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The GDPR Gift Always Comes Back to the Giver


INFLUENCER: Creature CSO Andrew Gibson on Marcel Mauss' 'The Gift' and what we can learn from it in a post-GDPR world

The GDPR Gift Always Comes Back to the Giver

This week, it feels like the GDPR has finally hit the fan.

‘Please don’t go’.

‘Keep receiving our valuable information’.

‘Bye then’.

Amidst the panic-strewn push for ‘compliance’ I find myself conflicted. On the one hand, I’m pleased that I don’t have to go through the tedious process of unsubscribing from the various databases I find myself on; yet on the other I can’t help but see some troubling irony at play: 

You see, as the good ship CRM sinks under new legislation, those responsible are responding with the exact same tactics that prompted the legislation in the first place. 

It’s like the last supper for the faceless, thoughtless, insert-name-here email; and it speaks to a lack of innovation in our industry. If we’re not going to find a way to improve when the law says we have to, then when are we? And if we’re not going to find a way to be valuable to our audiences, then why should we expect them to re-subscribe to something they probably weren’t aware they were subscribed to in the first place?

And so, as we reach the final course of this bottomless email buffet, we need to start thinking about what happens next. 

Well, assuming we all don’t get fined heavily enough to go bankrupt I think the answer might have been staring us in the face for almost 100 years. 

In 1925 Marcel Mauss published a book called ‘The Gift’. It’s a really short book, but I reckon it’s about ten times more useful than any marketing book you’ll ever read. In it he observes that a gift always finds its way back to the giver. With generosity comes a social contract to reciprocate.

In other words, If you give something, you get something back.

Let’s apply this to the GDPR email fiasco for a second. ‘Please give us your consent’ emails are giving absolutely nothing and are expecting actually quite a lot in return. Open rates and click through rates are low enough at the best of times let alone when you’re receiving thousands of virtually identical emails all at once. 

But what if we thought of every communication as a value exchange between brand or organisation and consumer (like Marcel Mauss would), then we’d know that to get anything back you first have to offer something of value. Something entertaining, something surprising, something useful.

So make something funny, gamify the consent process, give a limited time voucher code, set a challenge, host a competition, sign people up some other (more engaging) way; and never let yourself forget that ‘keeping in touch’ with a brand is not something of intrinsic value.

If we thought of GDPR in these terms, I’m convinced we’d respond rather differently. Even more, I think we might not have been in this situation in the first place. 

Andrew Gibson is CSO at Creature

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Creature London, Fri, 18 May 2018 11:48:54 GMT