Digital Marketing Trends 2022 (Part 5 – Cookies, Privacy and Data Management)

This outtake focused on digital marketing trends 2022 is taken from an hour of discussion recorded exclusively with Mike Berry, marketing consultant, MSc in Digital Marketing trainer and published author and MMC’s own Rene Power.

In this fifth extract, 18 minutes long, Mike and Rene talk all about upcoming changes to tracking technology, why GDPR was a good thing, the challenge of managing customer data and the debates around privacy and who owns the data.

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Mike Berry:

Let’s get very serious now, Rene, shall we? From the trivia of TikTok to seriousness of the so-called cookie-pocalypse.

Rene Power:

All the webmasters out there. Yeah.

Phasing out cookies – The Cookiepocalypse

Mike Berry:

Not easy to say, but it’s one of those phrases that might just take off. Some of you may have heard it first here. It’s like mobile-geddon a few years ago. In other words, something’s happening. A lot of talk about it. Not a lot of clarity. Google is going to phase out support for third-party cookies on Chrome browsers, latest estimate, middle of next year.

Until recently, 2023 sounded a long time away, didn’t it? Now, it’s only next year.

As we know, cookies are tracking codes placed on a web visitor’s computer, when you visit another website. When a web visitor visits the site and others, the third-party cookie tracks the information, sends it to the owner, who could be an advertiser. You’re able to follow people across websites and retarget them particularly.

Depending on your point of view, that’s either good marketing or a bit creepy, and a bit scary, and should be stopped.

Actually, Google is taking initiative here. We can question their motives, but it doesn’t matter really. They are doing it, and I think they will do it. Because Google Chrome is so dominant, it’s going to affect everybody. Already, Apple has taken similar steps, and this is the way it’s going.

The consumer privacy lobby is winning. Brands have to respond. The tech platforms are caught in the middle. They make money out of the brands, but equally, they depend on their users.

It’s a bit like Google’s attitude on Gmail to unwanted spam in email. Let’s face it. Google needs to keep advertisers happy, because that’s how Google’s made all its money. On the other hand, it also has to keep its users, especially Gmail users, people looking at search results, has to keep them happy so that the party continues. They’re trying to balance different factors here.

While first-party cookies are put there by the website that you’re on, visitors currently must be informed they are getting a third-party cookie, and advise, and this is HubSpot, who have a lot of good content, content marketing, I guess we could call it, HubSpot are saying, if you’re just aiming to track your website visitor’s behaviours, this may not be a big deal for you.

If you’re a remarketer, a re-targeter, this could actually be quite impactful on your business.

You’re looking to do online advertising, popups, or target a pinpointed audience, you’d better be watching this.

My own view about this, like so many things in marketing over recent years is, people will find a way. Marketers are robust, resilient, ingenious, and already, there are new ways of targeting.

Already, there are technologies being postulated, which will say, okay, it may not be quite as accurate as targeting someone that’s got the cookie, because you won’t know, cookies won’t be there, but there’ll be other ways of targeting. I guess if it’s the same for everyone, it’s still a level playing field.

Rene Power:

The real impact of removing cookies to advertisers

Really interesting, though, isn’t it? When you think about how much money Google presumably makes, I wonder if they’re making as much money from traditional search-based pay-per-click as they are from retargeting and remarketing. I would imagine there’s a lot more from that, and from the Google AdSense network, where you can buy up spots on different prominent websites. A lot of the fashion brands and clothing brands will do it.

You’ll go to M&S and you’ll look at a little black dress, and then you’ll go and check your Hotmail or your Gmail. They’re in the text ads or there in the bottom right-hand corner, there’s a little advert with that little black dress. You just wonder, moves like this, are they going to haemorrhage their own ad sales, or have they got something coming up behind it to make sure they don’t lose any of their lucra?

Mike Berry:

Yeah. They’re clever people. They’re pretty shrewd business people, particularly. I would imagine that Google’s taking the view that this is for the user. The user is demanding this. They’re very sensitive to their image, and also to potential legislation, both in the US and in Europe.

If they continue to look like the bad guys, which Facebook have done quite recently, and for quite a while now, if people start to hate them and politicians get elected on a platform of trimming the wings of the tech companies, then it’s good if Google moves first, and then they can say,
we’ve done this.

We’re not tracking users anymore. We’ve stopped the evil advertisers, putting cookies on people’s computers. We’re doing everything we can. We’ll work with you, we’re a good guys.

You could say it’s a shrewd move. From the point of view of marketers, as I say, there will be other ways of targeting people. Marketers have always found ways of putting the right message in front of the right person. It’ll just be a bit more challenging, and it will require some ingenuity.

