Purpose beats personalisation when the cookies crumble

Purpose beats personalisation when the cookies crumble

Brands need ways to forge close connections with audiences without cookies, so let’s not overlook the common denominators that unite people.

The moment the marketing industry has been collectively dreading for years is finally here. Third-party cookies are really going — perhaps not fully gone yet, but well on their way. Let’s not be overly dramatic: it’s not the end of the world. But it is the end of personalisation as we know it.

As brands review their digital strategy with a new sense of urgency, they need to find alternative ways to forge close connections with their audiences when cookies are off the table. And this is where purpose might just beat personalisation.

Google 1% cookie deprecation: what will change?

Updating the toolkit

The conversation around the death of the cookie has been going on so long that any outsider listening in on advertiser conversations would have become confused a couple of years ago: “Wait, is this cookie guy ever going to actually die?”

But the cookie with nine lives is so core to most of our digital advertising infrastructure that it has proven hard to get rid of quickly.

The problem is that our industry has become too reliant on third-party data. For a while, personalisation was the buzzword that every marketer aspired to, whether or not their brand owned first-party data. And it does leave a gaping hole in our toolkit. Many marketers are exploring other avenues, finding new ways to leverage their first-party data and ramping up spend on contextual advertising to enforce relevance.

But what if the whole idea of what we see as personalisation could be simplified and applied at scale? In the nitty-gritty world of cookie-based targeting and our efforts to deliver bespoke communications to every individual, it is easy to overlook the common denominators that unite large groups of people.

Yes, I’m talking about purpose and values — something that both brands and consumers have.

Purpose-driven connection

Why values? It’s simple — because that’s something people care about. Values offer a direct way to tap into people’s interests, raise brand profile and enhance positive perception.

Research shows that 82% of consumers want brand values to align with their own. This is particularly true when it comes to sustainability, with over 50% saying they want to support sustainable brands. And people are ready to take action if values don’t line up: the same study found that 63% would break ties with the brand, at least temporarily, if they found a mismatch in this area.

The good news is, for values to align, we don’t need detailed insight into consumer preferences. Values are often linked to universal concerns such as sustainability, climate crisis, equality and the fight against poverty — something that’s high on both brand and individual agendas. Consumers view brands that take action positively — especially when the brand message is associated with a visible action and immediate results, such as a charity donation that viewers can unlock.

Personal, not personalised

Ultimately, focusing on shared values opens up a wider pool of potential customers. You might lack the detailed knowledge of what type of products someone has previously browsed for, but you are also holding up a big umbrella under which you can comfortably fit a more diverse range of consumers. There’s more that unites us than divides us. A cliché, but it’s true.

So, instead of targeting people you know have been browsing for eco cosmetics, you can address all those who share a sustainability mindset and are likely to consider green values and credentials when making their purchasing decisions. The ad is not individually targeted, but when people see it carrying a message that engages their values, that’s a personal connection. And when we see something that aligns with things we care about, we pay attention to it. Millions of people might see the ad, but it means more to those who share that mindset.

It’s not personalisation, but it’s personal.

Action for attention

So what could this look like in practice? As consumers, we like brands that are like us and reflect our principles. Brands need to communicate their values and purpose with credibility and demonstrate to consumers what they do to live these values and how they can help consumers play a role in it too.

Partnering with charities that the target audience is likely to support and incentivising ad viewing with charitable donations can contribute to increased attention, higher engagement and a more positive view of the brand.

It’s not complicated — when ads feel personal, we pay them more attention. That’s one reason why formats that enable brands to showcase their values and purpose attract higher attention than traditional ones. What’s more, ads that are viewed for longer than two seconds generate six times greater spontaneous brand recall (Lumen Research, April 2023).

That’s a win-win for everyone: consumers get more meaningful communications and brands get a chance to get closer to them without accessing personal data.

Beyond cookies

This time next year, the marketing landscape should be cookie-free. But it could also be a more interesting place, especially from a consumer point of view.

Creating personal experiences without personal data won’t be easy, but it will push brands to innovate and explore new approaches. This can open up new avenues for continuing to build more personal, even if not personalised, relationships with audiences.

Amy Williams is CEO of Good-Loop

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