Marketing is a difficult beast to master. It is made up of so many different moving parts and requires, not only a dedicated and strong research base but constant tweaking and changing depending on shifting trends and customer demands. Not to mention the ever-changing social mood means what was positive marketing today, could be terrible marketing tomorrow. It is no surprise that faced with all this uncertainty and constant issues, marketing is one of the more heavily regulated ideas in Europe.
The continent of Europe is, for the most part, united on a lot of legal fronts. The EU, one of the most powerful alliances of nations on the planet, strives to make sure all its member countries and any company from outside that operates within its bounds, adhere to certain rules and regulations. So if you are considering starting a marketing campaign, or are hoping to expand into the European market, there are a few rules you will need to make sure you adhere to. Otherwise, you are going to be cracked down on.
Perhaps the biggest rule, and a very common one world wide. False advertising. This is the process of marketing a product using false information about it, misleading your customers, and tricking them into making a purchase. In the past, it was easy for companies to use misleading words, phrases, or images to fool customers. Now, regulatory bodies ensure all companies are adhering to the same standard. What you advertise is what the customer must get. If they won’t be receiving everything they have seen, they need to be fully aware of this fact.
In Italy, this practice is seen to great effect. Italy as a whole has a strong sense of camaraderie and fellowship and sites like procontro run regular product reviews that hold companies to rigorous standards and make sure their products are as advertised. An excellent public service.
The EU is very strict on this particular policy. Customers have an inherent right to receive a refund on a product if they are dissatisfied with it or feel it is not living up to promises. This is different from false advertising and often applies to products that are faulty. But there is a large gray area in certain areas.
A good example of this is video games. Valve, a game production company based in America, releases many games on its online store Steam. Originally you could only receive a limited amount of refunds for a gaming product you didn’t like. While it is said that with creative products it is subjective if the product was bad. But Valve tried to rob their consumers of the right to get a refund. This led to a hefty legal battle, which Valve lost, meaning EU players can now receive as many refunds as they like within a time period.
The lesson here is that, when you market your product, you need to be aware you are going to have to offer refunds if people are dissatisfied. This means you will want to make sure your product is as good as it can possibly be. A faulty product can cause irreversible damage if you are forced to give out too many refunds. Some countries forbid the resale of products once returned, instead, being forced to sell them cheaper as used.
Often, during the research stage of your campaign, you will acquire customer information from surveys or interviews. Or you will have people sign up to mailing lists to allow you to advertise to them directly. All of this data is extremely important and powerful for any marketing campaign. But it is also heavily regulated by the EU, and most nations worldwide.
Data protection is an issue you will need to make sure you are on top of. In recent years we have seen the fallout of companies that experience data breaches and lose customer information, or even companies illegally selling customer data to external sources. All of these violate a lot of laws and can have serious ramifications for, not only your company but you personally. This includes potential jail time.
To that end, you need to make sure you are adhering to the rules surrounding what data you can collect and how you can use it. There is a lot of personal information you aren’t allowed to ask customers about and you can only use the data provided within the context of your marketing. Any unsolicited contact or violation of their data rights is an offense.
There are a lot of rules about what you can and can’t show when it comes to marketing. A lot of companies work around this and sit on the line of what is acceptable. Unless you have a powerful legal team behind you though, don’t take the risk.
You need to make sure any content that is going to be displayed in the public eye is age-appropriate for anyone that might see it. Families and children could see it, so the advert has to meet the standard held for any media designed for that demographic. Even if they are not your target audience. A lot of countries handle this on an independent level, as opposed to on a continental level. So you will need to check the rules for the country you are marketing in and towards to make sure you are adhering to the rules.