GDPR Isn't The Death of Personalization: A Conversation with Choice Hotels' Brent Bouldin

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by Stephanie Cox | Last Updated: Apr 15, 2019

When GDPR went into effect last year, we as marketers had a bit of a panic, didn't we? All we'd been talking about for years was the importance of personalization in the customer journey, then all of the sudden, the methods we'd be using to provide that hyper-personalized experience were being questioned and heavily regulated. But just because we've started regulating the way we gather and utilize customer data (which, by the way, is a good thing!), doesn't mean that personalization has to die. It's just evolving–and Choice Hotels' Brent Bouldin has some thoughts on how it may evolve, how companies will see success if they do it right, and a few examples of how the changes are already happening in front of our eyes!

Lumavate's VP of Marketing, Stephanie Cox: What have been the biggest digital changes that you've seen that impact your business?

Choice Hotels' VP of Marketing, Media, and Customer Acquisition, Brent Bouldin: There's been a whole lot of discussion and change and evolution in the industry about what works and what doesn't. I think everything from banner blindness to ad blocking to viewability and transparency and ad fraud–all those things just came about in the last 10 years, and so the tried and true techniques of 10 years ago no longer work. You really just have to be agile enough to work with good partners and figure out how to get your message out there in a meaningful way, and it can't really be the interruption based model that we saw for years. It's really got to be additive to the user's experience, or else you're getting it blocked or ignored. It changes the entire landscape of how you go about doing good marketing.

SC: Let’s dive into that, because I think there’s been a lot of panic surrounding GDPR and it affecting the idea of personalization.

BB: I think we're on the cusp of radical change. I think one thing that everyone can agree on is that we need some regulation around privacy–an American version of GDPR, if you will. And I think that the ability to deliver meaningful advertising over the last few years has been largely reliant on our identity strategy that allows you to deliver media and marketing to people based on what you know about them. I think as that becomes more difficult, the industry is going to be at a crossroads. We're going to have to figure out how to continue to be a meaningful part of the conversation in a world where delivering personalized messages becomes more difficult­­. And I think that the companies that figure out what the future looks like–whether it's things like edge computing or moving beyond the cookie-ing and personal identity–will do very well. I'm hopeful that we land at a rule that says one-to-one is not kosher, but perhaps we can settle on a one-to-several mentality, where you can segment and deliver meaningful messages to people that are contextually relevant and are not necessarily tied to an individual identity.

SC: One of the things for me that I feel like is a great opportunity is to think about personalization in a different way. Right now we personalize everything based on cookies and personal identity, but what if we provided such a great experience that we get consumers to give us their information willingly? Then we can personalize from there.

BB: I can definitely see us switching to an opt-in type model. We’re starting to see some of the advertising blend where advertising and content are sort of indistinguishable from each other. And if you can reach that point where you're providing content to people that is meaningful enough to they're willing to opt into it and accept your brand message as part of the experience, you’re a good marketer. I think, again, part of what's changing here is that it’s no longer an interruption based model. It’s really changing how good you have to be in terms of building messages that resonate. And so it'll be an exciting 10 to 15 years looking forward.

SC: I'm excited see people that start pushing that mentality before they're required to.

BB: And we’re already starting to see that branded content out there! I think of some of the stuff that my kids watch on YouTube, for example. They’re watching a video of somebody doing an extreme sport and it's all branded content from Red Bull. There are companies out there that have figured out that the best way to get their message out there is through some of this type of activity rather than trying to pop out in front of somebody right before they conduct a transaction.

Mobile Conversations are excerpts from Lumavate’s Mobile Matters podcast. You can listen to their full conversation here, and find more episodes with other mobile experts here.

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