ social networks and connections. To see results, the message needs to be relevant, compelling and noticeable. It needs to be educational and timely. In other words, it needs to be crafted with research and attention to what each target segment needs. No more shortcuts or one-size-fits-all approach. Regulations are forcing us to review the foundations of marketing and messaging at its core.

Can Marketing And Data Privacy Coexist?

We have seen early-stage startups spending an exorbitant amount of money on marketing to break through that noise. This oftentimes means burning a lot of investors’ dollars, resulting in a lot of wasted money and resources, with some results in the first months or years always followed by a sharp slowdown as the business scales.

The tsunami of regulations we face as an industry is forcing marketers in organizations of all sizes to shift their approach in dramatic ways, driving toward more results and with the privacy of consumers as the main priority.

There is no other way to say it: Marketers have grown complacent. Now it is time to be more strategic by:

Researching and understanding our audience(s).

Developing a relevant message to get an audience to engage.

Finding the right channel to engage with that specific audience.

Developing an “intimate” relationship through thoughtful engagement.

So, yes, marketing and data privacy can coexist, but marketing strategies have to evolve from what they are today and, in some cases, they will need to go back to the basics of segmentation and targeting. Data privacy regulations will further force changes in how we approach marketing, but in my view, it is a needed change. The rise in regulations is forcing the issue upon us as marketers, and we have the opportunity to smartly shift our focus from mass or spam marketing to more targeted, focused programs.

I am convinced that marketing return on investment will increase while privacy will remain unspoiled. This is the very reason data privacy regulations like GDPR and CCPA came together in the first place.

This post originally appeared on Forbes.com.

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