how gdpr affects marketing

How GDPR affects Marketing:

Hey there, savvy marketers! We are here to guide you through the impact of GDPR, the General Data Protection Regulation, on your marketing efforts. 

Whether you’re a small business owner or part of a multinational corporation, understanding and embracing GDPR is vital for maintaining customer trust and avoiding hefty penalties. 

However, meeting its requirements is not always easy. It can be difficult to handle given the evolving nature of data protection regulations, including figuring out how to get permission to use data and handle it.

So, let’s dive right in and explore how GDPR can shape your marketing strategies and tips and tricks to navigate GDPR.

Why does GDPR matter?

Personal data is so valuable that it’s being collected at an incredible rate, and it’s vulnerable to theft and misuse. The people who use customer data the most don’t fully understand how they should use it. 

Besides, customers do not even know why they receive emails and messages from brands they didn’t sign up for, and they divulge information without knowing why.

To tackle this, the European Union (EU) government developed a privacy regulation called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

GDPR is a comprehensive data protection law that came into effect in 2018. This set of regulations was designed to give EU, EEA, or UK residents more control over their confidential data. 

Its primary goal is to protect the personal data of individuals within the European Union (EU) and ensure that businesses handle this data responsibly. In short, GDPR is the core of Europe’s digital privacy legislation and outlines how the EU wants their personal data to be managed.

But here’s the crucial part: GDPR doesn’t just apply to EU companies; it has an extraterritorial reach, affecting any business that processes EU, UK, or EEA residents’ data, regardless of its location.

Why was GDPR introduced?

GDPR, by a long measure, is the most impactful regulation in place for data protection in a tech-driven generation.

The EU has long valued its citizens’ online privacy and believes that they should be protected and empowered rather than exploited or ignored. 

The EU regulators felt that the companies were misusing their citizens’ data for their own gain and that they should be transparent about how they were using the data. GDPR was introduced to end this and give back power to customers.

History of GDPR

GDPR is adapted from a document that was first adopted in 1980 and later modified in 1995. 

The outdated version could not cover the necessary data privacy principles for social media, smartphones, or any advanced web technology like artificial intelligence (AI) or virtual reality. The obsolete version was never a compulsion, so companies had a chance to opt out of it.

Since May 25, 2018, this is no longer the same. With GDPR, every company across Europe or companies that handle EU data must follow the data privacy principles.

What should organizations do to comply with GDPR?

Organizations that store customers’ personal data should be meticulous about what kind of personal information they want to collect and why. 

Organizations also need to regularly conduct privacy impact assessments, strengthen the way they seek permission to use the data, document how they use personal data, and improve how they communicate data breaches. Data mapping helps simplify GDPR compliance for organizations.

And since it’s a regulation, it cannot be opted out of or ignored. Companies failing to comply with GDPR are fined up to 20,000,000 EUR, or 4% of their annual turnover for the preceding financial year.

Implications of Failure to comply with GDPR

Let’s look at some statistics in terms of penalties. Within the last 12 months, some of the largest MNCs that failed to comply with GDPR have had to pay hefty fines.

  • The world’s largest e-commerce company, Amazon Europe, was fined €746 million.
  • The world’s most popular messaging app, WhatsApp Ireland, was fined €225 million.
  • The world’s most used search engine, Google, was fined €90 million.

Not just big MNCs, but any company that violates personal data is heavily fined.

How does GDPR impact marketing?

In our digital age, personal data is the fuel that drives marketing campaigns. But with great data comes great responsibility. 

So let’s take a look at how how gdpr affects marketing.

GDPR injects a strong dose of responsibility by enforcing stringent rules on how data is collected, processed, and utilized. For marketers, this means an enormous shift in how strategies are crafted, campaigns are executed, and customer relationships are nurtured.

Key principles of GDPR

To operate within the GDPR framework and ensure GDPR compliance, marketers must grasp its key principles. 

  • Data minimization (collecting only what’s necessary)
  • Purpose limitation (using data only for its intended purpose)
  • Accountability (demonstrating compliance). 

These principles guide your marketing strategies under GDPR’s watchful eye.

On the whole, GDPR is difficult to implement, especially for small businesses or sole proprietors. In reality, there are only 3 areas that marketers need to worry about to comply with GDPR:

  • Data permission
  • Data access
  • Data focus

Data permission

Data permission, in simple terms, means that the user has the choice to decide whether an organization can store or use his personal data.

