What Brands Can Do When the Cookie Crumbles

People who aren’t familiar with how digital marketing and advertising work behind the scenes may not know it yet, but a big change is on the horizon as third-party cookies are phased out. Third-party cookies have been the internet’s bread and butter for years, passing along data that gives advertisers a way to target (and retarget) potential customers and supporting publishers who provide free content.

StreetFight Magazine

Third-party cookies store data and behavioral information, including information on age, gender, and location, to help advertisers target internet users with more relevant ads. But the industry didn’t do a great job of communicating how third-party cookies enabled the expansion of access to free content from publishers and kept browsers and internet access free of charge for users.

As a result, third-party cookies are a casualty of mounting consumer concern about privacy and new regulations to protect consumer data online, and there will be significant fallout for the average person’s online experience. The change will also have a major impact on publishers of all sizes and also for brands that rely on digital marketing and advertising to generate leads. Everyone should be preparing now.

Implications of the Third-Party Cookie Phase-Out
The third-party cookie phase-out is already well underway. Safari and Firefox no longer use them, and Google — the 900-pound gorilla of the browser world with 67% of the desktop browser market— says it will phase them out altogether next year. This will have a huge revenue impact for publishers, especially small and medium-size sites that rely on ad content to generate revenue. Many of those publishers will fade away along with the cookies.

The consumer experience will likely deteriorate, at least in the short term, because online ads aren’t going away. Consumers will see more ads that are less relevant instead. When the industry made a pitch to deliver more relevant ads, it wasn’t exclusively about improving the user experience — it was mostly about selling more products and services by reaching the right people. But the byproduct was a more relevant online experience for consumers.

What Brands Can Do to Target Consumers
So, what should brands be doing now to prepare for a third-party cookie-less future? Contextual advertising will be one key to successful outreach. So, if you’re selling hiking boots, you’ll want to use branded and unbranded keywords to place your ad on a site that is relevant to the great outdoors, ideally on a page that will be visited by people who are planning a hiking trip.

Contextual advertising isn’t new, of course — plenty of brands use it to target potential customers, and placing an ad in context is a more effective way of reaching people who are ready to make a buying decision anyway. People are complicated and multifaceted. A hiker might also be an HR executive, and if she sees a hiking gear ad on an HR technology publisher’s site, she may be in her HR boss mindset and not thinking about trekking through the woods at that moment. So, context matters.

Another step brands can take now is to bolster their first-party data, which they’re already collecting (with consumer consent) via their site, app, and through both online and offline encounters. Brands that haven’t done much to collect and use first-party data don’t have any time to lose; the value of that information will only grow after third-party cookies are phased out.

Silver Linings in a Time of Transition
The elimination of third-party cookies underscores the importance of consumer privacy, as do regulations like GDPR, which give consumers more control over how businesses store and use consumer data. It’s also important to keep in mind that not all digital advertising is affected by the elimination of third-party cookies; streaming TV ads are already tied to an IP address, for example.

There’s a lot that’s still up in the air during this transitional phase. The Trade Desk is working with partners in a consortium to iron out the details of Unified ID 2.0 based on hashed and encrypted email addresses. The idea behind this collaboration is to create an open source and interoperable ID framework with greater transparency and better privacy controls.

As third-party cookies are phased out, brands will have to stay nimble to weather the transition successfully. It’s a good idea to shift focus to contextual marketing and build up first-party data now. Keep an eye on better alternatives like Unified ID 2.0, and watch how agencies are adapting. That way, you’ll be ready when the cookie crumbles.

Steve Robbins is Senior Director of Digital Media at Hawthorne Advertising.

11 email marketing strategies to help ensure your messages are opened

As a top distribution channel for both B2B and B2C marketers, email marketing has long been viewed as an effective way to reach audiences. In the current virtual work environment, email has become even more popular across industries, as consumers are spending more time than ever at home on their devices. However, this boom in marketing emails also means brands must work harder to stand out.

The Business JournalsModern marketers must be strategic and optimize their email campaigns with catchy subject lines and value-added content to ensure their messages are opened. Below, 11 experts from Business Journals Leadership Trust share their recommendations for email marketing strategies that are sure to catch an audience’s attention.

1. Put yourself in the recipient’s shoes.
Email marketing can be effective or annoying to your customers. Before deploying an email marketing campaign, put yourself in the seat of the email recipient. How can an email add value to your customers’ lives? Can you inform your customer of valuable information, can you provide a helpful reminder or can you make them laugh? Emails that add such value get opened. – Jason Dunn, DACS Asphalt & Concrete

2. Get creative with your subject line.
Put some thought into your subject line. A subject line that is dull and bland won’t get nearly the same attention as something funny or outlandish. Get creative with simple and catchy ways to get the reader’s attention. – Jared Knisley, Fizen Technology

3. Use ‘you,’ not ‘we.’
I write a ton of emails for clients. If you want your email to be opened, it needs to pass the “So what?” test and be relevant. Talk in “you” terms, not “we” terms — you will do a better job of focusing on what the client wants. And whenever possible, keep business development emails asking for a meeting around 100 to 125 words. Short and sweet increases the odds of a read. – Linda Bishop, Thought Transformation

4. Opt for personal rather than mass emails.
When we looked at how we handled email marketing, we recognized that there is so much cross-pollination of information being distributed that we needed to really stand out. So we stopped using mass email marketing, found the prospects that really mattered and did a personal reach out. – Gene Yoo, Resecurity, Inc.

5. Embed compelling video content.
Stats say that an email including a video can increase the click-through rate by up to 300% and reduce your unsubscribe rate by 75%. If your emails get opened but don’t get read, reduce text and embed videos. But if the open rate is low, use videos as well, but give a teaser of what’s inside in your subject line. There are lots of strategies you can use, but this one can be a serious game-changer. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

6. Offer something valuable and actionable.
Email marketing has had a resurgence with the virtual workforce, but there can be oversaturation, which leads to email fatigue. It is important not to bombard your audience with too many messages. When you send messages, make sure they are offering something of value to the audience that they can take action on, such as a webinar, article or discounted service. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

7. Tailor it to your audience members’ areas of interest.
We strive to provide email content that is tailored to each of our audience members’ specific areas of interest. We try to ensure that a subscriber gets only what they want to read and nothing of what they don’t. This isn’t a perfect science, and it’s constantly being modified and perfected, as people’s tastes are ever-evolving. And their business concerns and challenges change, too. – Tom Rourick, RSM US LLP

8. Be relevant and timely.
We started using videos in our emails and have seen a huge increase in open rates. The key is to be relevant and timely and offer a solution to a challenge they may be experiencing. In our case, businesses are wanting to open back up as the pandemic eases, so we provide tips to help them achieve that. – Yanet Herrero, Kings Service Solutions, LLC

9. Focus on one value-driving issue.
Instead of being part of the echo chamber, challenge traditional thinking. Identify one thing that may drive value, then unpack it. Provide insights that get the audience to think about new options. – Kirk W. McLaren, Foresight CFO

10. Focus on the problem you solve.
Great headlines are the first step, followed by content that’s laser-focused on the problem you are solving. Knowing your target demographic and communicating an expedient solution to their problem will ensure double-digit open rates and high engagement. – Rachel Namoff, Arapaho Asset Management

11. Have a little fun with emojis.
We’ve seen increased open rates by using emojis in the subject lines of our emails. It’s a small tweak that has created a meaningful lift in open rates — at least for now. – Kent Lewis, Anvil Media, Inc.