Will GDPR assist the revival of direct mail?

By now you are probably sick of hearing about the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which came into effect on May 25th, 2018 – but how will reigning in the use of personal data impact the way we can directly market to consumers?

GDPR sets out to unify data protection laws across Europe and give individuals better control of their personal data, as well as imposing stringent rules on those who host and process data – essentially your inbox has been given a break from the slew of emails (phew!) pouring in from brands that you apparently subscribed to somewhen, somewhere in the past.

There’s A LOT of information available on how GDPR affects companies with online databases, emphasising the need for consent to make calls, emails or text messages – BUT not so much on what this means for direct mail – are we ready for the comeback of an old favourite?

Apparently it’s all down to “legitimate interest”

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) state:

“processing of personal data for direct marketing purposes may be regarded as carried out for a legitimate interest”

Essentially, legitimate interest is the use of people’s data in ways they may reasonably expect and have minimal impact on their privacy.

Imagine an acrobat walking along a tightrope, on one side you have the business interests of the organisation and on the other, the rights and freedoms of the individual – balancing between the two to ensure that the identifying, documenting and processing of personal data is based on legitimate interest (so you don’t fall off the tightrope and make a fool of yourself!).

With the fine line between marketing and invasion of privacy – even the processing of data for direct marketing doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re free to send out post with no restrictions.

The Postal Puzzle

This leaves a bit of a conundrum – of course, you’re going to collect, store, process and share the personal data required for mailing within GDPR legislation but seeking consent? May not even be possible or practical– so…where do you go from there?

This goes back to legitimate interest and is especially relevant for charities (but not solely) – what if a charity wants to send out marketing pieces to existing supporters to inform them of events or successful projects? In this circumstance, it can be claimed that it is in the interest of the recipient to receive the information without compromising their data privacy.

Ultimately, the ICO states that:

“You can rely on legitimate interests for marketing activities if you can show how you use people’s data is proportionate, has a minimal privacy impact, and people would not be surprised or likely to object.”

Ready for the Revival

So are you ready for a comeback bigger than a Spice Girls reunion? We all know the power of direct mail – so you can start planning for direct mail campaigns without the panic of explicit consent. As long as your data processing meets GDPR and you can justify it with the benefits to the consumer – you’re all set!