Moneysupermarket is currently in the public eye for all the wrong reasons. The company faces a fine of £80,000 for sending 7 million marketing emails to people who expressly asked not to be contacted. That’s definitely not epic. So what can we learn from this? Could marketing automation help?

As an experienced inbound marketing agency, we’ve worked with brands from all backgrounds to deliver bespoke inbound strategies across a variety of channels. Check out our blog 'Lessons from an inbound marketing agency' for more information.

Moneysupermarket is a marmite brand

You either love or hate Moneysupermarket’s ‘epic’ adverts. The brand’s ‘epic strut’ twerking businessman was named Campaign Magazine’s ‘Campaign of the Year 2015’ and became a national phenomenon. Then-Chancellor George Osborne even had his face superimposed on the dancer’s body during that year’s budget.

Moneysupermarket has been able to release its creative chains thanks to an obsession with the word ‘epic.’ The brand’s advertising team certainly loves paring the word with off-the-wall concepts, such as He-Man congratulating Skeletor for switching insurance providers while he packs a bunch of bananas into the back of his grey four-seater.

However, Moneysupermarket has also earned the title of consistently having the most complained-about adverts, topping the Advertising Standards Authority’s (ASA) charts two years in a row. Complaints typically focus around the ‘sexual nature’ of the ads – not just the twerking businessman, but the grinding bodyguard in their #EpicWolf campaign, too.

Whatever your opinion of Moneysupermarket, they know how to court attention, start a conversation and stay in the public eye. That’s what marketing’s all about, isn’t it?

Moneysupermarket’s epic fail

Yes, to an extent. Modern marketing needs to build a brand’s public reputation, and also develop strong relationships with customers to let them know they’re valued. Part of that relationship involved assuring customers that their information is in safe hands.

Moneysupermarket is now in the public eye for all the wrong reasons. The company has been fined £80,000 for sending 7 million marketing emails over the course of 10 days to people who expressly said they didn’t want to be contacted.

The fine was set by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), punishing Moneysupermarket for what ICO believes to be a breach of direct marketing rules. Those emails were sent to people who had opted out of ‘direct marketing’ emails.

What got the ICO so riled up? Moneysupermarket had emailed people who had used their service to tell them they were updating their terms and conditions. Emails had stated: “We hold an e-mail address for you which means we could be sending you personalised news, products and promotions. You’ve told us in the past you prefer not to receive these. If you’d like to reconsider, simply click the following link to start receiving our e-mails.”

That was beyond the pale, said the ICO. “When people opt out of direct marketing, organisations must stop sending it, no questions asked, until such time as the consumer gives their consent,” said Steve Eckersley, the ICO’s head of enforcement. It was “unacceptable” he added, that Moneysupermarket would “choose to ignore the rules”.

 

If you want epic customer relationships, don’t be so Moneysupermarket

 

Cheeky tactics

“At Moneysupermarket, we take the protection of our customers’ data and privacy very seriously,” said a spokesperson for the company. “We apologise unreservedly to the customers affected by this isolated incident and we have put measures in place to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

This response was nearly as cheeky as one of their epic campaigns. The wording is unmistakeable, which is why the ICO has clamped down so hard and so publicly on Moneysupermarket. They had customer data on file, knew certain people didn’t want to be contacted, and made an audacious bid to try and convince them to change their minds.

Some believe Moneysupermarket’s behaviour had a hand in its share price falling at the end of last week (though the company has also posted disappointing results). Perhaps they were reaching out to convince people to sign up for marketing emails precisely because they understand the sheer power of having customer consent when it comes to data collection.

The way that Moneysupermarket operates is a data marketer’s dream. As a comparison site, it can collect vast amounts of consumer data whether people are looking for life insurance, credit cards, car or travel insurance. If they get consent from people to reach out to them based on the deep data they provide, they could feasibly continue to make ‘epic’ adverts for years to come.

Marketing automation can stop data protection issues before they start

Consent and consumer respect is key, as Morrisons has also discovered, with the supermarket chain also recently fined £10,500 by ICO for sending 200,000 emails to people who explicitly asked not to be contacted.

There’s really no excuse. Companies the size of Moneysupermarket and Morrisons will be collecting enormous amounts of data from customers on a daily basis. So much so, they’ll likely have access to indstry leading marketing automation software. It couldn’t be easier to filter out people who don’t want to be contacted, and ensure they don’t receive marketing emails of any kind.

At the same time, GDPR is just around the corner. For companies of this size, fines in the tens of thousands won’t seem like a lot. However, if they had committed these data breaches once GDPR is enforced, they could have faced fines of €20 million or 4% of their annual worldwide turnover.

Download: Your free guide to marketing within the General Data Protection Regulations

TalkTalk, for instance, was fined by the ICO in 2016 for security breaches which allowed hackers to access consumer data. They were fined $400,000; under GDPR that figure would have likely been closer to £59 million.

The saddest thing about all this is that Moneysupermarket haven’t failed their customers whose data they hold. They’ve also betrayed themselves and their own privacy policies, and jeopardised their reputation simply by the way they handle people’s private information.

Moneysupermarket will now enter a phase of PR damage limitation. They could have saved themselves a lot of time and money simply by collecting, storing and using customer data in ethical, transparent ways, with a strong inbound strategy centred around marketing automation.

This strategy would not only help to build trust and respect when collecting and using consumer data. It could also futureproof the company against upcoming GDPR implementations and streamline the way they do business.

Imagine a scenario where you’re NOT spamming millions of people in the hope they change their minds. Instead, you’re reaching out to and nurturing potential leads based on the information they willingly choose to give you. That’s the power of a clear data collection policy which works alongside powerful marketing automation software. That, to us, sounds like a truly epic way to grow your business.

As an experienced inbound marketing agency, we’ve worked with brands from all backgrounds to deliver bespoke inbound strategies across a variety of channels. Check out our blog 'Lessons from an inbound marketing agency' for more information.

 

INBOUND MARKETING AGENCY

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