From a marketing perspective, the direct impact of GDPR’s data permissions is on lead generation forms. In the pre-GDPR era, the customer had no option but to receive promotional content. But now, that’s changed.

Let’s look at two different examples of how this can manifest.

  1. Instead of assuming that leads and customers opt for a pre-ticked box to receive marketing emails, organizations now need to ask them if they want to opt in to newsletters by selecting the signup box.
  2. “Refer a friend to claim an offer” program helps companies get information about the friend, like their email address or phone number, without their consent. GDPR does not allow companies to store or process data to send marketing emails to these referrals without their permission. They can only notify them about being referred. On that note, no marketing emails or messages should be sent to referees.

Data access

Have you ever observed the “unsubscribe” or “manage preferences” link at the bottom of a promotional email? 

“The right to be forgotten” is one of the cornerstones of the GDPR. It gives people the right to have outdated or inaccurate personal data removed from the companies’ databases.

The world’s most used search engine, Google, has been forced to remove pages/ cookies from its search engine results in order to comply with GDPR.

As a company marketer, it’s your foremost responsibility to ensure that your users can easily opt in or out of those marketing emails and messages. 

It’s easy for you and the customer if you include the unsubscribe link in the marketing template so that users can manage their data preferences.

Data focus

Marketing is a data game. Marketers will always tend to collect more information than is needed. For example, does a marketer really need to know someone’s favorite color before subscribing to a newsletter?

With GDPR in place, marketers should be able to justify the collection and processing of specific personal data legally. This means that companies must stop asking for “nice to haves.” 

For example, if you need to know the prospect’s favorite color, prove why you need it. Otherwise, try to avoid collecting any unnecessary data.

GDPR And marketing practices

1. GDPR’s impact on email marketing campaigns

Email marketing, a staple in any marketer’s toolkit, was not left untouched by GDPR. For B2B marketers, email addresses are the driving force behind lead generation. 

The earlier pre-checked opt-in for signing up for your mailing list or downloading content is now optional.

With its focus on consent and individual rights, GDPR transformed how email campaigns are executed. 

How will email marketing be affected by the EU GDPR?

  • Marketers can no longer rely on vague opt-ins or pre-ticked boxes to collect email addresses. 
  • Consent must be explicit, informed, and freely given. 
  • Emails must also clearly state the purpose of data processing and offer an easy way to opt out.
  • Buying an email list from third parties is strictly forbidden. That means email marketers can no longer automatically add these prospects or former customers to their mailing list.
  • GDPR gives email subscribers rights over their data. If a subscriber requests to be forgotten or to access their data, you need to be ready. Have processes in place to handle these requests within the stipulated time frame. 
  • An “unsubscribe” link is no longer enough; subscribers must have easy access to managing their data and preferences. This approach not only keeps you compliant but also strengthens your relationship with subscribers.

Best Practices for Obtaining and Managing Consent in Emails

  • Your signup forms should be transparent, informing subscribers about what they’re signing up for and how often they can expect to hear from you.
  • Implement a double opt-in process, where subscribers confirm their subscription to ensure explicit consent. 
  • And remember, consent isn’t forever. Regularly review and refresh it to maintain compliance!

2. GDPR and marketing analytics

Marketing analytics provide valuable insights, but they can also involve processing personal data. With GDPR in control, marketing automation won’t be able to work as rigorously as before. 

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) comes into the picture and fine heavy penalties if your marketing automation system sends out emails on your CRM’s (Customer Relationship Management) behalf.

CRM is a technology and strategy that organizations use to manage interactions with current and potential customers. CRM systems help businesses streamline processes, improve customer satisfaction, and build stronger relationships by centralizing customer data, tracking interactions, and enabling personalized communication and marketing efforts.

So, ensure your CRM database has only emails of customers who have given explicit permission to receive marketing emails. If someone opts out of an automated email sequence, ensure no further emails are sent to them.

Also, with GDPR in place, having the next email already scheduled is not a valid excuse anymore.

Also, under GDPR, your analytics practices need to align with data protection principles. Ensure that the data you collect is necessary for your analysis and that you have a lawful basis for processing it. Regularly review the types of data you’re collecting to avoid overstepping boundaries.

Anonymization and pseudonymization are your allies in the world of analytics. Anonymization involves removing personally identifiable information, while pseudonymization replaces identifying data with artificial identifiers. 

Both methods can reduce the risks associated with data processing while still providing valuable insights. Implementing these techniques can strike a balance between analytics and data protection.

