In response to growing concerns over data privacy and security, European governments are working on an EU-wide data privacy law that, by the end of the year, will bring in tougher legislation on how technology companies can use personal data. 

A single data protection jurisdiction across the European Union is a sensible response in light of recent high-profile cyber-attacks affecting Ashley Madison and JP Morgan as it promises clarity around some of the cloudier aspects of data privacy. But in a digital age when businesses are more reliant on consumer data, there are concerns that these regulations will drive a wedge between brands and consumers, potentially curbing further marketing innovation.

Innovative marketers are committed to providing more personalised, relevant experiences for their audiences and doing so requires them to harness important customer data. Therefore, concerns around the type of information collected on customers, and what it is being used for, presents marketers with a significant challenge; how can they marry privacy concerns with the necessity to provide a relevant marketing experience? And what is the appropriate response to tougher personal data regulations in order to keep consumers happy?

Fight? Marketers stand up and state their position on data privacy but stay on course with their customer data plans. This tactic will hinge on providing customers with guarantees around how their data will be used and offering reassurance in the benefits they’ll receive in exchange.

Or Flight? Marketers embark on a rash U-turn and curb their more progressive data strategies to ease consumer anxiety. 

Appealing to consumers’ increasing concern over data protection and security, it is interesting to see how Google has gone with the former tactic to give customers more visibility and reassurance over how their data is used. To use privacy as a brand differentiator, Google has told every single one of its users in Europe, Middle East and Asia how much data it is collecting and outlined the reasons why through a privacy hub called My Account. Users can also choose whether to tweak their security settings for everyday Google tasks more clearly, including blocking ads from specific advertisers appearing next to search results as well as setting what personal details can be linked to their Google account.

If a brand wants to gain and nurture valuable relationships with consumers, they must show their customers respect and — by extension — show their customers’ data respect. This makes addressing consumer fears about personal data far more appealing as a long-term strategy to win brand loyalty. A commitment to continuing marketing innovation but also a reassurance on data privacy is the most sustainable reaction to these data hacks. 

If marketers are to work towards the Holy Grail of true personalisation, then they cannot give up on getting a closer view on their customers. Programmatic advertising and other data-driven marketing technologies will have to evolve and more platforms will be needed to offer up the level of personalised inventory needed. 

This requires greater access to consumer data – a big ask in a climate of consumer anxiety. So what’s the solution? 

To serve the customer, marketers must strike the balance right between useful and intrusive. In most cases, consumers are happy to continue to be targeted with relevant, timely content by brands that they have a relationship with. However it is a different kettle of fish when unknown brands start entering your online life or adverts feel intrusive. It’s when businesses focus solely on their own commercial ambitions over customer needs that the line tends to get crossed. Keep the customer experience in mind, and you’ll serve them right!