Don’t panic, do get technical

20 June 2018

The General Data Protection Regulation and a backlash against business social media use should not trigger a wholesale rethink on marketing strategy, but the Grenfell disaster should prompt a focus on precision of product performance claims, writes Liz Male of Liz Male Consulting.

Three interesting shifts have taken place in the marketing world in recent months. One minor, one major, and one that is not quite what it seems. I’ve heard all three discussed among our clients within the timber industry so, if I may, let me offer some thoughts on what these changes might mean for you.

First, the minor shift. Well, minor for most good businesses I suspect. Although on the list of Things That Irritate Us Most, this one must surely take the prize. I’m talking GDPR, and the spawning of a million emails from organisations asking for your permission to keep in touch.

For responsible businesses that have never been into spamming people or doing despicable things with personal information, the new General Data Protection Regulation (and its close cousins, the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations) should not be causing consternation.

Yes, you need to be a lot more open about how, why, when and where you collect, process and store personal information about your customers, prospective customers, employees and others. Yes, you defi nitely need to have an updated privacy policy, written in plain English. Yes, you need to keep personal data more secure, and be geared up to deal with enquiries.

But no, not everything you do now demands consent in triplicate. Don’t let the lawyers freak you out with warnings of certain doom. Targeted communications and e-marketing are far from fi nished, and indeed should improve in effectiveness as a result of these regulations.

So how about the shift that’s not quite what it seems? I mention this only because I’ve heard quite a few people talking gleefully about the recent decision by one popular pub chain to stop all use of social media, linking it also to the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the mini backlash against Facebook. “Aha,” they said. “That proves it – social media is just a fad.”

That’s not my take on it at all. There is a fascinating back story to this shift, attracting theories about high politics and PR stunts. But what I think we can all learn from this goes to the heart of how well we build social media seamlessly and ethically into marketing and communications strategy for measurable business benefi t. My advice? Don’t go running off to delete your social media accounts yet – there’s too much to lose.

So the major change? This comes from the Hackitt Review into Building Regulations and fi re safety following the Grenfell fi re tragedy, and is likely to lead to a much more demanding regime for how products used in construction are tested, certifi ed, labelled and marketed.

In short, expect performance claims to be scrutinised much more closely. It’s time for marketing teams to get much better informed on technical issues.

I suspect this will impact on every manufacturer and supplier of building materials, including wood products, over the months to come, so I urge any marketer to watch this shift carefully and prepare for the opportunities it presents.

Liz Male of Liz Male Consulting