A practical guide to GDPR and email marketing – Part 4: Competitions, giveaways & growing your list


Posted by: Stafford Sumner


Part 4: Competitions, giveaways & growing your list

Historically, one of the most popular ways to grow an email marketing database has been to run a competition or giveaway.

The premise has always been simple: as marketers, we ask the customer or potential customer to part with their data and, in return, they then have the opportunity to ‘win’ something. Typically, we see the ‘cost of entry’ increase with the value of the prize.

For example, if the prize is dinner for two, the cost of entering might just be an email address. However, if the prize is an all expenses paid trip to the Caribbean, we’d likely ask the customer to part with much more of their personal data, so the follow up marketing materials they receive can be targeted and personalised to their preferences.

Competitions and giveaways have become increasingly popular, thanks in a large part to their success. This now looks set to change as GDPR looms on the horizon. Here’s what the legal experts at Stephens Scown have to say on the matter:

“The ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) no longer likes the use of prize draws, giveaways or competitions as a means of growing marketing databases, therefore moving forwards, a subscriber should be able to access the content or incentive without automatically being signed up to ongoing marketing communications.”

As a practical response to this, the ‘entrant’ can be asked if they wish to receive ongoing marketing communications at point of entry or download, via a tick box. If they agree, they can be added to the list and the positive subscription can be recorded; if they don’t, they can enter the competition or receive the gated content but cannot be added to the mailing list, or sent any follow-up emails.

This will inevitably see database growth opportunities reduce and it means marketers will need to think creatively about how they can encourage subscriptions. It’s important not to view this as a negative. If someone doesn’t want to receive ongoing communications from you then there’s no point adding them to your list.

Ultimately, this change can therefore promote the creation of higher quality content and communications that people look forward to receiving. It will also encourage businesses to grow their list by creating offerings that compel their customers and potential customers to sign up alongside exploring offline data collection opportunities (like events), where appropriate.

A further question we’ve been asked from our customers concerns affinity marketing. Here’s what they asked:

“We work with another list owner who sends an email to their database promoting that their subscribers can be in with the chance of winning a prize and all they have to do is enter their email address (and by doing so, they understand that they might be contacted by both of us for marketing purposes). It is clear that the data will be used by the list owner, and our business, at point of sign-up. In this case, can we still use the data?”

According to Stephens Scown the answer is yes, if when the data is obtained specific information is clearly provided stating what will happen with the data. The best way to do this is to use a Privacy Notice and GDPR compliant Privacy Policy in that communication that clearly shows that both businesses will hold and use the person’s data.

Furthermore, there will need to be a tick box to confirm that they agree to be contacted for marketing purposes, but, in the case of a multi-party data collection exercise (eg affinity marketing), it is not necessary to have a tick box for each organisation, but it must be clear which organisations may send you marketing communications.

With regards to legacy data from competitions and giveaways, providing it was collected in line with PECR (Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations), then it is usually ok for that data to still be used.

In summary…

  • You can still run competitions and giveaways to grow your list but the entrant must give explicit consent (in the form a checking a tick box) for you to send email marketing campaigns to them.
  • They must also be able to still enter the competition even if they don’t want to receive emails from you.
  • Start thinking about different and creative ways you can grow your list without running competitions. Focus on quality not quantity.
  • For affinity marketing, it must be made clear who will be using the data at the point of entry.

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About the author

Stafford Sumner

An expert in developing businesses through email marketing, Stafford founded Jarrang in 2003, and since then has worked with hundreds of business across the globe helping them grow and succeed.