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  • Writer's pictureNick Bonney

Are You Still My Type on Paper? Why the R in GDPR Should Stand for Relationship

So I’ve finally done it!.... after two months of writing these blogs, I’ve finally gone and uttered the dreaded GDPR acronym and, not only that, I’ve only gone and stuck it in a headline and combined with a tenuous Love Island metaphor – so predictable!

However, a couple of recent events have triggered me to reflect on the kinds of relationships brands cultivate with their customers and, now that the dust has settled on the May deadline for compliance, I can’t help but feel that so many brands missed a real opportunity to transform the kind of dialogue they have with their customers.

At The National Lottery we set ourselves a ‘player relationship target’ and, whilst it is a very hard metric to define, it always struck me as an admirable ambition to have as part of the company strategy, particularly for a national institution. Over the past few months many companies have hounded me, desperate for to re-consent to marketing and yet, looking outside in, so many relationships are dysfunctional at best.

Three recent examples:-

(i) ‘The Other Woman’

UPS My Choice - The Cuckoo in the Nest?

I recently made an order from an online sports retailer. Nothing unusual in that. However, what struck me was how the UPS customer experience shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the customer relationship.

I did not want, nor ask for, a relationship with UPS – my relationship was with the retailer. However, to perform the most simple of customer experience transactions (changing a delivery date) I had to register my details to become part of UPS My Choice, thus forcing themselves into another brand’s relationship. Sure, this must be great for their 'contactable base' but are they really engaging with the customers they acquire in this way and, more to the point, does it add or destroy value for their customer (i.e. the retailer). You can't help but feel that providing this experience in an easy / seamless way rather than forced registration would be a better long term brand strategy?...

(ii) ‘You Don’t Know Me At All’

Best Kept Secret?

At the other end of the spectrum must come the LTA. I play tennis around twice a week in the summer, I volunteer for a not for profit tennis organisation, I visited the All England club, I am a British Tennis member, I follow Wimbledon on social etc - you get the picture.

Yet the first I hear about The Great British Tennis weekend – a wonderful initiative and a chance for me to engage friends and family in a sport I have only recently thrown myself into – was when I turned up on court on Saturday to run a session. I don’t know how their media is targeted but what a missed opportunity to use their brand advocates to help drive participation.

This doesn't require sophisticated digital optimisation but some simple common sense approaches to targeting audiences and, more importantly, an investment in engagement with the partners who have to deliver this on the LTA's behalf (which, believe me I recognise is no easy task)

(iii) ‘You Never Say Sorry’

Heute Wir Sprechen Deutsch - When Campaign Selection Goes Wonky

Over the past six months, even the biggest brands have made some fundamental cock ups in their direct customer comms. I’ve had e-mails in French and Spanish from eBay and, just last week, Amazon Prime decided to tell me all about the great benefits of being one of their fee paying top tier customers in….. German.

I get it, these things happen but what characterised both these businesses was the lack of a follow up mail. How different would it be if they followed up with an e-mail apologising for the mistake and offering some small gesture to re-engage me.

As I sat down to write this piece, I began ploughing through my inbox. It’s a sad reflection on the state of direct customer comms today, full of subject lines shouting at me with offers and sales but none of which do anything to recognise the relationship I have with that brand. It also got me reflecting on which ones I actually would open so….

Kudos to:-

- Ted Baker – a brand which manages to keep a unique sense of Ted through every channel and still feels brand-led even when it’s pushing sale offers through e-mail

- Caffe Nero – a brand which uses push notifications and gamification through their great app (powered by YoYo) to make it feel like a fun brand to connect with rather than just a same old, same old loyalty scheme

- Pro-Direct – a brand which has found a way to keep some element of brand building and expertise in a category which has become dominated by the price-led approach of brands such as Sports Direct

Caffe Nero - Introducing a Playful Side Builds In App Engagement

No doubt many brands are currently reviewing where they sit post GDPR. I expect most of them are looking at a KPI which reflects the number of customers they are still consented to contact. Wouldn’t be great if just some of those conversations also reflected on the quality of the relationship they have with their consented base?! EasyJet are one of the few big brands I can think of who have really started to innovate in this space (

This requires a much more nuanced approach to campaign tracking and crucially to view campaign effectiveness from a customer perspective as well as a business point of view. Without doubt, the quantitative data around open rate, click through and conversion are important but it's crucial to think about how each touch-point fits together across the whole customer journey to bring value to the relationship. This requires the blending of qualitative and quantitative data to build up a rich picture of how consumers are interacting with the brand - the why is as important as the what and how many.

Contrary to the behaviour of Adam in Love Island, relationships shouldn’t just be a numbers game….


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