I participated in an interesting panel discussion on May 21, 2020, organized by the TEH group and Oracle. It was titled – Marketing in a cookie- constrained world.  The panel raised the questions of whether digital marketing has hit a dead-end in a cookie-constrained world.

What the cookie has started..

For years, web cookie leaves traces of where we have been online by leaving a track on our web browsers. This is so that we can be identified again when we revisit the site. In doing so, we get more customized web experience based on tracks of our last visits. These cookies that contained our past behavior and preferences, enable marketers to serve us relevant ads in retargeting.

The more we are online, the more our digital footprint will expose who we are and what we do.

This used to be a big part of digital advertising but it is on a sunset path and becoming outdated; It is not performing like it used to. Why? Because it assumes that audience surfs only with web and with only one single device.

Cookie landscape is increasingly messy, and marketers no longer have a comprehensive view of users online with the increased mobile usage since cookies do not work on many online touch points such as mobile apps, and across multiple devices.

With emerging concerns on data privacy, more are deleting cookies actively, and way before any purchasing decision is made.

The webinar organized by oracle discussed how data collection has changed their solution to help advertisers circumvent cookie-constrained future, and capture all the lost addressability with the deprecation of 3rd party cookies.

Why would this be of interest?

We want to reach people who are mostly likely to buy our products and services, and getting them to buy. So that we can all meet our business objectives for growth.

The age of people targeting

For marketers, not knowing who we are marketing is cardinal sin.

A lot of money has been thrown into advertising and marketing, digital or not, and was wasted because we do not know who it was going to. With the emergence of digital advertising, there are more expectations for it to be measurable. And, this is no doubt be the most asked questions at boardrooms.

For brands who are new entrants to the market, marketing efforts are typically focused on opening the funnel. However, cookie based advertising is just a part of marketing. In the absence of first party data, most brands can tap onto 2nd party database from their strategic partners that share similar value propositions.

We still need 3rd party database for leads, even though it is now messy and incomplete. So, I am really glad to learn that Oracle is building a suite of solutions that will improve audience intelligence and profile-ability.

Diving into the treasure trove of first party data

Having said that, I still advocate for brands to build up meaningful and first party data, whether it’s through confirmed sales or lead generation campaigns.

When there is a large enough customer base, we would want to know who are the people buying from us and who are our valuable customer segments. And then, to identify where to find out more of the same.

When we have to sell or else, and have to work within a budget constraint – what do we do? I have had experience where I had to cut paid inbound marketing budget and still drive sales. One of the first things I did was is to look into my own customer database. I looked for purchase patterns and cycles behavioral profile of:

  • high valued customers to inform a more focused people targeting strategy
  • loyal customers – these are the ones who are coming back without any incentive

My priority would be to keep them engaged, cultivate incremental sales and focus my paid advertising efforts to win more of the same quality leads.

At the same time, it is also important to build and continue to enrich our own 1st party data. The way in? Value-added content, promise of more customized customer experience, etc.

What walled platform can teach us about enriching our first party data.

Walled platform like facebook hold wealth of information on their users – enabled by the experience they provide on the platforms. They not only have the information users entered in their profile, but also their behaviors and undeclared preferences.

On the platforms themselves (Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger), Facebook logs every action we take, every post we like, every page and profile we visit.  These are combined with every single thing we enter or do on Facebook’s apps contributes a little more to our personal profile to create an enriched ID graph.

A most highly-cited research report on this was conducted by experts from The University of Cambridge and Stanford University back in 2015. The research examined the Facebook profiles of more than 86,000 participants, and then matched their on-platform data against their psychological profiles submitted by users through a ‘personality test’ app. Their key finding? Our Facebook activity data alone could indicate our psychological make-up more accurately than our friends, our family – better even than our partner, given enough information.

I think there are great tips we can pick up by studying how these walled platform create incentive to entice consumers to give out their information. For example

  • Engage our customers beyond sales pitches to build relationship
  • Demonstrate we can value add in terms of more customized experience
  • Provide community and space customers like to dwell in

The question of trust and data privacy

The issue of trust usually follow when we start to request for more information from our customers. In order to instill trust, we need to show tangible actions towards managing their identity effectively. This goes beyond the GDPA and PDPA compliances in consumer data management.

Consumer will be wary about privacy of our behavior and brands needs to build trust by providing secure experience.

Here are some signals that brands can send out to the consumer on whether they can be trusted in this aspect:

  • When we are asking people to offer their information, do we demonstrate that we respect and adhere to data protection practices?
  • Implement practices like dual factor authentication that assures on our security architecture
  • Make the efforts to educate our customers about internet frauds and scams
  • Are there we collaborate with strategic partners on the use of second party data? what are clear guidelines to use these data responsibly?
  • Show that we have the policy and procedure in place

Some may think that data breach or cyberattack are IT issues, but I think it is a brand reputation issue.

Know who you sell to

Do not settle for ambiguous targeting. It is important to build insights on sales prospects, so that we can be at the right place, at the right time talking to the people who would say “yes!” to our sales pitch.


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