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How Does The GDPR Affect Your Marketing Strategy

How Does The GDPR Affect Your Marketing Strategy

Last Updated:  
March 18, 2024

In today's highly-connected world, data is a goldmine. In reality, data is gathered at such an incredible rate that it has become a prized resource. You may not know this, but anywhere and anything you click on the internet (basically your online activities) and what information you input leave a digital footprint. Yes, your digital footprints are scattered everywhere throughout the world.

Because your data is priceless, people with nefarious intentions eye your data. Hence, consumers become wary and want to know how companies handle and store their data. They are anxious that their data is in the wrong hands; such fears are valid and justified. As such, a platform to regulate and monitor the management of such data is needed.

The EU introduced General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on 25th May 2018 specifically for this purpose. The GDPR stresses transparency and users' data rights. If your targeted audience includes EU residents, you must comply with the GDPR or face penalties. Hence, you must review your marketing strategies to include GDPR compliance.

What is GDPR?

GDPR awareness in selected European countries 2018-2022 (Source: Statista)

The GDPR is a data governance law passed by the EU to protect the data of European residents. As long as you target or collect data on European residents, you must abide by the GDPR, no matter the location of your company. In light of increasing security breaches, it is not surprising that the EU is making a stand on data security and privacy.

The GDPR circulates eight core principles:

  • Data protection - governs how data is managed and processed.
  • Accountability - prove that you are GDPR compliant.
  • Data security - implement the necessary security measures.
  • Data protection by design and default - covers everything your company does.
  • When you're allowed to process data
  • Consent
  • Data Protection Officers
  • People's privacy rights
  • Rights to be informed - you must provide clear and concise information about everything you do with the users' data.
  • Rights of access - you must allow the users access to their data.
  • Rights to rectification - you must make the necessary modifications when the user puts in a request.
  • Rights to erasure - you must remove the users' data from your database and any other parties involved.  
  • Rights to restrict processing - users can opt out of certain areas (not to use their data).
  • The right to data portability
  • Rights to object - users can raise objections whenever they feel uncomfortable.
  • Rights concerning automated decision-making and profiling

Why is GDPR necessary in marketing?

Marketers work on data. They collect data to make meaningful business sense. If you have clients in the EU, you are obligated to comply with GDPR as it is a data protection regulation that applies to all businesses that process data in the EU. Hence, you must build the necessary privacy requirements into your marketing effort and operations.

Also, you will have to regularly conduct privacy impact assessments, strengthen GDPR's requirements, and document compliance procedures. GDPR brings several benefits to marketing:

  • More transparency - your clients are well-informed on how the data is stored and used.  
  • Increased privacy and security - your clients' data is tightly secured and protected from cybercriminals.
  • Build trust - assures and gives peace of mind to your clients to do business with you.
  • Higher accountability - increase your clients' loyalty.

How does GDPR affect your marketing strategy?

GDPR applies to all marketers, as long as European residents' data are involved. The GDPR looks into and protects the rights of individuals and gives them more control over their information. Marketers must be aware of GDPR and what it entails to ensure they handle everyone's information responsibly.

Data consent

Obtaining consent from your users for most everything is a must by GDPR. Any leads, clients, and partners must willingly consent to you contacting them. Also, you must confirm that you have sought their consent, and the user must provide it willingly with no assumptions.

For example, those who have completed a survey do not automatically mean they have given their consent. You must provide a means for your audience to opt-in for any promotional materials and newsletters moving forward. Simply put, pre-ticked boxes and automatic opt-ins do not cut it. Opt-ins must be a deliberate choice.

You also need to obtain explicit consent from your audience to use their data. If you have not secured their permission, you cannot use their data in your marketing effort. Ensure that when you do so, it is in simplified language, easy to understand, and clear, detailing what, how, and why the data is collected. A clear Call-to-Action must follow suit, prompting the user to give consent.

That said, certain exemptions from GDPR where certain situations do not require consent. However, these are rare so ensure you work within the rules.