Customer data needs to be a primary concern

Also, of course, I think even as marketers, we can say, we do want to keep the customers happy, and we do want to be ethical. We want to protect people’s personal data. We don’t want everyone to think the web is wild west, where it’s really scary and dangerous, and you could be robbed either of money or of your privacy.

I think ultimately, a bit like GDPR, marketers will say yes, all right, it’s kept the worst bad guys out. We’re honest marketers, we’re ethical, and we’ll work within the guidelines, of course. Our customers will respect us for that.

I’m not too worried about cookie-pocalypse. I’m worried about how I say it. Cookie-pocalypse.

GDPR, it’s old news now. I remember how scared everyone was back in 2017, 2018. “It’s the end of marketing. We can’t do anything, we’ll never be able to target anyone.”

It’s been actually, I would say, a great success. The Americans are copying, Californians have got their own regulations now, and other US states are following suit. I even believe that some Asian markets are putting something in place, which is very like GDPR.

Not meeting compliance standards now means big fines

It’s looking likely to be a global standard. Of course, if it protects the individual, makes people more comfortable to share stuff online and to transact online, you could say that’s good for the technology industry, for the digital marketing industry. Of course, the only way it’s going to be enforced is that people have to be fined.

Recently, there have been quite a lot of fines.

Just a random selection of press cuttings, there’s Nick Clegg, the former UK liberal Democrat politician, putting the Facebook point of view, looking very serious there. The situation was that, they’ve been fined $70 million for deliberate failure to comply with the UK regulator.

The data commission has just changed in the UK. There’s a new guy with lots of new ideas. We’ll be hearing more from him, I’m sure.

Meanwhile, in France, Google fines 592, unusual amount, $592 million, I’m sure it was levied in euros, for a dispute with French publishers, and not to be left out, amazon has been fined $1.3 billion by antitrust regulators in Italy.

Everybody’s doing it. This is scary stuff. Of course, big companies are fined bigger amounts. If you’re a small company, proportionally, you can still be levied a fine that’s pretty scary and pretty damaging. Companies can be put out of business if the fine is big enough.

Take it seriously. Everyone needs to think about compliance. Marketers have to be responsible. If you’re in an organisation with a legal department, I would say, make sure they’ve told you in writing, in an email, yes, you can do this.

The data that you got from this source is okay to use for your campaign to sell these products in a different division of our company. Or no, we’re worried about this. We’re quite concerned. We think you need to gain permission from these people by re-approaching them, requalifying them. We know it’s a pain, but we couldn’t advise that you do it without that.

Let the lawyers earn their money. I always say. Compliance is cheaper than violation, which of course is the intention of the regulation, so that people don’t take a risk. People don’t do it. Big amount.

All of this leads, Rene, to a general increase in awareness. I know that the details of GDPR probably aren’t very exciting for most marketers, because if we love that stuff, we’d be lawyers. Instead, we like marketing. The numbers are so scary that we can’t afford to ignore them. It’s not stopping. I think that there will be more privacy legislation.

GDPR, as we say here, puts power into the consumer’s hands. Consumers have to give consent to their data being collected.

You’ve got to be transparent. It’s not enough to say they had a chance to opt out. It’s more like, we told them exactly what we were going to do, and we asked them to confirm that that was cool by ticking the box and pressing submit. That’s what they call all informed consent.

Yeah. As I say, scary punishment. Even Forbes has used the word harsh here. Forbes is normally a fairly level headed business publication. 20 million euros does sound like a lot of money. It’s all pro rata to your turnover. For any company, it’s an unwelcome amount of money to be paying.

Of course, my point here is that, consumers are hearing about this. They won’t understand the detail, but they will know that people can’t steal their data and rip them off, and use the data for reasons other than what they were told. As if to highlight that, we’ve seen him before.

The impact of poor customer data management on brand reputation

Rene Power:

It’s a form of cancel culture as well, isn’t it? If you’re a brand that does something spectacularly bad, and you’ve got the pervasive and always on nature of the web and social media and all of that, talking about it and sharing out. It’s very, very damaging, this stuff.

Mike Berry:

Yeah. It’s a PR nightmare, isn’t it, to be frank.

Mike Berry:

Quite apart from the size of the fine. What about the collateral damage to your reputation, and what people think of you? Especially your customers. Nobody wants to be the bad guy.

Customers now own their data

Talking of someone who’s one of the heroes of our industry, it’s quite a big deal, isn’t it, to say, I invented the worldwide web, which pretty much undisputed, is true that Tim Berners-Lee did that.