Use of cookies

Cookies are small text files that are stored on a user’s device when they visit a website. They serve as data markers, tracking user interactions and preferences, allowing websites to remember users and personalize their experiences. 

In marketing, cookies play a crucial role by enabling businesses to understand user behavior, tailor content, deliver targeted ads, and improve overall engagement through data-driven insights.

Cookies and tracking technologies are commonplace in digital marketing. However, their use must respect user privacy. 

  • Obtain informed consent for non-essential cookies and trackers. 
  • Implement a cookie consent banner that allows users to choose the types of cookies they want to accept. 
  • Make sure your privacy policy provides comprehensive information about the cookies you use, their purpose, and how users can control them. 

3. Public Relations (PR) and GDPR

Even with media databases such as PRweb and MyNewDesk in place, marketers still need to get the consent of the journalist before sending any marketing emails.

Journalists use platforms such as help a reporter out (HARO) and social media channels to give consent for marketers to contact them. 

However, GDPR allows for communication the other way around. That is, if a journalist reaches out to you, you can pitch product releases and share company information with them.

4. Social media marketing

Social media marketing provides unparalleled reach, but it also comes with a unique set of privacy considerations. Such platforms thrive on user-generated content, and behind every post, like, or share is personal data. 

GDPR brings social media marketers face to face with the responsibility of respecting user rights while leveraging these platforms for engagement.

As individuals interact with your social media content, they’re exercising their data rights. Be prepared to respond to data subject requests promptly. Provide accessible ways for users to access their data or request its deletion. 

Inform users about the data you collect through your social media efforts and how you intend to use it. Transparency and clear communication can foster trust and goodwill.

GDPR requirements: what marketers need to know

Although the GDPR law sounds intimidating and the fines issued by the ICO make you rethink your marketing strategy, it’s an excellent opportunity for marketers.

Now, marketers can develop targeted marketing campaigns that keep customers engaged with their brand.

Below are a few reasons why GDPR is a golden opportunity for marketers:

1. Consent Is Key

As discussed above, GDPR helps gain consent to use prospects’ or customers’ data. 

Under GDPR, obtaining valid consent is a must before processing any personal data. So, no more pre-ticked boxes or vague opt-outs! Be transparent about your data collection practices, explain why you need the data, and ensure individuals freely give informed consent.

For instance, instead of bombarding the user’s screen with a ton of emails, provide them with a range of options so they can choose what kind of marketing information they are interested in.

GDPR also helps you segregate customers based on their interests and create email campaigns accordingly, rather than sending a “one size fits all” email.

2. Right to be forgotten

Individuals now have powerful data subject rights. They can request access to their data, rectify inaccuracies, and even demand erasure—the famous “right to be forgotten.” 

As a marketer, you must be ready to address these requests within a specific timeframe. Under GDPR, you will be in trouble if a user opts out of emails and you still send them marketing emails.

Sometimes, we tend to store data in different places for different purposes. With GDPR in place, it’s almost mission-critical to store customer information in a single platform solution like CRM to track data permissions. 

A CRM solution will create a single point of view on all customers and break down silos of customer information to be GDPR compliant.

3. Transparency

Being GDPR compliant requires you to be transparent about data access, data permission, and data focus. Being transparent in business will establish trust and improve customer engagement. Be honest with your customers about what you do.

You must demonstrate that an individual’s data is being treated with respect and held securely.

What tips and tricks can marketers use to navigate the GDPR?

GDPR is clearly influencing how businesses work. If your business is still not GDPR compliant, we have a checklist to help you meet those requirements.

1. Audit your database

Remove the users’ Personal information (PI) from your database if they opt-out from your mailing list. For new users, send an automated email to confirm their subscription.

2. Create tailored content

Create a tailored marketing strategy for prospects with lead magnets such as eBooks, PDFs, and white papers in exchange for collecting their PI. This way, you change your prospects into potential customers.

3. Flash a pop up on the website

Flash a pop-up when a person visits your website to read product launches, product news, blog posts, or company news, and record which customers engage with these pop-ups. This way, you can segregate the users and send them relevant marketing emails. Of course, send marketing emails only if you have received explicit permission.

4. Use a CRM system

Gone are the days of using Google Docs and spreadsheets to store customer information. Use a CRM system to centralize customer data and segregate customer personas based on their interests. Use these personas to develop tailored marketing campaigns.

