Getting GDPR Ready: How To Run An Effective Repermissioning Campaign

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Ethan Davies

Marketing Coordinator for Liberty Marketing Group

After years of preparation and debate, GDPR is finally coming into force. And, unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last year (or have buried your head in the sand to avoid the subject), you’ll know that it can’t be ignored.

GDPR has huge ramifications for marketers, who face new challenges to remain on the right side of compliance. That’s where repermissioning comes in.

In order to remain compliant without cutting back on marketing communications and plans, there are a few things businesses can do. Here’s our guide to running an effective GDPR repermissioning campaign.

What is repermissioning?

The new GDPR regulations affect a number of things.  For marketers, the most crucial element is that users must opt-in to receive any marketing communications.


Any data that you have and are using for marketing communications must now be compliant with GDPR, regardless of how you got it in the first place. For example, most contact details such as email addresses are obtained when a customer purchases a product online and is automatically added to a mailing list because of a pre-checked or creatively worded opt-in section. This is no longer allowed, and from the 25th May that person should no longer be contacted, unless they’ve specifically said they’d like to be contacted.

This is where repermissioning comes in to play an important role. Repermissioning is a term used to re-engage your current database in order to get them to opt-in to keep receiving marketing communications. However, it’s not quite as simple as simply sending out a mass email and hoping for the best. It’s more important than ever that guidelines are followed.

You can see a full list of opt-in recommendations available from the Information Commissioner’s Office here.

Obstacle or Opportunity?

We don’t yet fully know how much of an impact the GDPR regulations are going to have on marketing activity. Some experts say that it’s going to be a seismic change while others are comparing it to the unnecessary panic of the millennium bug. However, with a study suggesting that 75% of customer data on marketing databases will become unusable after the 25th May and with businesses facing hefty fines if they break protocol, it’s essential to make sure that your data is squeaky clean.

While GDPR is being viewed by some as an unfair obstacle for marketers, it should be seen as an opportunity. Marketing has focussed on quantity over quality for far too long, but these regulations give marketers the opportunity to create a new database of quality contacts that have a real interest in your brand and offering. In turn, this should make email marketing far more effective in the long run. Let’s be honest, how many of your inboxes look like the below?

inbox full

Just because you bought one gift from a gardening website for your aunt, doesn’t mean that you’re a gardening enthusiast that wants to be emailed twice weekly with the latest gardening tips and products. Yet, we’re too lazy to unsubscribe so we tend to just leave the emails unread as they slowly clutter our inboxes. Eventually, we’re left with entire inboxes and email addresses that exist purely to get bombarded by brands.

The new regulations should lead to people receiving emails from companies that they actually have an affinity with, not just every brand they’ve ever come into contact with. This should be far more effective for marketers.

spam emails
These emails are from the same company and it borders on harassment with seven emails received in the space of just two days.

Before you put effort into repermissioning, is email really a viable channel for you?

Another unexpected positive of these regulations is that marketers have taken a step back to finally ask themselves a very important question:

Is email marketing really working for us?

Last year, the pub giant Wetherspoons decided to delete its entire database. In a final email to subscribers, Chief Executive John Hutton wrote:

“Many companies use email to promote themselves, but we don’t want to take this approach – which many consider intrusive…Our database of customers’ email addresses, including yours, will be deleted.”

While they have said that they are stopping due to the intrusive nature of email, I sincerely doubt that they would stop using email for that reason if it was actually delivering results for them. Quite simply, these new regulations and the fact that the data was hacked previously have made them look at the performance and acknowledge that it’s not worth the time, money and effort.

So before you start panicking about the loss of your database, and start planning a repermissioning campaign, take time to assess how much email contributes to achieving your marketing goals. If you need help understanding that, this video of our very own Sam Roberts will give you some advice on analytics and attribution.

If you’ve decided email is important to your future activity but haven’t started a repermissioning campaign, we have a few tips to get you started.

Provide an Incentive


A problem that all marketers face is consumer trust. A study in 2017 showed that 69% of people distrust advertising. People are more aware of marketing and advertising than ever, and customers know that you want their email address to try and sell them something in the future. As such, it’s important that you’re not cold and robotic when trying to regain permission to email. Below is an uninspiring example that I received from a hotel I once booked dinner at.

