GDPR: a legitimate interest for direct marketers

MarketingFile - What is GDPR & will it affect me?
MarketingFile - What is GDPR & will it affect me?

The GDPR implementation date is creeping closer leaving many marketers and business owners still confused and perhaps panicked. According to the Federation of Small Businesses, nine out of ten say they are still not ready for 25th May 2018.

With “cold turkey” cases like pub chain JD Wetherspoon deleting its email database of 700,000 customers and deciding to market through social media and website instead, there is a temptation or fear to follow suit or launch a strategy to re-opt everyone in to marketing.

Industry bodies like the DMA and Data Protection Network (DPN) are providing a lot of useful information for marketers on GDPR. We’ve distilled their salient points into a briefing on the viable strategies to continue sending relevant, targeted direct marketing to a qualified audience.

Firstly, have you got consent?

In a nutshell, under GDPR there are six lawful grounds on which to process data. One of these is consent and you may well already have sufficient consent to process your customer/prospect data for marketing. But beware the ICO sets a high standard for consent. Essentially it is based on the current DPA clause: consent “must be freely given, specific, informed” but it also goes further to include being unambiguous with a clear affirmative action (no pre-ticked boxes), keeping a record of consent and avoiding making consent a condition of a contract. Note that the ability to withdraw consent must be easy and not incur a penalty for the individual, and regular consent reviews should be implemented.

So rushing in to get fresh consent from your hundreds/thousands/millions of customers could be unnecessary, costly and detrimental to an already legitimate database. If you have consent that satisfies GDPR, ensure you continue to adhere to it making any of the required changes such as consent reviews (every six months is sage advice). Ensure your current sign-up forms are GDPR-compliant for data you acquire henceforth.

But one thing is clear. You cannot contact someone who has already opted out, regardless of your motive. Even if you think you’re being prudent or helpful– to check if they want to opt back in, to update their details or inform them about your GDPR strategy – it’s breaching the law. Flybe and Morrisons have been penalised for this.

Legitimate interest

We’ve established that consent that meets GDPR standards is quite hard to obtain – even the ICO admits this. But remember, there are six bases for processing data and you must choose the most appropriate. The DMA and its partners have lobbied for the continued use of legitimate interest, and as one of the six bases it may be the one for you as a data controller.

“The processing of personal data for direct marketing purposes may be regarded as carried out for a legitimate interest.” Article 47

Legitimate interest can be relied upon for a whole host of data processing purposes including fraud prevention, profiling and HR but we are focusing here on direct marketing.

CEO of the DMA Group, Chris Combemale remarks “Most of our members will use ‘legitimate interest’ as the basis for normal data hygiene, segmentation, personalisation of offers and channels such as postal, and recital of 47 of the GDPR states that direct marketing is a legitimate interest.”

However, if you’re not sure exactly what it means, you’re not alone. One in four marketers are concerned about the issue of legitimate interests under the new rules*.

There are three elements to the legitimate interests basis. You need to:

  • identify a legitimate interest;
  • show that the processing is necessary to achieve it; and
  • balance it against the individual’s interests, rights and freedoms

To break this down further, legitimate interest means that there would be a relevant and appropriate relationship between the data subject and the controller, i.e. the people you’re marketing to would expect to hear from you and not object. You must also include an option to opt-out at every opportunity. It should be noted that GDPR prohibits the use of legitimate interest for as a basis for processing personal data by a public authority (Art.6 (1)(f)).

Put yourself in the recipient’s shoes.

An update on fundraising events from a charity to its donors? Sounds reasonable.

A mail pack about child investment funds to someone who doesn’t have children? Now it’s starting to sound less legitimate.

If legitimate interest is to be used, then there is a need to balance the interests of the business against the rights and interests of the consumer. Although not specifically itemised in GDPR, carrying out a legitimate interest assessment (LIA) will document and assess whether your choice in lawful.

