Google is ditching tracking cookies on its Chrome browser by 2022 to help create a more "privacy-friendly” web. Marketers can be forgiven for mourning, but wallowing in sorrow isn't going bring back the dead.
There are five stages of grief, namely denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. Marketers who leapfrog the stages and get to acceptance the fastest will be the winners in the new marketing reality.
Along with such data protection and privacy laws as GDPR in the European Union, CCPA in California and the changes to Apple’s ID for Advertisers (IDFA), the death of cookies is just another milepost on our path to a less identity-based tracking marketing ecosphere. We can deny it, be angry about it, bargain and hope for alternatives, and fall into depression about it. But ultimately, marketers must accept it and adapt to new methods to get the right marketing message to the right customers at the right time. Getting to acceptance and adapting early will make for a competitive advantage.
Data-driven marketers will know this transition time is crucial to start planning long-term strategies, which ultimately help to create trust and long-term relationships with customers.
Anger about Google, walled gardens isn't productive
If you have attended many virtual marketing industry conferences in the last year, you may have noticed the palpable anger. There are conspiracy theories circulating on how these new privacy changes are being promoted to make the tech giants even more money. Some have proposed stricter government regulation and even antitrust actions in their anger with Google, Apple and the walled gardens for the new digital limitations. Disruptions provide fertile ground for anger, but anger is not a winning strategy.
Bargaining and hope are not strategies
Brands in the bargaining stages of grief are one step further in grieving the loss of cookies, while slowly coming to terms with the idea that alternative tracking systems, identifiers and replacements do exist. Many are in a place with little glimmers of hope: For example, brands might believe that a unified ID relying on email addresses can help replace third-party cookies, and thus convince themselves that these industry changes aren't too bad.
At the same time, understanding how invasive cookie tracking has become, Google is now testing a method called FLoC, or federated learning of cohorts. FLoC uses machine learning to target ads to clusters of consumers in an effort to generate a "cohort identity” based on recent browsing history or habits. Thus, the days of individual tracking and targeting are dead.
Regardless of the varying alternative options, some brands are at a complete standstill and are lagging behind their competitors, even though the industry has been predicting this privacy shift for some time.
Get ahead of your competitors
While it may feel like the industry as a whole is at a loss on what to do next, the standstill mindset puts companies in a vicious cycle with no progress, ultimately leading them to the depression stage of grief. Companies in the bargaining and depression stages risk losing market share and ultimately hurting customer relationships. On the flip side, when brands and marketers move into the acceptance stage, they can start experimenting with new techniques and strategies.
Experimentation and measurement are key. Disruption brings uncertainty, but it also creates new opportunities. Smart marketers will lean into experimentation, measuring the results of those experiments to find new paths to success. Smart marketers will look to enhance their relationships with their customers, which will help them market more effectively while building their own first-party data assets.
Leapfrog from denial to acceptance to win
When brands come to the last stage of grief, the acceptance phase, they're not only experimenting to get ahead, they're already thinking about their new programs moving forward, shifting to persona or cohort data and analyzing business results to deliver true value.
This is the bottom line: Brands that transition from denial all the way to acceptance are the ones who are adapting quickly and looking at new ways to connect and build relationships with their customers. The best advice for marketers right now is to hurry up and accept the death of cookies to be able to get ahead. Your customers will thank you for it, and they will gladly share their data with you directly if you offer them value in your relationship.