While I appreciate that they’ve tried to reassure me that they won’t clog up my inbox, it isn’t enough to change the fact that the email is very impersonal. It talks about stays and breaks that would be interesting to me, yet I’ve never stayed with them and it lacks warmth and sincerity. There’s no incentive for me to opt in.

bad email

Brands can do better to make sure that they’re giving users a reason or incentive to be signed up to a mailing list. Below are two great examples of brands that have created repermissioning campaigns with a strong focus on the customer benefits of being a part of the mailing list.

Manchester United (Stay United)

man united

Manchester United’s ‘Stay United’ Campaign is completely transparent. Straight away, they state that the law is changing and fans have to opt-in to keep receiving emails from the club. They then tell the content users exactly what they’ll receive as part of the mailing list and that they’ll be ‘the first to know’ about that content.

As an added incentive, they also include the players in this campaign by getting them to do a voiceover for a video that explains the change. For fans of the club, it’s a big draw to hear your sporting heroes asking you to sign up.



BrewDog is actually giving away free beer to get people to sign up to their mailing list in a GDPR compliant manner. Whilst this campaign is less transparent than that of the Manchester United campaign, they are still providing an incentive for users to give their email address. For many beer fans, this is a no-brainer as they’re not actually giving away anything other than contact information.

Plus, it’s a great way for people who aren’t familiar with the brand to try the product without having to purchase it. With this simple yet effective campaign, BrewDog may gain more than just a few email addresses; they could also gain new fans.

Think Outside The Inbox

Whilst emailing your current database is the most obvious thing to do, this could land you in hot water if not done in a compliant manner. If you have the contact details of past/current customers, this doesn’t mean that you have the right to email them to get them to sign up for marketing emails. Both FlyBe and Honda made this mistake and received fines totalling £83,000.

Have a dedicated landing page

If you’re going to run a repermissioning campaign, it’s worth creating a dedicated landing page rather than directing users to a generic subscription page. Similarly to the Stay United campaign, a dedicated landing page will show users why you’re running this campaign. It also allows you to highlight incentives such as competitions and giveaways that only subscribers can access.

Go Social

bd social

Using BrewDog as an example again, they’ve used Facebook Ads to not only reach their own fans but also friends of current fans in order to further grow their audience and mailing list.

In order to reach a new audience who are likely to sign up, Brewdog is targeting those who have already shown an affinity with their brand – their social media fans and followers. As these people already follow Brewdog on social media, they’ve already shown an interest in the brand and its content. As such, they’re far more likely to sign up to a mailing list.

Similarly, it’s possible to use your current database to build custom audiences on Facebook. This feature allows you to upload the email addresses of your current customers and advertise to them (if the same email is associated with their Facebook account). This can also help grow your audience by using this custom audience to create a lookalike audience. These are people who Facebook deems to be like your custom audience due to their online activity.

Go Google


If email is a viable channel for you, then throwing some weight behind Google advertising might be a strategy that’s worth considering.

Customer Match

Customer Match will allow you to advertise to your current email database if that email address is associated with a Google account. Ads can specifically appear in your database on search, display, Gmail and YouTube. This is a great way to show a person who is already familiar with your brand some incentives to sign-up to your mailing list.


If a user has already spent time on your website and shown interest, then you can use RLSAs to encourage them to sign up to your mailing list the next time they search for your brand. If they are a quality visitor then it’s much more likely that they will agree to sign up to a mailing list, especially if you’re offering an incentive like a discount.

The Great Unknown

Whether GDPR is going to be a ripple or a waterfall is yet to be seen, but it should give marketers the incentive to approach this channel with a fresh perspective. Losing large data lists that have been built up over years is obviously a very daunting prospect, but if they’re not great quality contacts then it’s not that great a loss.

As performance marketers, we need to be focused on quality and not quantity. GDPR is giving us that chance to get rid of useless data and hopefully, it will inspire a new, better approach to email marketing.

Alternatively, we can manage this for you. Learn more about our content marketing services and what we can do for you by getting in touch today.

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Ethan Davies

Marketing Coordinator for Liberty Marketing Group

Ethan started off his marketing journey in the third-sector. Working in-house as a Marketing Executive, across all digital marketing channels. He later moved into the private sector, again working across different digital marketing channels to help a range of businesses with their marketing strategies. Currently, Ethan is managing the marketing efforts of the Liberty marketing…

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