Direct Mail in a GDPR landscape: an enormous opportunity

You might have heard an awful lot about how GDPR will impact email marketing, as well as calls and texts, but did you know that you do not need explicit consent to send postal marketing if it can pass a ‘legitimate interest’ assessment?

First Copy - Direct Mail in a Post-GDPR Landscape

If print is your product, then what better way to get the quality of your output under the nose of a company influencer than sending a real, physical, example demonstrating your capabilities? And what better time to demonstrate your work than when more and more companies will be considering putting more effort back into coordinated direct mail campaigns?

Hard copy marketing definitely isn’t dead. In Royal Mail’s GDPR Opportunity with Mail we learn that consent isn’t necessary for postal marketing where there are legitimate interests. This isn’t quite the same for several other forms of communication, eg email, and some texts and calls, which will need clear and unambiguous consent under GDPR, PECR (the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulation, which refers to electronic channels), and upcoming changes to ePrivacy rules.

So what is legitimate interest? It covers a wide range of things, in the words of the ICO ‘They can be your own interests or the interests of third parties, and commercial interests as well as wider societal benefits. They may be compelling or trivial, but trivial interests may be more easily overridden in the balancing test’. So, if you can show using data is proportionate, has a minimal privacy impact, and that people ‘would not be surprised or likely to object’ then you could pass a so-called legitimate interest assessment. You must of course include the legitimate interests basis for direct mail in your privacy notice and immediately cease communication if someone objects.

But it can be simpler than that. For companies that wish to send printed marketing to many households or business in a particular area, there is the option to send out information with no personal data on it all. With no names, addresses, or other individual information, personal data isn’t being processed - marketing is simply delivered alongside somebody else’s addressed mail.

This provides a golden opportunity for a resurgence in postal (as opposed to electronic) marketing - with more companies turning to direct mail for a larger portion of their marketing activity, there are more opportunities for print companies to create and produce that mail and fulfil that demand.

There are benefits to direct mail for both commercial print operations and their clients. Many organisations, and most individuals, will have one postal address, even if they have a multitude of email addresses. Postal addresses are less likely to be out of date or misdirected. Instead of sending email en masse, your client can send well-targeted messaging via a beautiful sample - which could end up in a prominent position on the decision-maker’s actual desk, rather than languishing unread in their inbox.

A hand-picked and well-thought-out example of your work (or, for your client, a great piece of design) suggests a much higher value placed on that company and their business than if they only received a bulk-emailed impersonal message. A smaller list of addresses doesn’t necessarily mean a smaller response rate if the campaign is well planned – the additional effort is returned in kind.

For more information about legitimate interests, opportunities and even case studies, see Royal Mail’s Guide to GDPR.

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