Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Redefining the customer-brand relationship in a post-cookie world

By Neil Joyce, CEO and co-founder, The CLV Group

Regulators have been saying, loudly and clearly, for some time that the advertising industry needs to change the way it targets consumers online, particularly with CCPA and GDPR on a much broader level. The recent decision by  Google to delay its removal of third-party cookies has been met by mixed views by both those within the industry and consumers.

From some, this news will have been met with a sigh of relief, having been given respite from marketing and measurement strategies being phased out. However, it’s important that brand marketers recognise the implications of this announcement and make the most of this time they have been granted to reimagine and redefine strategies.

Even with the delay, the initial announcement has acted as a call to action to the advertising industry, highlighting the need to respond to privacy concerns and safeguard consumer relationships. Yet, despite this, certain corners of the adtech industry have responded simply by peddling faster to build substitute solutions that will still enable individuals to be tracked and targeted across the internet.

Balancing consumer privacy with commercial interests is an increasingly thorny issue for marketers to navigate, and a lot of what we have seen since Google first announced it would phase out third-part cookies simply amounts to trying to find new technology solutions that offer ‘more of the same, but different.’ It’s telling how little of Google’s core consumer privacy message seems to have got through, with much of media land desperate to maintain the status quo and avoid what it views as a temporary hurdle to be overcome.

Instead, brand marketers should view this news as a golden opportunity to completely rethink their approach to how they engage with and generate value from their customers. In taking this time to pause, reflect and understand what this means for the business and refocusing on objectives and the most important asset within an organisation – the customers – brands are more likely to drive results through positive engagement. In fact, it could also catalyse a much-needed push to evolve current business, revenue and partnership models. 

Now is the time to break free from the current monopolistic, ‘group think’ situation that many marketers have been trapped in for so long. For brands that want to build a future where they have greater control and can ultimately build better, more valuable relationships with their customers – engaging with them in a way they want – this is a moment to seize. 

With this in mind, here are a few considerations for brands thinking about their next move:

  1. Reimagine a world without Google

Change is good, but only happens if you make it on your terms, not just Google’s. Step back and consider how you can enhance and control your own ability to create more value for your customers in the first instance. Without a clear value proposition between a business and consumer, the tactical questions of how to reach consumers online without cookies misses the whole point. Whatever you think of Google’s announcement, delivering what consumers are asking for is a cornerstone of their ‘trusted brand’ message, and the rest of us should take note. Reaching the customers you should want to reach, and prospects who are interested and have the intent to buy that drive the business are not defined and dependent on Google, there are other choices, but you have to be open to them and the key questions.

2. Get really honest about the state of your customer relationships

Of course, the above approach is far easier for brands who already have strong relationships with their customers – and the first party data to prove it. If you’re not in this position already, Google is probably going to be able to answer a lot of your brand’s challenges for the time being, delivering more to your bottom line and reducing duplicative data, technology and partners – and ultimately saving you time and money. There’s no shame in recognising when Google is offering tangible value.

3. Redefine your approach to programmatic

If point 1 describes where your brand currently stands, great news – you’re ready to start completely redefining your approach to programmatic, including leveraging your first party customer data more effectively and putting the structures in place to support a new data-led approach to customer conversations.

In our experience, global brands are willing to completely reimagine and redefine customer data and identity approach by shifting Google and social media spend by 5-10% in the next 12 months (and more over time) as a foundation, and redistribute that spend to more strategic, publisher-direct buys.

Marketers have been presented with a significant chance to discover new opportunities and redefine the relationships they hold with customers, which will power them to greater success. The delay in timings should not distract brand marketers from the opportunity of creating significant change. It’s time to shake up the ecosystem for the greater good and build a new approach to a privacy-first future, giving control back to brands and ultimately putting the needs of the consumer back at the centre of brand marketing efforts.


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