Post-GDPR the data landscape in brand marketing will change. It’s an opportunity to make better human connections.

Data and brand marketing.

These days, it’s hard to think of one without the other. Last year’s State of Inbound report from Hubspot revealed how dependent the two were on each other:

72% see data analysis as the most important skill – beating out social media, web development and even SEO.

And it’s not hard to understand why. With the same report stating that 40% thinking ROI was their biggest challenge, the use and analysis of customer data has proven to be an effective solution.

Not just because data reveals valuable insights that can drive acquisition, but also because it is innately measurable.

For years, brands have revelled in this age of information, collecting data that best suits their business needs, including:

  • Identity data – any piece of data that can be used to identify a person. For example, name, age, address, email, job, phone number and so on.
  • Quantitative data – this is measurable behavioural information that reports on a customer’s activity within your business, whether that’s transactional (products purchased, renewal dates etc) or communicative (customer queries, social media posts and more).
  • Descriptive data – Creating a picture about who the customer is by using lifestyle information such as what car they drive, house type, pet ownership, marriage status, education etc.
  • Qualitative data – Information that reveals a customer’s opinion, attitude or motivation, like the answers they give in a survey.

Whatever kind of data has been collected, its usage can essentially boil down to one thing: finding ways to connect with customers. 

It’s using data to choose the right marketing strategy, it’s knowing what content and creative will engage them, it’s segmenting them into groups to test against and measure results.

We’re so used to it now, data is so intertwined with every day brand and marketing activity that the looming arrival of the GDPR is concerning to many. But it doesn’t have to be.

It’s an opportunity to redefine data use as a tool to customer connectivity, rather than a fundament. And as we move from the Age of Information into the Age of Imagination, dare we ask: is there a better way to connect?

A study by W8 data found that when the GDPR comes into effect, an estimated 75% will be obsolete because it does not comply with the new regulations. We covered a summary of what the GDPR means for brands here if you’re still in the dark about it.

Brands and marketers can obviously rebuild their databases, but perhaps a smarter way of connecting with audiences is knowing the limitations of data and creating new ways to accomplish marketing goals.

This article goes into some detail about said limitations and how it can affect results. Here’s just a few of the points made in a nutshell:

  • Data is biased because it is only based on those who have interacted with your brand – it is not representative of those who have not.
  • Only certain channels can effectively apply data findings.
  • Data can produce predications and recommendations. It doesn’t identify “why” – the reason for it.
  • Data does not reveal specific insights and learnings on how brands and marketers should tackle challenges, only broad solutions.

But what if you combined data with another way of gathering key insights, behavioural learnings and even creative solutions to the toughest marketing challenges?

At its heart, co-creation is about human connection. It’s collaborating with your audience on a one-to-one level to understand, empathise and democratise. The information, insights and data you collect with such a process is empowering and, if implemented effectively, game changing.

Combining traditional data gathering and real creative connections like co-creation is proven to get results. We know it at SHARP, Huddersfield, from our own experiences in transforming brands by collaborating with customers for 8 years now.

But don’t take our word for it. Unilever used their data and co-creation findings to realise their customers had a desire for brands with a conscience. Unilever launched its Sustainable Living brands which grew 50% faster than the rest of the business.

Starbucks too – the My Starbucks Idea, where customers submit their ideas to the brand (150,000 and counting), gave birth to “skinny” beverages that we love so much.

Could those results have been achieved with faceless data collection alone? Or is there something special going on here? That shows we can effectively use the limited data we have post-GDPR by simply seeing past it – to look at the person who made it.

Because people are more than just information makers, they are brand creators.


Alex Allston

Alex Allston

Senior Copywriter