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The Cookiepocalypse: Marketing In A Post-Cookie World

The world of digital advertising changes seemingly day to day. There’s always a new policy, directive, algorithm change or obsolete technology that regularly rears its ugly head.

With ad blockers and changing privacy standards, it appears as though the internet is trying to stop brands from advertising in the right ‘moments’.

It's forcing marketers to re-think their paid media strategies. That’s the stark reality of digital advertising - it’s a brutal endeavor, demanding all (or, at least, a big chunk) of your time and money. Below we explore the implications of the new ad blockers for digital marketers and provide a few ideas of how to reach your target audience in a post-cookie world.

Vanishing Cookies

Let’s talk third-party cookies - the little data sets fed to your web browser (mobile or desktop) from many websites you visit. Or at least used to. Their main purpose is building a history of where you’ve been on the internet. Although personally identifying data is kept out of the equation, advertisers are (were?) able to target (and re-target, and re-target, and re-target) the delivery of online ads based on your browsing history (places as well as behaviors).

But, with the latest changes in the Mac OS, Safari makes cookies expire in 24 hours. Google will be next to do so, and has already rolled out changes to its Chrome ad blocker. Not to mention that most mobile devices haven’t accepted cookies forever, and no mobile apps accept them either. If this was an episode of CSI: Miami, at this point David Caruso would look at the camera and say, “Looks like the cookies have gotten...stale.” <cue The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again”>

Marketing In A Post-Cookie World

So, what do we do to keep effectively reaching consumers now that cookies are becoming a thing of the past?

The answer is continuing to market to people. It’s as simple as that. Look past cookies and create performance-based personas (built in platforms like Hitwise and ComScore, for example) and custom audiences built on survey data and self-reported behaviors. These approaches will overtake cookies very soon, so it’s best to get ahead of that curve before you’re losing sales and reach.

Another plus to building (and marketing to) performance personas is utilizing technology to determine the affinity and how each one performs - instead of thinking of the individual.

Once your audiences are built, load them into a DSP like DoubleClick. Then target them with messaging related to the brand. This can get tricky with products from time to time because Criteo (for example) uses cookies to do dynamic product remarketing. This will be prohibitive since the cookie window now expires in 24 hours. Marketers will have to think more about a truly omnichannel approach and how to determine what products or services people are interested in.

Long Live Email Marketing

If nothing else, these recent changes prove email is still a key driver of not only targeting and audience-building but sales. The CRM data email provides can be incredibly important to creating individualized customer profiles in short order.

An easy way to think of this is creating an email campaign featuring several product categories in the creative. By creating it so we can track which category a user clicks on, we will know what they are most interested in. Let’s say a consumer clicks on Men’s Shoes, then we would put that email in the "men’s" group. We could upload that to create a custom audience for Men's Shoes and begin creating content speaking to that audience specifically.

And the best part? This is all behavioral. No need for cookies of any kind.

Related Resources

Interactive Digital Trends Report

Facebook Algorithm Changes: What Marketers Need to Know

An Analytics Overview: HubSpot vs. Google Analytics


Jason Cormier

Jason Cormier

As a co-founder of Room 214, Jason is dedicated to helping people and companies grow. He is a best-selling author of Transformative Digital Marketing, served on HubSpot's first Global Partner Advisory Council, and is currently recognized as one of Colorado's top CEOs (Titan 100, 2021). He believes in acting out of love instead of fear, leading with humility and staying curious.


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