An LIA has three stages and you can read more on this from the DPN:

  1. Identify a Legitimate Interest
  2. Carry out a Necessity Test
  3. Carry out a Balancing Test 

Privacy notice

Any Controller wishing to rely on legitimate interest must inform individuals (via a privacy notice) that it is processing personal data on this basis, what the legitimate interests are, and also notify individuals of their right to object. You may decide to reassure your customers that you’re making changes in line with GDPR, directing them to your updated privacy policy.

At the end of the day, it’s not about finding loopholes or meeting the bare minimum to skirt penalties. Whilst the non-compliance sanctions are potentially huge, the ICO commissioner makes it clear GDPR’s purpose is not to threaten the marketing profession but to give greater control to the individual, and part of that is being a responsible marketer.

James Monkman, Head of Partnerships & Compliance at Omnis Data, agrees. “GDPR is about common sense and looking after the consumer. That means transparency, protecting consumer information and being prepared for the changes afoot.”

We all know that engaged customers who want to hear about your products and services are the ones to nurture and respect with compelling marketing. And when they don’t want to hear anymore, allow them to walk away… leaving the door open.

Our GDPR check list will give you an indication of how prepared you are for the changes. If you need help with creating compelling direct marketing campaigns, or a database cleanse, get in touch.


*GDPR and You research from the DMA 

Call to Action – Are You Getting Response?

MarketingFile - Improve your response rate
MarketingFile - Improve your response rate

Analysing the response to your campaigns can be one of the trickier elements of marketing. Whether it be direct mail, advertising or digital campaigns keeping track of your return on investment can help plan future projects more efficiently. 

Whilst a direct link between your pieces and sales may be what you’re looking for, there’s more to advertising than this. Initially we need to evaluate if the product or service you offer is one of immediate purchase. To expand on this, a car showroom shouldn’t expect an instant flurry of response as most individuals don’t go buying cars on a monthly basis. In these instances, we use marketing to increase brand awareness so that when the time comes, your business is front of mind.

In addition to this, it’s worth pointing out that 6 months down the line, a prospect may not remember where they’ve seen your name, so don’t drop specific marketing channels because nobody mentions them directly.

Whilst, this is all well and good for longer lifespan products and services, some of you may well have the here and now fix, so let’s look at some techniques we can apply to measure our response.

Physical Coupons

Coupons are one of the oldest tricks in the book. They can be applied largely to print materials (see coupon codes for digital), in either solid or perforated formats. This allows you to simply count up how many coupons have been redeemed to measure response rate at a glance. The only downside? This method requires you to offer a discount or benefit of sorts. After all, as a buyer, why use a coupon that holds no benefit to me.

Coupon Codes

The digital equivalent of physical coupons (although they can be applied to print products). Comes with the same issue of requiring benefits (e.g discounts or freebies), but has the added advantage of automated counting to give you instant response rates.

Variable U.R.L’s

The purpose of variable URL’s is that specific prospects get individual web addresses, personalised to them. For example, an email campaign can be sent through to an individual with links directed at the domain This not only allows us to see how many times a page has been visited, but also allows us to pinpoint specific persons of interest for additional/future campaigns.

QR Codes

A format of mixed opinion. However, most QR code generators can provide a dynamic service. This allows us to change the page redirect for single codes in order to provide valuable analytics and measure response.

Landing Page

A more simple method, applicable to both print and digital media is landing pages. By setting up a dedicated micro-site for additional information, not only can we optimise content in mailings, but also track those who are interested in finding out more.


A less effective way to monitor response, is through footfall. Tracking volume of customers or visitors on a daily basis is a laborious task but can give you some insight into marketing effectiveness.


In a similar way to footfall, tracking call and email numbers can also give you an insight. The same can be said about visits to your website through Google analytics. All of which are relative as not directly linked to your marketing, but its worth tracking.

Of course sales can be used as one channel to measure although as we mentioned, direct results are ultimately uncountable.

Track what you can, keep all channels open and never underestimate the power of brand awareness.

