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As a direct link to customers and their data, marketers will be uniquely affected by GDPR. In this Q&A, Oracle’s Marie Escaro and Kim Barlow discuss how GDPR affects marketing teams.
Is all the hype around GDPR justified? How seriously should marketers be taking it?
European regulators have a clear mandate to tighten controls on the way businesses collect, use and share data, and the prospect of large fines for noncompliance is enough to make companies err on the side of caution. Marketers should take this very seriously, as a large part of their role is to ensure the organization has a prescriptive approach to acquiring, managing and using data.
Businesses increasingly rely on data to get closer to their customers. With data now viewed as the soft currency of modern business, companies have every reason to put the necessary controls in place to protect themselves and their customers.
What does this mean for CMOs and marketing teams?
Marketing teams need a clear view of what data they have, when they collected it, and how it is being used across the business. With this visibility, they can define processes to control that data. I once worked with a company that stored information in seven different databases without a single common identifier. It took two years to unify all this onto a single database, which should serve as motivation for any business in a similar position to start consolidating their data today. It’s equally important to set up processes to prioritise data quality. Encryption is a good practice from a security standpoint, but marketers also need to ensure their teams are working with relevant and accurate data.
What’s been holding marketers back?
There is still a misconception around who is responsible for data protection within the organization. It’s easy to assume this is the domain of IT and legal departments, but every department uses data in some form and is therefore responsible for making sure it does so responsibly. Marketing needs to have a clear voice in this conversation.
Many businesses are also stuck with a siloed approach to their channel marketing and marketing data, which makes the necessary collaboration difficult. These channel siloes within marketing teams have developed through years of growth, expansion and acquisitions, and breaking them down must be a priority so everyone in the business can work off a centralised data platform.
Is this going to hamper businesses or prove more trouble than it is worth?
Protecting data is definitely worth the effort for any responsible business. But GDPR is not just about data protection. It’s a framework for new ways of working that will absolutely help businesses modernize their approach to handling data, and benefit them in the long term. If we accept data is an asset with market value, then it’s only natural customers gain more control over who can access their personal information and how it is used and shared. Giving customers the confidence their data is safe and being looked after responsibly, while ensuring that data is better structured and higher quality will be good for the businesses deriving value from that data.
What should CMOs do to tackle GDPR successfully?
As with any major project, success will come down to a structured approach and buy-in from employees. CMOs need to stay close to this issue but in the interests of their own time should at least appoint a strong individual or team as part of an organization-wide approach to compliance. Marketing needs to be a part of that collaborative effort and should be working with finance, IT, operations, sales and any other part of the business to ensure all data is accounted for and properly protected.