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Industry News 14/12/2017

Market Regulation and the Future of Email Marketing

Market Regulation and the future of Email Marketing

If our copywriter had his own way, every blog we produce would open with a reference to an obscure paper by some forgotten East German social systems analyst. We’ve usually managed to reign in this tendency and get him to write things that people might actually want to read. Then the GDPR legislation was announced and… well… see for yourself:

The Origins of Marketing

In his seminal article The Evolutionary Differentiation between Society and Interaction, the sociologist Niklas Luhmann defines corporations and markets as different subsystems of society. The corporation manufactures products. The market is a complex web of changing consumption habits. Understanding this web requires skills different from the manufacture that corporations specialise in. Thus arises the need for marketing and marketers – to translate between the two social systems. 

The Dark Art and the Dismal Science

The marketer can be an honest broker – telling the corporation the needs of the marketplace and telling the marketplace about the benefits of the corporation’s products. However, there is nothing compelling the marketer to give an honest translation (except, one would hope, her own conscience). A dark marketer might apply her marketing skills to increase the sales of a product that she knows to be substandard.

Government Interference

In such circumstances, should the government interfere and regulate interactions within the market? Economists are divided on this matter (as they are on most matters – not for nothing is economics known as ‘the dismal science’). Friedman-style neoliberalists proclaim that a market left to its own devices will always sort out any problems. Keynesian classical liberals think the state should interfere a bit. And Marxists think the state should run the whole shebang. 

New Regulations

One aspect of marketing that is about to come under peculiar scrutiny is email marketing. Up until now, marketers have been able to gather up people’s email addresses using any number of ruses (pre-ticked checkboxes, competition entries, wi-fi sign-ins, etc) and then bombard the hapless recipient with email marketing pretty much forever. We’ve all just had to get used to ignoring the dozen emails we get each day from companies that we expressed a brief interest in half a decade ago. But things are about to change. 

General Data Protection Regulation

(If this term means nothing to you, then you might want to read last week’s blog on getting ready for GDPR before we continue. But hurry up, because everyone else is waiting.)

When the new regulations come in on May 25th, any addresses that you have for marketing purposes that you cannot prove were obtained fairly will have to be dumped. By ‘fairly’, we mean a double opt-in. This will mean that people have to sign up to receive emails for marketing purposes and then reply to an email that specifically and solely asks them for permission to send them future marketing emails. Attempt to contact anyone who has provided anything less than this level of documented consent and you could be in line for a big fine from the Information Commissioner’s Office. 

The Bad News

We strongly expect that these new regulations will lead to a significant withering of your email marketing lists.

The Good News

However, those that do sign up will be those with a genuine interest in hearing more about the products and services that you offer. With the correct approach, what you lose in quantity, you will gain in quality.

If you would like to know more about our data protection advice services, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can call our office on 01603 632552 or email

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