What is your outlook for weather-based marketing?

MarketingFile - What is your outlook for weather-based marketing?
MarketingFile - What is your outlook for weather-based marketing?

Factoring the weather into your comms should be part of your marketing forecast. Everyday life is influenced by weather changes, triggering decision-making, emotions and a sales opportunity for savvy marketers. A temperature increase of just 1-degree Fahrenheit can increase weekly air con sales by 24%, whilst a 1-degree drop can increase weekly sales of portable heaters by 15% (source:’Profit of One Degree’ by

An extensive list of industries are affected by the elements including:

  • travel/transport
  • leisure/entertainment
  • homes/gardens
  • building maintenance (commercial, educational, residential, historic)
  • public services
  • food and drink
  • storage
  • infrastructure
  • communication
  • animal care
  • health and beauty
  • clothing and shoes
  • insurance and banking
  • HR

According to Huffpost, the number one smartphone use is checking the weather. Use this to your advantage by producing contextually relevant marketing to highlight the benefits of your products and services. 

Be a life-saver in extreme weather

The British are famous for talking about the weather, probably because it’s so unpredictable. Indian summer? Snowstorms in March? Perfectly plausible! Being prepared for extreme or freak weather means you’re ready to slide in with your solution. Think about what you offer, how it’s useful in extreme weather and what that email or ad could say. What pain points are people facing and how could you alleviate these? Conference call software for employees snowed in… craft packs to keep children entertained when school’s shut (and parents are trying to work from home)… HR advice on handling employees refusing to work in a heat wave… waterproof storage when heavy rain is forecast…  solutions to protect animals kept outdoors, etc.

It’s also an opportunity to remind customers that you’re still there, perhaps via a “home delivery” text, a tempting email showing the hot drinks your cosy café sells, or other ways to show the weather isn’t interrupting business as usual. Throw in an offer, get the timing spot on and you’ll be even more irresistible. Charities or not-for-profit organisations can also highlight their plight or cause in weather extremes for increasing donations and engagement. Having copy/design in mind means you can despatch a relevant message quickly for maximum impact.

Despite the banter, there will be a British summer every year so there’s nothing too special about promoting BBQs or flip flops when it’s already warm. However, you can be one step ahead and ready to shout about your 6-burner grill along with a 3-day local weather forecast when it’s going to be a scorcher. Urging facilities managers to check their air con is working, or to book a pre-heat wave service, provides the rationale for them to click with you rather than your competitors. Get thinking how weather peaks and troughs can work for your business.

If your products are more suitable to the opposite of the prevailing weather, there’s also an opportunity to tempt people with what they could be enjoying or should be doing, e.g. images of sun-drenched beach holidays when it’s miserable outside, or a reminder to gym users that ‘summer bodies are made in winter’ to tackle the dip in enthusiasm the cooler temps bring. Following a particularly dry/wet/cold/hot spell you can remind customers of a service, audit or upgrade they should be considering. You can certainly play on the safety, security, health, economic or product longevity benefits.

Be helpful

Weather-based comms can also provide valuable content to customers to keep them loyal and engaged. A reminder of product features that assist with driving on icy roads, a checklist for their buildings insurance policy (are you covered in a storm?), or a ‘did you know’ (that soup blender you bought from us can also make ice-cold smoothies?). These messages can of course seamlessly lead onto an upgrade or cross-sell message.

User-generated content

Launch a conversation around the weather on social media, asking followers to share tips or photos relating to your products, or share some video tips yourself. This can generate advocacy, insight, sales and a chance for you to demonstrate transparency, value and honesty as a brand.

In conclusion, think outside the box. Even if your product or service isn’t overtly seasonal or affected by the weather, there is sure to be ample opportunity to boost sales by targeting people in the desired mind-set. Look back at previous campaign results and what the weather was like (before/during/after) to spot any trends for future planning. If you need a creative spark to get your weather-related marketing off the ground, get in touch. And remember to check the forecast.