“You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”
So said Harvey Dent, one of Batman’s many villains. True, he was talking about Batman’s future legacy. However, he could also be speaking about modern marketing’s malaise.
Whereas once marketing inspired, today it annoys and frustrates. As we will be discussing at PIE 2017, marketing is broken.
Read more: GDPR ignorance: Should we be worried?
Previously, marketers only had a few forms of media to access the consumer – such as print adverts, billboards and television. The limited supply made media planning expensive, meaning that marketing campaigns had to be more memorable, given both their price and limited exposure. Marketers may only have had one chance for a consumer to see their work, so they had to make it count.
However, the internet has completely disrupted this. Suddenly, it’s become cheap to reach people all the time, and to do so in a targeted way. Marketing has become far more measurable, with metrics focusing on “eyeballs” and – slightly more progressively – “engagement”. Now the goal is numbers, for people to see you as much as possible. There has been a reduced focus on quality and an increased amount of poor work.
There’s a reason why adblockers are so popular. People want to avoid marketing. They don’t want to open a website and be played an advert. They don’t want an inbox with more spam than a World War II grocery store. They really don’t want you calling them.
Consumers now don’t trust brands, because their conversation with them is one-way, overpowering and annoying. Whereas the residents of Gotham had to deal with a jacked-up scarecrow and a twisted joker, today’s digital citizens are plagued by mediocre marketing.
However, look to the horizon, and you may just spot something: the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – the hero consumers need and the one marketers deserve.
There are few marketers that would ask for the GDPR, which comes into place May 2018. The regulation will mean that companies will need to gain consumer consent to access their data. It will be immensely irritating for many marketing departments.
Surely, this is bad news? Well, probably not.
GDPR will place a premium on smart, impactful campaigns that don’t rely on “eyeball analytics”. At a blink, the tools that enable today’s “targeted” digital marketing will become far less effective. This will lead to a renewed focus on quality, rather than quantity.
What’s more, GDPR will place a new emphasis on consumer trust. A consumer will only consent for a brand to use their data if they really trust it. This trust is easily undermined by poor marketing communications, which are most consumers main conversation with a brand. An individual is unlikely to trust a brand that invades their inboxes and slows down their favourite websites.
Marketers that get this right will both retain and grow consumer trust, which will increase access to consumer data while their rivals lose it. This creates a huge competitive advantage for the business, not just the marketing department.
Therefore, marketing departments will need to rethink their communications, so that they become an asset to people's’ lives, rather than an obstacle. We may see the very nature of marketing change, as it seeks to become more of a service. At the very least, we should see a return to impactful, intelligent campaigns.
The price of failure and the reward of success have both gone up. In the long-run, this must improve how marketing is conducted. It will likely see budgets go up. For that, marketers should be thankful to their new cloaked hero.