The Demise of the Cookie Monster – What’s Next for Digital Marketers?

In a soon-to-be cookie-less world, the scrutiny on consumer data and how brands pivot their digital strategies has never been more in focus. True’s Senior Strategist, Harry Taylor, discovers consumer attitudes towards data are more nuanced than you might think, especially amongst Gen Y and Z – sometimes dubbed the ‘activist cohort’.

Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster once said “Friend something better than chocolate ice cream… Maybe friend somebody you give up last cookie for”.

The last cookie isn’t that far away it seems. With Google nearing the phasing out of third-party cookies in their market-leading Chrome browser, the focus is now turning to how brands should adapt and respond.

For consumers over the last few years, their data and how companies use it has felt a bit like a fast-moving murky river – powering the turbines of digital advertising without giving much back in terms of perceived value.

This is the result of an unprecedented data gold-rush – with brands, websites, social networks, and publishers collecting and sharing more information on consumers than ever before. This is either directly from consumers who buy and use their products, called first-party data, or through aggregated larger third-party networks, allowing tracking and targeting of relevant messages in digital advertising.

After high-profile breaches like Cambridge Analytica, consumer attitudes towards data and how it’s used are inevitably catching up with the pace of technological change. However, an interesting paradigm is emerging – while consumers across the board are demanding more transparency when it comes to the data brands and platforms collect on them – Gen Z and Gen Y consumers are increasingly willing to give up their data in exchange for relevance, transparency, and usefulness.

This growing savviness towards the value of data has given rise to the term “data pragmatists” – with nearly half of U.S. consumers saying they’re willing to trade their data where they perceive benefits or value to be exchanged. This has spurred a new category called zero-party data – defined as data customers intentionally and proactively share with a brand.

It’s no shock that this trend differs between age groups – meaning its overall impact on brands may depend on where their consumers sit, however with Gen Y and Z consumers making up around half of NZ’s population at the last census, it’s an increasingly important consideration.

Harry Taylor

What does this mean for personalisation?

Younger consumers aren’t turned off by their data being used for personalisation because they expect and increasingly demand it from brands. A recent Adweek/IBM Watson report revealed 44% of U.S. internet users would switch to a brand that effectively personalised content. This isn’t to say younger consumers are carte blanche in their attitudes – they still feel betrayed by privacy breaches and misuse but have developed their own standards to make sense of a largely unregulated internet.

The real test is if, as a consumer, you would part with your data in return for what’s being offered – whether this is exclusive content, tailored experience, or useful tools.

This ultimately needs to be communicated in a way that’s human in its language. Spotify’s personalised Wrapped playlists are a clear example of data communicated and exchanged for benefit – kept secure in-platform, with consumers choosing whether to socially share with the wider world.

How does this fit with brand purpose?

While younger consumers are demanding more from brands in how they respond to the environment, tackle social issues and add value to society, they are conversely more willing to share their data when it’s perceived to be in line with the greater good.

This has spurred the development of products like the Carbon Credit Card that uses consumers’ spending information to calculate a carbon footprint to help the planet by reducing carbon emissions. It raises the question of whether brand purpose could help facilitate consumers to give up their data by helping remove barriers around trust.

The clearest example of this is the NZ Covid Tracer app. Twelve months ago Kiwis would balk at the idea of allowing the government to track their every move and collect data via Bluetooth. However transparency and education have driven uptake through a clear and transparent value exchange – my data in exchange for helping contain Covid19 and assisting the wider collective.

A formal data-exchange market?

Some see this value exchange giving rise to ‘data-as-currency’ and a new economy that enables consumers to take control and empower how this is used by brands.

Already we’ve seen Amazon announce testing paying consumers for their shopping data via a new panel, which directly compensates consumers for information about what they’re purchasing outside of their platforms.

Another example is Land Rover – who have been enabling their customers to earn cryptocurrency in exchange for sharing their driving data – which could be then cashed in for related car expenses like parking and EV charging.

In both these examples – the exchange is clear. However, the test is whether this gives rise to more formal systems and further shifts in societal attitudes, driven by increasingly savvy and empowered consumers.

In association with True.

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