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Are Cookies Good for Us?

  |  July 24, 2013   |  Comments

Old question, new meaning, same answer.

I had the privilege - and, yes, I say privilege - of growing up with a registered dietician, who had a graduate degree in food sciences, as a mother. And, while that certainly had the makings for a miserable childhood, from a culinary perspective (it was, after all, the era of the carob chips and home fruit dehydrators), at my house it translated into: my mom could cook or bake anything. And it always came out good (and, yes, I think most of it was good for us). But here is where my upbringing relates to this column. In spite of her "Dietician Mom" status, we always had cookies. Always.

We didn't always eat them. But we always had them. And our friends and neighbors knew this. And, their visiting, by the way, created permissible cookie times!

Yes, I'm going to continue to exploit this somewhat juvenile, and certainly silly, sweet treat to digital data tracker parallel, but let's jump to what we're really talking about: targeting with or without pixels, tags, data-tracking code, and so on.

A Post-Cookie Outlook for Mobile

The marketing community is continuing to discuss "life after cookies," including - with the huge migration of consumers, communication, and commerce to mobile channels - the question of how do we target effectively with "no cookies in mobile?"

I'd like to suggest that we're all going to be better off, marketers and consumers alike, when we establish strategies and employ tactics that do not rely on cookies, and when we look up from our cookies and see the greater opportunity on the table. That doesn't mean no cookies, it just means only using them on select occasions. We'll have "healthier" marketing plans if we don't overindulge on cookies.

So how do we break our "we've been having too many cookies" habit? And how do we enjoy the equivalent of mobile cookies when the time is right?

The mobile channel, or the cross-channel experience, is once again bringing us the biggest challenges and pushing us to develop the best solutions. Here are some realities to keep in mind as we expand our view and embrace the post-cookie mobile opportunity:

  • Cookies are, after all, standard fare. If nothing else, as it advances and continues to mature, the mobile channel reminds us that there were great solutions before cookies, and there will be great solutions after. Let's keep in mind that cookies haven't even been around long in the grand scheme of marketing. And, mobile actually brings us high-tech solutions based on everything we learned before cookies, as I discussed in my column last month. Among other positives, mobile offers, for the first time, the ability to truly apply, learn from, and reapply data findings - based on actual behaviors, not just presumed characteristics and imputed profiles - and do it on the spot.
  • Why wouldn't we embrace the full opportunity? The mobile channel, combined with big data, allows us to have enough data at not just the individual level, but at the individual wearing a certain hat level. Additionally, we have enough processing power to generate both very detailed profiles and predictions and very precise distinctions across the overall consumer population, and within an individual's varying needs and interests, across each hour of the day and each day of the week. And mobile has pushed us even further to be able to do this without a unique key (e.g., name and address, email) - the "cookie" of the early days. Rather, we can accomplish this in an entirely privacy-compliant manner, through complex statistical algorithms, real-time processing, and machine learning, combined with empirically gained knowledge from the long history of database marketing.
  • Delivering on a long-standing hope. And, at last, the mobile channel both reminds us to be, and offers us the opportunity to be, personal. Marketers have been pushing toward 1:1 communication concepts for decades. The goal of targeted and tailored creative has been one of delivering highly personalized messages. Customer relationship management (CRM) strategies have been aimed at trying to figure out the best way to create and build customer relationships and grow lifetime value. All of these goals are becoming a reality in mobile. And now, more than ever before, something we can deliver. Mobile gives us the opportunity to communicate through a device that consumers are using in every part of their lives, for fun and utility. Mobile gives us the opportunity to engage through a device upon which consumers place a high amount of value and carry with them nearly all of the time - a device that, if not already in the consumer's hand, is in her purse or pockets. That's personal. And, let us not forgot, nor abuse, as marketers, the privilege to be in the consumer's hand, purse, or pocket.

Which brings us back to cookies (and especially mobile cookies)…should we indulge?

Like my dietician, food scientist mom, who truly knew what my body did with the cookies, and thus when and whether they were good, the answer is yes - but only when the time is right. So, when is the time right? Cookies are for friends. So, cookies are "right" when the customer says so. Thus, our first goal as marketers in this new mobile world is to find and encourage consumers to "say so"…in other words: opt in. Today, that looks like loyalty registrations, website sign-ups, app downloads, push notifications, and the like. Tomorrow, it will likely look much different. And, if I had to predict, I'd say it's going to look even more consumer-driven.

But we should appreciate that as marketers. After all, that is just our customers having a clear and simple way to say "hi, let's share cookies" - and a relationship is formed, and true personalized messaging and building of lifetime value is achieved.

Image on home page via Shutterstock.


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Shannon E. Denison

Writing on mobile and mobile insights, Shannon E. Denison brings a blended background of time spent providing data analytics services to Fortune 500 companies, and on the client side as a frequent user of data analytics systems. Her background combines consumer psychology, statistics, and marketing - including graduate research in advertising effectiveness, along with 20 years of experience leveraging research and data to evaluate consumer behavior and solve business challenges.

She now serves as VP Product and Insights for Voltari, a provider of data-driven solutions for smart marketing and advertising. For more than a decade, Voltari has empowered brands and agencies to maximize their advertising dollars through smart mobile marketing and advertising solutions. Voltari's real-time, machine-learning optimization delivers content and messaging to people who are most interested in it, when they are most likely to interact, through an integrated and scalable, managed service platform. Voltari's patent pending mobile ad recommendation engine enables clients' campaigns to gain performance efficiencies that improve over time. The company is dedicated to providing the most advanced audience targeting and optimization products to its marketers and agencies - and continually delivering insights. The Insights group Denison oversees focuses on the distillation and dissemination of campaign performance and consumer insights. She writes from this vantage point.

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