Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

The party’s over: time for marketers to embrace privacy

By Charlotte Irwin, Editor, The Frameworks

As the line in Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi goes, “you don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone”. Mitchell was singing about the environment. But, faced with tighter online privacy laws, marketers may now be feeling that familiar pang of nostalgia.

Cookies – small blocks of data placed on a user’s device to track their online browsing – have long governed lead-chasing and helped digital marketers prove their worth to clients. But the good old days of tracking are over.

New laws in the US and Europe are giving people the power to reject cookies and decide who tracks them. The same goes for apps. Apple and Google now require developers to get users’ permission to track their activity.

This is only the beginning. A privacy-first, transparent future beckons with Web3 – the next generation of the internet – where users will have even more power over their data.

But should marketers be afraid of a cookie-less future?

Cookies have always failed us

When people say no to third-party cookies, marketers lose sight of their audience. They can’t track people. Or retarget them. And that impacts results. But our “dark social” habits have long been giving tracking the slip.

No, it’s not illegal. “Dark social” refers to how people actually share content. Instead of clicking on an ad, someone might mention it to the person sitting next to them. Or send a link in a Slack message. Or pop it in an email. 

The content has done its job but marketers are none the wiser.

Put people first

As we enter a cookie-less future, marketers need to pivot to something they can trust: first-party data. 

When marketers collect data directly from users, they own and control the information they receive. And that makes it a lot more reliable.

Clicks, views and site visits tell part of the story, but what the user decides to tell you is more interesting. That comes from actual leads but also engagement indicators: likes, comments and shares. 

You can even ask leads for feedback. Yes, it takes effort, but reaching out directly can further boost engagement and brand perception because people feel valued.

Be more transparent

Internet users are more willing to hand over their data when they know they are getting something in return. Most people welcome cookies when a website remembers the items in their online shopping cart or their account log-in details.

If you want users to give you their data, you need to be clear about what you’re offering. Audiences want to understand why.

For businesses, being transparent is a good habit to get into. Web3 is still taking shape, but it’s clear that the next generation of the internet will intensify the focus on privacy.

An interactive, decentralised space, Web3 will be powered by technologies such as AI and blockchain that enable secure sharing and give users control over their own data. 

…and more creative

At The Frameworks, we know that numbers can get in the way of creativity. Especially in B2B. Too often the desire to hit short-term targets stops B2B clients from investing in something bold.

It’s important to remember that, while data supports lead generation, it’s creativity that helps create demand – and stops the scroll. 

Take our work for intelligent automation provider, Dematic. They asked us to create a campaign for their new retail automation solution that would reinforce their market leader status. We evolved Dematic’s visual language with animation and adopted a clear, authoritative tone of voice to craft a bold – and deceptively simple – configurator. That’s how we engaged potential customers in a highly competitive market.

A first-hand experience

Even the boldest ideas need to be backed by research. The creative has to reflect what your audience likes, wants or needs. And nothing beats hearing from your audience first-hand. 

At The Frameworks, the user is always our focus. Alongside desk research, we interview key stakeholders to understand our audience’s pain points from those that know them best. We did just that for Siemens, digesting more than 50 documents and interviewing stakeholders to reveal who we needed to reach and how to do it. 

The result? An interactive web platform that reframes white paper content as a punchy, self-guided experience that engages both technical minds and users from business backgrounds, too. 

Don’t look back

The perceived safety net of third-party cookies has long failed marketers.

Rather than something to fear, a more open and transparent relationship with audiences will empower marketers to create bolder, demand-creating work. 

Surely, that’s a better future for everyone?