How to get the most out of POPI on your marketing platform

Extracted by Erica Frans from Bizcommunity, Publised 10 May 2016, Issued by: Amorphous


The Protection of Personal Information Act has been designed to protect consumers, but this doesn't mean that it should restrict marketers. In fact, POPI can actually help companies send out more useful, relevant and accurately targeted marketing communications.


One of the biggest misconceptions about the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPI) is that it will put an end to direct marketing. Direct marketing happens all over the world in countries that have had data protection laws for decades and is a legitimate way for organisations to find new customers.


In future, companies will be required to protect people’s personal information and to process that information according to the conditions set out by POPI. However, POPI does not aim to stop the free flow of information, it recognizes that there is a need for balance. And its requirements will actually help marketers reach a more accurate, captive audience with their messages. Here’s how POPI will work on different marketing platforms:


SMS and e-mail

SMS is classified as electronic communication, so POPI says that marketers need to get permission from someone before they contact them. Once they have that permission, the person receiving the communications needs to be given the chance to opt out at any time, but otherwise companies are free to contact them with any marketing information they’d like to.


When getting permission from people to opt in, customers need to take an action to show their consent, like ticking a box, clinking on a link or responding to an SMS. Once a company has permission, it needs to keep a record of when and how it got consent, and what the consent covers.


Phone calls

Marketers can call someone even if they haven’t given them permission to do so and it’s a ‘cold call’.For physical marketing like a phone call, people need to opt out to stop receiving communications, they don’t need to give permission to be called in the first place.


Snail mail

Like with phone calls, people don’t need to opt in for marketers to be allowed to send them physical mail, but if they opt out, the company needs to stop sending them communications.


Online advertising

POPI will have very little impact on website design, analytics, search engine optimisation and pay-per-click advertising. Marketing on these platforms can carry on just as it has been.


A general principle to follow for all kinds of marketing is that companies should only market their own, or similar products or services, to potential customers. A customer is someone who gave their contact details in the context of the sale of a product or a service.


Companies don’t need a person’s consent to collect their personal information. But if they plan to communicate with them through direct marketing, they need to get their consent to use the information in that way.


POPI defines direct marketing very broadly, but it’s safe to say that any form of push marketing is probably direct marketing. If in doubt, assume that it is direct marketing.


People’s info can be collected from various sources, including public directories, someone sending an email, registering on a website, subscribing to an offer or alert, downloading an app, entering a competition or requesting a quotation. Existing legislation says that people need to be told where a company got their information, and POPI will also require marketers to be open about their information processing.


The best way to stay on the safe side with POPI is to get people’s permission to market to them and not to market to people who have opted out or asked not to be contacted.


The vigilance around personal information that POPI requires can be a significant advantage for marketers because it will encourage them to keep their databases up-to-date, meaning that when they communicate with their marketing database, they will have a captive, willing audience and will be able to have meaningful exchanges with potential and existing customers.




Hugo de Wet
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Chairman: Various Companies
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Marakalalo Safaris Trust
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