GDPR Will Test Brand Equity

Data-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Henry Hyder-Smith, founder and CEO at Adestra.

Over the past couple of years, one topic prevails whenever marketers, data professionals and executives get together: the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation and its expected effects.

Companies are learning how to interpret and implement the law, meeting with attorneys and spending time and money to prepare their organizations for the May implementation deadline.

While GDPR will have an extensive impact on business, at its core it requires companies to become more transparent about data privacy and collection. This affects how we handle data, treat our customers and communicate with them.

All the confusion and frustration over GDPR seems to boil down to one thing: We are not used to providing this level of transparency.

In effect, it becomes a tenet of our brand equity.

Adding Transparency To Brand Equity

Rarely has brand equity involved permission or ceding control to customers. The company has always been the one to control the conversation.

What makes many CEOs and business owners nervous about GDPR is not necessarily the far-reaching regulations. What bothers executives is giving up control to customers.

Under the law, they must let the customer decide how great the brand equity is and whether the value exchange of customer information for products or services delivered is equal or greater.

As these conversations have evolved, I’ve come up with three areas that are ripe for change to comply with GDPR and boost brand equity.

Company Culture

Now that companies must confront their attitudes toward data transparency and customer control, they will find they must change their corporate culture. This means moving beyond simply saying that the customer is at the center of advertising and marketing, but truly putting customers at the heart of the business. C-level executives must participate, listen to direct customer feedback and pass learnings down the organization to help move the “customer-centric” needle.

The C-suite must also set new KPIs for all teams that account for more transparency. Teams must take into account the customer control, permission and transparency aspects of the relationships they have with customers.


Technology companies are farthest away from customers but closest to end users because they’re the ones developing the tools and functionalities that affect the customers’ experience with the business.

Too often this happens in a vacuum. Technologists need to be in touch with what customers need and want.

At the same time, technology companies must educate and empower employees who are at the leading edge of what customers expect from products and services. Education on the tech side of the business about brand equity will help employees understand the customer’s power to control data, give or retract permission to use that data and embrace the “right to be forgotten.”


Companies must update their customers to let them know about the changes and the control they are being granted. This message must be authentic, encapsulate the existing brand equity and explain the steps undertaken.

Companies can either blame the law or embrace it, showing customers how they are entitled to share or withhold their permissions and data. Companies that will thrive under GDPR are those that become gateways to customer permissions, rather than roadblocks.

A Final Thought

GDPR has so many layers that we’ll interpret it long after the May deadline passes. We’ll be better served if we all admit that the key to the law is that we must be authentic in granting our customers control over their data.

Transparency must be the buzzword of the day. C-level executives must be advocates for that transparency or customers will find it elsewhere.

Follow Adestra (@Adestra) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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