Tim Berners-Lee. He’s still a young man, I would say, and he’s absolutely not retiring. He’s got a new mission, his new company, Inrupt, and also the other brand he’s associated with, is called Solid. The two things work hand in hand.

In a few words, my understanding of what he’s proposing is that we all have a data pod with our personal data in it, which we have visibility of, and also crucially, control over. We may elect to let certain companies access our data pod, or part of it, but that’s under certain conditions.

Amazon has to know where we live, or they can’t deliver to us. Maybe Tesco does as well. They have to have our credit card number, or we can’t pay them.

They have that data under certain requirements, and certain conditions. As the data owner, we are the owner, not them, we can withdraw that permission at any time.

That’s going a bit back to, writ in summary, Seth Godin’s book, Permission Marketing. This is permission commerce, isn’t it? Effectively, the user is in control. Also, the user is empowered, and they realise that their data has value.

If I’m giving the bank or Amazon or Facebook or Google my data, I might say, actually, what are you going to give me in return? Can we talk? Let’s do a deal here.

In other words, the customer is increasingly going to realise that actually, they shouldn’t just give their data away. In some cases, they will trade their data, but they want something in return. I think this is interesting. Berners-Lee’s startup has just raised $30 million. This is very recent. Someone thinks it’s a good idea.

I think if Tim Berners-Lee wanted to meet, you’d probably find half an hour for a coffee, wouldn’t you? Tim, tell me how you invented the web. He is a very charismatic and inspirational guy. He’s very clever man, certain, and he invented the web. He’s changed the world.

Also, it’s interesting that he doesn’t believe his job is over, in terms of the web. It isn’t quite the vision that he had originally. It was meant to be a free place to exchange information, and not dominated by any government or large corporation. How did that work out?

Rene Power:

Wow. Yeah.

GDPR was a good thing for ethical marketing

Mike Berry:

Yeah. Work in progress. Yeah, an interesting man. GDPR is, as I say, I think a good thing.

It’s about fairness, protecting people and as marketers … I know you said humble marketers, but why should we be humble? Companies need marketers, and they need good marketers, but it is serious stuff. If we’re not lawyers, my advice to junior marketers or even senior ones is, involve your boss, involve the legal department.

If you don’t have a legal department, get some professional help, because GDPR is real. It’s something that we’re bound by. If we don’t understand it, we could easily transgress, and ignorance of the law is no excuse.

The Californians, as I say, have their own act. Actually, there are subtle differences, but I would be advising American viewers the same, or Californian viewers, the same as I’m advising UK and European marketers, get someone who knows what they’re talking about to check out what you’re proposing to do. If it’s anything to do with data, potentially personal data, you may think it’s okay, but why not run it by an expert?
Rene Power:

Yeah. I think, even simplistically from a marketing manager’s perspective, it’s about making sure that any of those opt-in forms and things like that, if you’re trying to get somebody’s email address and personal details, so that you can then spam the life out of them until they unsubscribe, then at least have the good grace to tell them what you’re going to send, and when you’re going to-

Mike Berry:

We’re going to spam the life out of you, are you ready for that?

Rene Power:

Yeah. I think, we are seeing increasingly, a lot of small print on those conversion forms, and landing page forms, which I think is important.
Even if you live in a territory like the States, where this is still relatively ungoverned, if you follow best practice and say, if I was a customer coming to this website, or in my experience of other brands, how do I want to be treated, and actually afford your customers with the same level of courtesy. You’ll always be in line with the guidelines or maybe even one step ahead of them.

Mike Berry:

Yeah. I think that’s really interesting. It could be, and this is one of my interests, it could be that privacy and the way companies respect their customer’s privacy is going to become a differentiator. In other words, a competitive advantage. Whether we say privacy or privacy, doesn’t really work in the written word, does it?

Whether it’s US or Europe or anywhere else in the world, customers want to know that they are valued, their data is secure, and that companies are respectful.

As I say, a lot of companies are, as you say, are going beyond the law, into being squeaky clean. Actually, we could do this, but we won’t do it. We’re going to ask your permission before we share our data with our colleagues in a different division. We want you to opt in because your privacy is so important to us. I think increasing, we’re going to be seeing that.

If you’re the company that’s not careful about customer’s data, it’s a bit like being the company that doesn’t care about sustainability, and is not a good corporate citizen, and dumps effluent and rivers and pollutes the atmosphere.

No good marketers and no good companies want to be that organisation.

I think data policy, data ethics is going to get more and more important. That is something for this year, I would say. That’s not five years away. Data ethics starts now, and whatever you’re doing, review it, make sure you’re at least compliant and consider whether you want to go further than the law.

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