Don’t stop us now: Time for brands to act on cookies

Maren SeitzAdvertisers were having such a good time until the end of the third-party cookies was announced and measurement solutions such as MTA were put on the spot. The next postponement was a relief for some that felt unprepared for the changing digital landscape – but the proclaimed changes will come sooner or later. Because the momentum of data protection regulations and increased consumer awareness continues.

But brands are still “gonna have themselves a real good time” – if they are willing to keep on moving forward. We have gathered our key findings below to give guidance on how to build a future-proof measurement programme.

Travelling at the speed of light – with a goal in mind
The key to marketing (measurement) success is and will continue to be to take action – and to take it right now before the changes will even go into effect. Acting rather than reacting will be the major opportunity for brands to gain an advantage over data deprecation, or in fact any other unknown changes in the industry.

We are seeing a huge increase in interest in alternative measurement. Many of our clients are ramping up or newly creating their marketing analytics teams to address that. However, before actionism gains the upper hand in an ever faster and more complex world, brands should use this optimistic mood to take a step back and challenge short-termism. What does good planning really look like for us? What do we want to achieve? Where do we see our brand in the next one, five, ten years?

When balancing short- and long-term goals and planning their marketing strategies, brands need to remember that while the pandemic has shaken up consumer behaviour and has accelerated the digitalisation, there are other key principles of marketing that still apply such as using the effect of media synergies, i.e. by using different channels across online and offline media.

Defying the laws of data-gravity
Data is everywhere these days. But it is not always the right data for the job. Walled gardens, blind spots and the death of the third-party cookie are all adding to this trend.

Brands must assess the impact that the data they are currently using is having on their marketing and its measurement and look for data sources they might not be using. They also need to question and review their measurement strategy. How are we assessing marketing effectiveness? Where are we relying on cookies? What other data is available?

For those companies who can build up robust first-party data, we strongly recommend doing so. Many retailers have embraced the concept of loyalty programmes and one of our clients added significant value when it started leveraging its loyalty scheme for business growth. With a thorough analysis of its data, we identified growth levers per consumer segment and determined the best combination of marketing/CRM to increase ROI and customer lifetime value. We helped shape a completely new approach and identified a multi-million-pound opportunity across several strategies.

Steering a rocket ship on its way to Mars
The past two years have taught us a lot about what makes a measurement program successful and how it can future-proofed for any trip that a brand might be taking.

Go holistic: It is time to stop measuring in silos, and time to use one consistent currency across the company. Too often, brands are not accounting for the impact that certain activities have outside of their ecosystem and how they contribute to the overall business.

Get ready to use a suite of tools: There will not be that one solution for all measurement needs, but a need to use and unify a suite of tools. Brands will have to try to match the speed and user-level granularity of solutions such as MTA with greater precision and robustness.

Use lessons learned during crisis: The pandemic was a playground for test & learn or any other experiments. Brands should continue to make use of this approach and, where needed, rely on experts and experience rather than waiting for the perfect solution.

While a measurement programme should always be custom-built to the brand’s needs, most of our clients follow a certain set-up. For instance, for precision in holistic strategic planning, at Analytic Partners, we have evolved Marketing Mix Modelling into Commercial Mix Analytics (CMA). Within this solution, analyses can be done quarterly if needed and they do not rely on cookies. In the end, it measures the outcome in hard money.

However, we know that solutions such as MTA have fostered the need for greater speed to insight. That’s why brands can add “always on” Live Models to CMA. Rather than running full models, they partly rely on estimates and benchmarks to deliver fast results. By transitioning to a holistic Commercial Mix Analytics solution with those real-time, right-time results, one of our retail clients was able to transform from backward looking gut-feel planning to forward looking data-driven decisioning that delivered $100m in annual impact.

For greatest speed and detail, brands can complement their CMA with experimentation, e.g. to identify best formats, channels, etc. The solution called Agile Learning can be done in-house and offers brands the opportunity to do pre-testing of social ads in various formats in context, or comparing OOH ads between regions, to name just a few.

Integrated with modelling, it also controls for noise. With Agile Learning, one of our QSR clients was also able to isolate the impacts from various products that were offered free for promotion. The experiment revealed that a single national campaign in the UK would have an impact of £625,000 per weekend on incremental sales.

How to have a good time
One of the major lessons from not only the past two years but two decades of working in data and analytics is: act, don’t react. Our ROI Genome shows that brands that increased media investment during the last recession saw stronger ROI saw a lift in incremental sales, and more than half realised subsequent ROI improvements year over year.

However, keep in mind that acting just to do something might get you out of control like a satellite. Be aware of what a good time really means for you, your brand and the company before you continue your journey. Because if you’re doing it right, you don’t want to stop at all.

Maren Seitz is head of the DACH region at Analytic Partners

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