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GDPR and positive customer relationships


Lucy Halley

GDPR and positive customer relationships

GDPR is seen as a threat by many. But can it be an opportunity? Lucy Halley, Planning Director, CRM at Digitas, explains that the new legislation offers a golden opportunity to change the way that customers experience your brand.

With Google, we’re ‘Together Forever’.

Tesco is our ‘Reliable Neighbour’.

BP service stations are just a ‘Passing Acquaintance’.

Our proprietary relationship archetype tool – R-Types – has helped us to understand how consumers define their relationships with brands in human terms. 

Brand owners have typically encouraged these emotional connections by imbuing their brands with human traits; brand values are expressed in human terms.

But it’s what a brand does – not what it says – that the customer experiences, and so informs how they define their relationship with it.

GDPR is a golden opportunity to change the way that customers experience your brand in a way that creates positive relationship archetypes.

Why does it matter for marketers?

Central to GDPR is the principle that individuals should be able to control their personal data as far as reasonably possible. But our research shows that 89.5% of consumers haven’t heard of – let alone understood – GDPR.

This creates an opportunity. To be the brand that helps people understand they’ve got more say over their data, and then help relieve some of the onus placed on consumers by GDPR (for example, to verify the lawfulness of how their personal data is being processed). A new type of relationship based around data will undoubtedly affect how customers experience your brand, and done right it will create more positive relationship archetypes.

This is more than just a nice way to segment your audience. The most positive relationship archetypes (‘Best Friends Forever’ or ‘Team Mate’, for example) typically enjoy the highest levels of retention and greatest share of spend. Changing the way people experience your brand through a data-fuelled relationship will be the route to higher value customers from May 26th onwards.

When a ‘Strictly Business’ relationship is relationship enough, brands such as Wetherspoons may decide to be ‘data poor’ and so delete much or all of their customer data. But for brands that decide to be ‘data rich’, they need to start developing the sorts of relationship types where customers knowingly and willingly hand over their data.

We’re beginning to see certain types of brand behaviour being played out in the way customers think about them.

For example A ‘Reliable Neighbour’ will be clear and upfront about the categories of personal data they hold about a customer and make it easy for them to update this information.

A ‘Best Friend Forever’ knows everything about a customer, who can be confident their data will never to be revealed or misused.

A ‘Coach’ helps a customer to be the best version of themselves (Fitbit), and so the customer sees the value in sharing even sensitive data.

A ‘Team Mate’ is on the customer’s side, working towards a shared goal – be that better entertainment (Netflix), or better holidays (TripAdvisor). It’s clear to the customer how their data is improving their experience.

What are the implications for the future?

In encouraging consumers to define their relationship with your brand in human terms – as in all human relationships – there are risks.

We hold human brands accountable for their actions, as we would a friend, family member or colleague. But the more we hold a person or brand responsible for their actions, the more likely we are to punish their negative behaviour.

If you choose to be a data-rich business, GDPR presents multiple opportunities for customers to experience your brand in a way that creates or strengthens positive relationship archetypes. But get it wrong in a way that upsets your customers (or the regulator), or get it wrong in a way that customers don’t see any real value in providing their data to you – and the repercussions could be significant.

Suggestions for further reading

The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes, Margaret Mark & Carol S. Pearson

Lucy Halley

Lucy Halley

Planning Director, CRM AT Digitas

Lucy is Digitas's CRM Planning Director, with strong specialisms in loyalty and membership. Lucy is fascinated by human behaviour and how she can affect behaviour change for the long-term commercial benefit of her clients. Lucy’s experience spans proposition development, segmentation, contact, messaging and content strategies. Lucy also believes in moderating her own qualitative research, to really understand what makes her clients’ customers tick. Prior to joining Digitas, Lucy headed up teams at RAPP working with brands including UNICEF and Guide Dogs. Lucy joined Digitas in June 2015, leading strategy and planning on Bupa Global and most recently the AA.


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