If you have read anything about the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – and a recent Econsultancy survey suggests 67% of marketers have at least read some of the Information Commissioner’s Office’s (ICO) guidance – then you might still be grappling with some knotty issues. Can I rely on implied consent? Have the rules changed for B2B? Are my interests legitimate? The list goes on.

But rather than getting too close to the legalese, marketers should take note of its key themes. Personally, I think the GDPR is as close as we’ll get to a religious text for data-driven, customer-focused marketers – that’s how powerful I believe it can be.

Firstly, the principle of accountability means that marketers can no longer fly by the seat of their pants. During a discussion at this year’s Marketing Week Live, Marketing Week columnist Mark Ritson nominated the word ‘agility’ to be banished to Marketing Room 101, saying the word is used as an excuse by marketers that have no strategy.

Well, accountability in GDPR means marketers in the midst of cooking up campaigns or new products will have to give much greater thought to planning and strategy as it pertains to data privacy. This includes not just recording what happens to personal data (what is collected, when, how it is processed and under what legal basis) but also applying ‘privacy by design’. That means data minimisation, pseudonymisation, and asking questions about the necessity of processing.

Marketers may have long parroted the line that they ‘put customers first’ but under GDPR they must back this up, putting customers back in control of their data and granting them their rights. As marketers we should be accountable to our customers. If we do not comply, we risk a fine but also, more importantly, irrelevance and reputational damage.

New thinking needed

There are many parts of GDPR that signal the need for a change in mindset among marketers. One is ‘purpose limitation’. No longer can marketers process personal data for a purpose incompatible with that which was specified when…