In his latest blog, our correspondent calls for companies in the retail, mail order and travel sectors along with their production partners to be innovative in the face of the tough new GDPR regulations that come into force in 2018. This need is heightened by the state of an economy that is mired in post Brexit apathy and flux.

Charles Caleb Colton, the eccentric cleric, partridge hunter, gambler, writer, art and wine collector, we well as all round bon viveur, travelled the globe and made and lost fortunes at the gaming tables of Paris. He died at the age of fifty two when, unable to face an impending medical procedure, he killed himself.

Aside from writing books about characters as diverse as Napoleon and Lord Byron, his witticisms, aphorisms and quotes populate such publications as Bartletts Familiar Quotations. His most famous quip still blights us to this day: ‘Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’.

For those that are mimicked, all is well –  you are already planning the next step forward. For those doing the aping, the quote should really read: ‘Imitation is the comfort blanket of the dullard’.

If you’re thinking that you can just let GDPR slide by, take a lesson from history of how indifference can destroy profit.

Let us take a step back to 2007, when the leading mobile phone in the whole of the good ol’ US of A was the Blackberry (or as devotees would refer to it: ‘The Crackberry’).  The company had an almost unthinkable fifty percent (or more) of the market share. Little did anybody even consider that, within the decade, that same market share would fall to a mere 0.8%.

Somewhere deep in the heart of Silicon Valley, the area just outside San Francisco, Stevie J and his flotilla of acolytes were hard at work developing their own phone that would change the game forever.

They could have tried to imitate the success of Blackberry with a ‘better’ version of a traditional handset. However, they chose to embrace the new technology at their fingertips and launch a touchscreen product that was just as revolutionary in its own way as the television, or even sliced bread.

The new touchscreen iPhone, despite early email security issues, soon became the must have means of personal communication and went to play a major role in changing the way we consume media and interact with the world.

May 2018 marks a similar watershed for the direct marketer every bit as great as the one faced by Blackberry all those years ago. It presents both a challenge and an opportunity and while it’s not about technology it’s about people and expectation, which is what Blackberry ignored ten years ago.

Four words will change the way companies Engage, Acquire and Retain customers (EAR): General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Whether you’re a B2B company or a B2C company, fundamentally, you should use this as a golden opportunity to rethink your data strategy and approach for competitive advantage. “There’s money in them thar’ hills” as they say.

The companies that emulate Blackberry and adhere to the mantra of ‘We have always done it this way’ will fall by the wayside as they fail to unlock value from their data, and lose their audiences, and will become yesterday’s news.

The companies that choose to join Stevie’s gang, to inovate and embrace the challenge and see it as a way of putting clear daylight between themselves and their competition, will win the day.

No longer will a pure digital strategy supply the new customers that are the lifeblood of those focused on direct marketing. The Engage and Acquire elements of the EAR strategy will have to include a broad church of mediums encompassing media inserts, printed media, phone apps, highly complex data segmentation and analysis alongside E communications.

In the words of Benjamin Franklin, ‘By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail’

Are you ready?


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