All of this points to the fact that this year, marketers will need to find new ways to measure and engage with their audience. The sooner you embrace new methods, the better. Google will be phasing out third-party cookies in the Chrome browser in 2023, so rather than clinging on to cookies, it is time to start embracing the alternatives. Brands need to adapt quickly if they want to remain relevant in the future of digital marketing. The sooner we learn how to market without cookies, the sooner we can get to a place where we don’t even miss them!
We already see that contextual advertising is gaining traction, in allowing marketers to deliver relevant, effective advertising to the right customers. Here we look at some of the ways to make your marketing strategy for this year as effective as possible, without relying on cookies.
Consumers don't want to be treated like targets - they want to be treated like human beings. Cookie based marketing often makes your audience feel like you are targeting them all too literally, and means that your advertising might be counterproductive rather than endearing potential customers to your brand.
That’s why it’s important to understand what kinds of ads your audience wants to see - and spoiler alert… it isn’t cookie-based banner ads! Marketing is about building relationships with consumers, so if your brand has consumers at the heart of its strategy, then it will naturally lead to interesting and engaging ways to communicate.
Where are your consumers spending their time? Whether they are listening to podcasts to start the day, enjoying Twitch streams in the background while they work or getting their daily news coverage from newsletters, understanding the content your customers enjoy is key to understanding how best to engage with them.
It’s time for marketers to think more about the types of ads their customers want to see, rather than the types of ads that are easy for marketers to deliver. We are all guilty of this - we know that banner ads are easy to produce, scale and optimize and that’s often what makes them such a tempting option. Content based marketing might be harder for marketers, but it is far more welcomed and appreciated by consumers - 80% of consumers complete a purchase after seeing an influencer recommend that product on social media. Consumer centric advertising means understanding how and when advertising is annoying and misplaced (cough cough, intrusive banner ads) and avoiding those pitfalls in favor of advertising techniques that respond to what consumers want to see.
For many years, the digital ad industry has been built on shaky ground. Cookies, the underlying technology that power millions of campaigns very single day, are fundamentally broken. Third party cookies have passed through three different sets of hands, and with every move they become more distanced from the source of the data, and slightly more inaccurate. The Hustle summed up the major disappointments of cookies earlier this month, writing “the data isn't that great to begin with. While studying one set of 3rd-party data, Forrester Research found that gender was only correct 50% of the time, and it was the most accurate category in the sample.”
Cookies have gone stale, which means that the supposed precision they offer marketers for personalized targeting isn’t in fact data that we can trust. That’s why marketers are swapping personal data which cannot be verified with other data that is more trustworthy, such as content data. Building your marketing around content data means that you become less preoccupied with who your customer is, and look instead at information that is more relevant to your marketing: what brands, topics, products and trends are being mentioned across the world of content, and in what context.
Here's a crude but effective example: if you need to advertise a new printer, the best videos for viewers to come across your ads would be videos with titles like "Why does my printer keep breaking down?!?!?" The viewers of this video are a self-selecting group of consumers who are demonstrably unhappy with their current printer, and very possibly in the market for a new one. You don't need to know anything further about the audience demographics to make this connection, and you don’t need to worry that your supposed “data” on this audience might be totally misguided. The content is strong enough (without the audience data) to help you to reach the right potential customers.
Ten years ago, no one had heard of influencer marketing. Now, we know it is one of the single most effective ways that brands can reach consumers - more than 60% of companies use influencer marketing in some capacity and 90% of influencer marketers find that creator campaigns produce as good or better returns than all other marketing mediums.
Brands that know what they are doing with their influencer marketing strategy are no longer concerned with getting a major internet star to put out a single Instagram post mentioning their brand. They want to forge ongoing relationships with key online figures and have their brand appear in their content through a partnership that is enduring, consistent and effective on a long term basis.
One advantage of forming deeper relationships with content creators is that you lock out your competition from ever working with that creator. You also secure a marketing channel that you know delivers results, to make sure that channel continues to deliver results as their audience grows. As well as creating a stronger brand awareness, an ongoing partnership will allow your brand to become closely associated with that creator, meaning that the affection and goodwill they inspire in their fans will begin to rub off on your brand.
You can find your brand ambassadors by partnering with thought leaders who align closely with your company's messaging. That means changing your partnership strategy from less of a scattergun approach to taking the time to set up more targeted, in depth relationships with a smaller pool of creators that really reflect your brand values. The relationship needs to work both ways in order to successfully convert content creators into ongoing brand ambassadors.
Trying to sell something online is a lot like trying to get someone to engage with an idea. People are more likely to buy something when they feel a connection with it, and the easiest way to create that connection is by telling a story. Stories work even better if they feel familiar.
For exactly that reason, advertising works best when it is contextual. When people are reading a story, they pay attention to it, and the narrative, relevance and logical jump from scene to scene keeps that attention engaged. Intrusive and irrelevant ads have the opposite effect. The ad doesn’t act as part of a wider story, so it is ignored and instantly forgotten.
Contextual advertising is different. It makes sure your ad forms part of a wider narrative, and addresses the exact thing that your audience is focused on at that time. Using context allows you to present your ads to audiences that are receptive to your messaging. The ad is a logical part of their internet experience, rather than an irrelevant misnomer that sticks out for all wrong reasons.
It’s time to start rethinking the concept of retargeting. We don’t yet have a way without cookies to show consumers the exact same products that they were looking at on your site, but that was all getting a bit creepy and uncomfortable. Instead, you can use content to target the same audience from different angles.
If you have sponsored a YouTube channel that is bringing in good results, you know that that channel’s audience is a good fit for your brand. Therefore, it’s worth doubling down on that audience and finding new ways to reach them. You can run YouTube ad roll on that channel’s videos specifically, or place popup ads on the videos (if the channel has enabled that option) to make sure your brand is all over their content. (We can also help you with targeting your YouTube ads to specific channels and videos - get in touch!)
You can also work with additional channels related to that creator… since they will be speaking to pretty much the same audience as the YouTube channel. Maybe they have a podcast, maybe they also run a newsletter. Retargeting without cookies is possible if you explore all the options, and some creators might also be open to offering you a special package deal if you sponsor their content across multiple formats.
These 5 methods can help you sharpen your 2022 advertising, without a cookie in sight. For any questions you may have about navigating this brave new world of digital marketing, please don’t hesitate to reach out - we’d be happy to help.