Data rights

GDPR protects users' rights over their data. Marketers must reconsider how data is collected, processed, and managed. Hence, all marketing effort which includes any clients' data management tools and systems, must adjust to cater to the GDPR.

Marketers take the necessary remedial actions to be transparent in everything related to their users' data (manage, process, and store data). Relook at your business's structure, ensure your users know how to access their information, and put forward requests to remove or edit anything inaccurate. Give your users an outlet to contact you and ensure you are accessible.

Refine your data collection to what is necessary and relevant. All data stored is best encrypted to mitigate any risks. Also, if the user objects to their data for direct marketing purposes, you obey. However, you can still process the said data for other purposes.

Data focus

Marketers tend to be driven by this saying - the more, the merrier. They often lean towards collecting everything about the user by justifying the need to understand them better. However, do you need all the data you're asking from the user? Dig in a little deeper, and you'll know the answer.

GDPR restricts marketers from collecting what is necessary. Anything sensitive and unnecessary is off-limits. Sometimes, there is no clear boundary between what is and isn't. However, unless you can justify why you're seeking that information, it is best to avoid the 'nice to haves' and stick with the basics.

After all, you do not want to collect unnecessary information from your audience, which can frustrate them and spoil the customer journey.

Email marketing

Marks and Spencer include an unsubscribe link at the bottom of their emails.

Emails are still popularly used among marketers due to their potentially high-converting nature. The advent of GDPR has changed the email marketing landscape. Aside from securing consent from each user to send emails, you also have to obtain permission to collect more information from them for marketing purposes.

Hence, a double opt-in is required. This scenario applies to new prospects. That said, if there is a legitimate reason to send emails to the user (an existing client), you can do so without consent. Also, if you are legitimately justified to contact leads via email, again, you can do so without permission.

However, you must always include an unsubscribe link in all your emails. This unsubscribe option must be available even though the recipient has consented to receive emails from you.

Your website cookies

All websites have cookies. They collect data on users' on-site behavior. Cookies are marketers' best friends as they contain essential information to help design more effective marketing campaigns based on relevant behavioral analysis. However, since cookies collect users' data, they require consent from the user.

Ensure that your website incorporates consent for cookies. Help your audience be aware and understand that you need their permission to proceed with cookies. Be direct, specific, and unambiguous. Also, provide them the option to reject and withdraw their consent easily.


GDPR expects businesses to comply whenever they touch the EU residents' data and holds them accountable. Hence, companies are monitored to ensure strict compliance. Marketers should keep detailed and accurate records to prove their marketing strategies' compliance with GDPR.

Use technological means to help keep thorough audits and database records as proof of documentation. A Data Protection Officer (DPO) is the single point of contact for anything GDPR-related. The DPO serves as an effective liaison with the regulators.

What happens if you don't comply?

Fines issued for violations of GDPR as of 2022 (Source: Statista)

With the GDPR being in effect since 2018, more enforcements are emerging in the EU to manage violations. The authorities are clamping down hard on any data misuse. Since the GDPR is legally-binding, you can be sued and fined. To date, at least 1,163 fines for violating the GDPR, a figure worth noting.

Notable conglomerates like Google, British Airways, H&M, and Marriott Hotels were not spared. However, nothing beats (so far) the fine imposed on Amazon, which clocked a whopping $732 million, a significant margin compared to others. A French privacy rights group complained that Amazon did not obtain consent for their targeted advertising practices.


The GDPR has wide-reaching implications for marketers. Ignoring the GDPR is detrimental to moving forward as a business. Marketers should not view the GDPR as a bothersome headache. The GDPR is there to help improve the quality of communicating with your clients. By embracing the GDPR, you enjoy improved data quality, creating a more engaged audience willing to trust you.  

Marketers should see the bigger picture of the GDPR meeting the inner needs of prospects and clients. Hence, businesses should review their privacy compliance strategies in their marketing effort to reap the full benefits of the GDPR.

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