Six tips to maintain marketing effectiveness in a cookieless world

It’s fair to say Google’s cookie deprecation delay divided the marketing community. But a stay of execution doesn’t mean marketers can continue with 'business as usual'...

Matt Andrew, UK MD and Partner at Ekimetrics, explains why brands must take on the ‘cookie death’ opportunity to consider their strategic approach to measurement as well as what options are available to them.

Despite Google’s latest delay to third-party cookies phase-out, brands that have not yet found robust alternatives to attribution need to take action now to future proof their marketing measurement.

Many brands have started to tackle the problem already, particularly with Apple’s IDFA deprecation and earlier similar actions from other browsers. But many are still struggling with how to target and measure their marketing, often looking for identity replacements or tackling the issue of identity-based marketing in isolation.

Yet they have an enforced golden opportunity to redefine their strategic approach to measurement that could revolutionise their understanding and help them get back to the craft of marketing.

Here are six tips to help transform marketing effectiveness:

1. Stop trying to replace Attribution (and Identity)

Digital data revolutionised marketing measurement with the promise of instant returns. However, the resultant over-reliance on digital channels has led to the neglect of genuine influences on consumer behaviours. Despite its high level of granularity, Multi-touch Attribution (MTA) has its limitations, including an inability to effectively take account of all channels.

If used in isolation, it creates dangerous measurement blind spots when it comes to directing overall budget. Brands always needed to take into consideration the entire marketing and customer journey. Of course, MTA (where the data are available) has its place, for example, we worked with a restaurant chain at Ekimetrics to help level up its digital presence.

By making use of available attribution data from partner media, the business was able to make informed micro campaign decisions. But it must be used with care and in conjunction with other methods to deliver meaningful measurement overall.

2. Triangulate methods for success

There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to measurement. Each business will have its own needs to address. However, a combination of measurement methods, used in a single unified framework, can help brands ensure that every aspect of measurement is grounded in the same meaning and language.

It’s essential to use the right tool for the right job within that, and so employing econometrics, MTA and experimental methods provides a toolkit that ensures marketing effectiveness responses are tailored to specific circumstances. This supports decisions from strategy to tactics, budget planning to execution.

3. Embrace econometrics

Econometrics is a time-series based approach that relies on correlations to isolate the impact of different business key performance indicators (KPIs).

While econometrics has historically been a backward-looking and infrequent measurement solution (and somewhat out of fashion in the digital age), modern approaches turn this on its head to create powerful, forward-looking, frequent (always on, even) and granular measurement.

For example, we worked with an automotive replacement parts retailer that wanted to increase its online sales. By applying econometrics to drive website traffic and using holistic data collection and measurement, we were able to identify the impact of owned channels and measure the indirect impact of media on sales.

4. Capture and use the right data

Much easier said than done, but data comes in and out of availability all the time - cookie deprecation is just one example of this. Developing a solid data framework that operates on this principle is essential. An all too frequent consequence of changing data availability is that it can bring about a change to the meaning of measurement. Brands must be able to adapt with data and measurement strategies that carry into the future.

5. Rethink ROI

A key measure for marketers, Return on Investment (ROI) can often be taken at face value as a measurement imbued with one meaning across an organisation. However, it’s rarely the case that singularity of meaning exists, such as when it’s used as a monetary value at a campaign level. True ROI is often more complex than this.

To understand what we mean, it’s important to understand how ROI is calculated and what ‘return’ specifically is being measured. The ‘return’ could refer to the number of leads, sales or website traffic. Calculating the profit and revenue a purchase delivers may have many inputs and routes to purchase.

Some marketing effects are seen immediately, while some are incremental over time. Being forced to rethink measurement also provides the opportunity to develop a shared understanding of ROI at a fundamental level. Knowing exactly what is being measured and what success looks like becomes integral to reshaping how brands and marketers tackle this new era of marketing effectiveness.

6. Make the move to marketing mix optimisation (MMO)

Using MMO as the unified framework ensures commonality of meaning for all analysis, regardless of application. This eliminates noise and shortcuts conversations and consequently decisions, negating the need for mental or spreadsheet gymnastics to ensure you’re comparing apples with apples. With econometrics at the core, you can make big decisions about budget, and other analysis points such as price and promotion, product strategy, salesforce or campaign optimisation and customer journeys can be integrated into the same framework. What’s more, a holistic, increasingly granular, and timely MMO approach to measurement is a more effective alternative to relying on cookies to quantify sales impact and ROI of marketing activities. Because ‘in the path’ doesn’t mean ‘impacting the path’.

Understanding genuine incrementality is fundamental to effective measurement. For example, when we helped a leading cosmetic brand to apply MMO across their whole purchase funnel, they were able to understand the role of brand and upper funnel activity in driving sales and business performance.

As a result, they were able to create focused marketing plans to re-engage customers, building brand health and garnering an incremental value of over $25m USD. Most importantly in the current environment, MMO deals with the issue of privacy. The phase-out of third-party cookies will breathe new life into marketing With the trend to in-housing marketing effectiveness, using a single framework for all analysis means brands can future-proof their measurement capabilities. Whilst such a fundamental change can be disconcerting, brands must view this as an opportunity to innovate and reclaim the craft of marketing.

By Matt Andrew