  1. Train your sales team: Train your sales team with new sales techniques. Train them on how they should reach new prospects on social media and how to share relevant content.
  2. Collect only required data: What would you do with knowing customers’ favorite color until and unless you are selling something along those lines? Only collect data that is required, nothing more, nothing less.
  3. Update your privacy policy: Review your current privacy policy and update it in accordance with GDPR requirements.

Tips for Navigating GDPR

1. Audit Database:

  • Remove unused emails and PI from opt-outs
  • Confirm subscriptions for new users via email.

2. Tailored Content: 

  • Exchange lead magnets for PI to convert prospects.

3. Website Pop-Up:

  • Display pop-ups, segment engaged users.
  • Send emails with explicit permission.

4. Use CRM System:

  • Centralize data, segment based on interests.
  • Develop tailored marketing campaigns.

5. Train Sales Team:

  • Train in new techniques and social outreach.

6. Collect Required Data: 

  • Gather only necessary information.

7. Update Privacy Policy:

  • Align with GDPR in your privacy policy.

The future of GDPR and its impact on marketers

Trends and developments in data protection regulation

Data protection is a swiftly evolving field, and GDPR is just the beginning. As technologies like artificial intelligence and blockchain continue to reshape our digital landscape, data protection regulations are likely to adapt. 

Stay informed about emerging trends and be prepared to integrate new practices into your marketing strategies.

Preparing for potential changes in GDPR requirements

Regulations are never set in stone. GDPR itself may evolve over time as lawmakers respond to challenges and advancements. 

To future-proof your marketing practices, build a flexible framework that can accommodate changes. Staying agile allows you to navigate regulatory shifts while continuing to deliver personalized, respectful experiences to your audience.

Maintaining customer trust and loyalty through GDPR compliance

GDPR compliance isn’t just about ticking checkboxes—it’s a commitment to treating your customers’ data with care and respect. 

By implementing GDPR principles, you demonstrate that you value your customers’ privacy as much as you value their business. This, in turn, fosters trust and loyalty. 

When your customers know you have their best interests at heart, they’re more likely to become lifelong advocates for your brand.

With a company like Scrut, you can employ automation to ensure compliance with GDPR.

Wrapping Up

GDPR, with its emphasis on data protection, privacy, and individual rights, has transformed marketing into a more responsible and customer-centric endeavor.

Embracing GDPR isn’t a burden—it’s a chance to set yourself apart in a noisy digital landscape. So, by making data protection a priority, you not only adhere to legal requirements but also foster trust, solidify customer relationships, and build your brand’s reputation. 

Showing that you can be trusted with data, is a priceless attribute to possess. Therefore, as you embark on your data-driven marketing journey, remember that GDPR isn’t just a regulation—it’s a compass guiding you towards ethical and enduring success.

Scrut is an innovative and radically simple governance, risk, and compliance automation platform for growing startups and mid-market enterprises.  With Scrut, you can easily perfect and automate your marketing practices to align with GDPR. Schedule your demo today to see how it works.


1. What is GDPR, and why does it matter to marketers?

GDPR stands for General Data Protection Regulation, a comprehensive data protection law enacted by the European Union (EU) in 2018. It aims to safeguard individuals’ personal data and grant them more control over how their information is used. GDPR matters to marketers because it impacts how they collect, process, and use customer data in their marketing campaigns.

2. How does GDPR affect email marketing?

Marketers now need to obtain explicit and informed consent from individuals before sending them marketing emails. This means no more pre-ticked boxes or vague opt-ins. Additionally, subscribers have the right to access, rectify, and even request the deletion of their data.

3. What are the implications of GDPR for social media marketing?

Marketers must ensure that the data collected from social media interactions complies with GDPR regulations. This includes obtaining proper consent for tracking and data processing activities. Individuals have the right to object to certain types of data processing, so it’s important to offer clear options for users to manage their data preferences.

4. How can marketers use third-party data while staying GDPR compliant?

Marketers should thoroughly vet their data vendors and partners to ensure they are GDPR compliant. Data sharing agreements must outline the purpose of the transfer and the security measures in place. Marketers are accountable for ensuring that data shared with third parties is processed in accordance with GDPR regulations.

5. How can marketers ensure GDPR compliance in cross-border marketing efforts?

Cross-border marketing requires adherence to GDPR’s cross-border data transfer regulations. Marketers need to assess the data protection regulations of each target region and ensure that data transfers outside the EU are lawful. Mechanisms like Standard Contractual Clauses (SCCs) and Binding Corporate Rules (BCRs) can help ensure compliance while transferring data across borders.

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