top of page

That's the way the cookie crumbles: marketing in a cookieless world

By Rachel Allan, Delivery Director at ZPB

I was at a conference recently and Jon Bond of Weightless showed the lifecycle of 'marketing movements' from the 1960s to present day. In the 1960s brand comms was the emerging cutting edge ‘scientific model’ applied to marketing. It drew from post war Freudian psychology leveraging motivations to drive customer action. It was highly creative, had big budgets and gave us some of the most memorable advertising campaigns. This golden age is considered to be ‘over’ bar some rare Super Bowl examples. We are in the midst of the maturation of digital marketing in all its algorithmic glory and the growth of influencer marketing.

But what’s on the horizon? What’s the brand comms for our age? Well, it’s ‘cookieless marketing’. Sounds dull but cookieless marketing is going to challenge marketers to recapture the creativity and inventiveness of brand comms. It will push us to understand and leverage deep customer and audience insight, build meaningful long-term, mutually beneficial relationships and design and deliver truly effective and valued communications.

Why has cookieless marketing come about? At the moment a lot of ad targeting and segmentation models are built on 3rd party data. This is data collected by organisations not directly connected to your customers. It is being phased out because of changes to data privacy. This means data providers such as Google Chrome can no longer collect data about, for example, peoples browsing history which is then used to, amongst other things, target online ads.

Needless to say as 3rd party cookies are phased out other data products will be developed, for example data models based on AI and machine learning. 3rd party data won’t disappear, but it will adapt to reflect new privacy requirements.

For the purposes of this blog I am going to focus on one of the key considerations marketers should have in mind beyond third party data – first party data. How can first party data drive benefits in a cookieless world and why you need to get ready for that new world now.

Firstly – what is first party data and why should we care? First party data is made up of things like demographics, purchase history, interactions on your website, engagement via marketing emails, events, social media and in-app activity. First party data matters because it is created by the organisation's own customers and prospects. This means it’s data which relates directly to your organisation, which you own and can build into a rich source of fuel for engaging customers and prospects. The challenge is to translate this data into brilliantly designed segmentation models based on key customer personas. When your data supports the development of perfectly designed and delivered, creative content it reinforces and develops your customer and prospects relationship with your brand and grows market share and value.

A IRL example of this is a high street clothes and lifestyle shop I went to recently. They offered me 10% off my purchase AND a free coffee if I downloaded the app and paid that way – even though I was at the check-out. This means I have their app which means as I shop and engage with their content they know what kinds of things I am interested in. Over time they will be able to surface more and more personalised content. I’d expect to see tailored offers and blogs about clothes and interiors I am interested in, new launches and opinions which make me feel more connected and engaged with this brand and therefore more loyal. They can also prompt me to give my opinion of products they are developing and incentivise me to review things I buy.

So, this is not just about best-in-class data handling and transparency or a really great CRM - although that is part of it. The mission, in our cookieless first party world, is to develop an authentic and trusted relationship with your customers and prospects through content that feels personalised and considered. It has to go past just an email headed up with [name] – it has to be an email which understands the customer because it reflects what the organisation knows about them and it has been applied creatively and brilliantly. The prize in all of this is ongoing engagement that will manifest not just in revenue but through reach and more customers and prospects. In our hyper connected world your existing customers and prospects are agents for your brand. A great example of this is the power of reviews and other validations – a sure fire way to attract or turn-off new customers.

As marketers we can get distracted by filling up the hopper with new, new customers and this means prospects and existing customers often get handed down to business development and customer care colleagues. I would argue that in this new world marketers need to have a clear line of sight on these groups and take the lead on messaging and strategies for them so that relationships develop not just for sales and retention but at a level that drives loyalty and growth. This supports revenue but also product and offer development so brands and their customers grow together.

A recent YouGov poll asked marketers about the move to a cookieless world and only 34% of respondents said they were familiar or somewhat familiar with targeting techniques beyond 3rd party data. And interestingly 48% of marketers said they didn’t know how long it would take their organisations to prepare for a full transition to cookieless data.

It's a fascinating time to be working in marketing after what has been a quite dry algorithm driven phase. Challenging ourselves as marketers as well as challenging our internal stakeholders to see the customers instead of click through rates is going to be the thing that will sort the men from the mice. Organisations which understand their customers and treat them with respect will be the winners because they will drive the highest value out of their data and they will be able to quickly reach more of the same people growing their customer base.

And it’s happening now.



bottom of page