data-management tips

Never mind GDPR, ban data altogether

Written by Jason Groom
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Originally published
January 2 2019,
July 13 2020

Single-use has been named as Collins Dictionary’s “Word of the Year” for 2018. Referring to the raft of products made to be used once and thrown away, it’s become something of a derogatory term. And, as new words enter the English language, others fall by the wayside. Their use wanes and they become archaic, or just plain old-fashioned. Given the power, we’d go even further as one which has been shamelessly over-used during the year we’d opt to ban entirely.


The dreaded “data”

The word “data” could have been a contender for the Collins title.  Mostly due to the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) back in May, it was a word you couldn’t escape. The very mention of it sent IT and Marketing teams into a spin. Legal departments worked overtime and, suddenly, everyone was an expert on how it should be captured, permissioned, stored, processed and then “forgotten”.


Confusion reigned

Businesses were left confused by advice (much of it baseless and conflicting) from the many self-proclaimed “data gurus” who surfaced at that time. Seizing the opportunity it offered, and exploiting charities and businesses who feared being on the wrong side of the legislation, consent and re-permissioning campaigns were everywhere.


Missing the point

A recent DMA article Why data does not have value - people do  makes it clear – “Without data, there is no insight, but without customers, there is no business.”

During 2018 we became so obsessed with data that we lost its true meaning. And value. We talked readily and openly of first-party and third-party, records and sets, its consent and hygiene. All the time we seemed to forget that really this data is our customers, members, donors or subscribers.

Successful brands and organisations employ one-to-one marketing and create bespoke, personalised messaging to foster greater engagement and loyalty. But you can’t personalise to, engage with, or have a meaningful conversation with bits and bytes.  You need people for that.


Let’s resolve in future to substitute “data” and use the word “people” in its place; that way we might make 2019 the year that “marketing” wins!

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