Marketers have been hearing about changes in tracking cookies for months now—namely, third-party cookies' deprecation to fit privacy law standards.

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But why, in the first place, is the fate of third-party cookies so grim? Why all the scrutiny?

It might be easier to understand after listening to data privacy expert Jodi Daniels describe the nature of a cookie using a metaphor that host George B. Thomas calls "creepy."

"The general essence of a cookie is some little tracking piece," Jodi explains in episode 555 of Marketing Smarts. "Imagine you're outside going for a walk, and someone is behind you with a little notepad. They note what you're wearing. They note how far it is from your house to the Starbucks. They note what you're getting at the Starbucks. They note what kind of car you drove. They note everything else that you're doing."

Yikes. But those tracking pieces have helped companies target their audience in the digital world for years. Now, privacy laws are changing that.

In a cookieless world, "We're not going to have that ability to track with a little piece of code unless the person opts in to do so," Jodi says.

And why would they opt-in?

Trust: "You want to build the relationship on trust for me to give more data so that you can use those analytics more effectively to send me the right messaging," she says. "You want [the] message to not make me think, 'Why did I get this?'"

It's a question that pertains to creepiness as well as inaccuracy.

Listen to the entire show from the link above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode.

"Marketing Smarts" theme music composed by Juanito Pascual of Signature Tones.

Full Transcript: How Marketers Can Navigate a World Minus Cookies

George B. Thomas: Imagine a world without cookies. Chocolate chip cookies… Macadamia nut cookies… Those probably aren't the cookies that we're talking about. Today we are talking about how marketers can navigate a world minus cookies, and what the heck does that even mean. Of course, I'm joined by Jodi Daniels. We're going to talk about what keeps Jodi up at night, how to get started as B2B marketers in navigating a cookieless world, we're going to talk about hurdles, success, and of course we'll land the plane somewhere around words of wisdom that Jodi wants to leave us with.

A little bit about Jodi. Jodi Daniels is the founder and CEO of Red Clover Advisors, a privacy consultancy that brings data privacy strategy and compliance together with its flexible and scalable approach that simplifies data privacy and complexity; refines, updates, or builds privacy structure; and makes both the business and the legal issue accessible and actionable for all. Jodi is a certified informational privacy professional and serves as the outsource privacy officer for companies.

Jodi Daniels is a national keynote speaker, co-host of the top ranked She Said Privacy / He Said Security Podcast, and co-author of Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling book Data Reimagined: Building Trust One Byte at a Time. She also has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, Forbes, Authority Magazine, Thrive Global Inc, and more. Jodi holds a master's of business administration and a bachelor's of business administration from Emory University Goizueta Business School.

With a guest like that, you know there's going to be some nuggets along the way, so get that notepad ready. Marketing Smarts listeners, you know what time it is, how you as a B2B marketer can navigate a world minus cookies and what the heck does that even mean with Jodi Daniels. Let's get into the good stuff.

Are you ready to have a conversation about cookies? Are you like me and every time you hear the word cookies, you think about the Cookie Monster or chocolate chip cookies? That's not the type of cookies we're talking about. I'm super excited because we have Jodi Daniels here today, the expert to talk about how marketers can navigate a world minus cookies.

Jodi, how are you doing today?

Jodi Daniels: I am good. You've made me really hungry. I have to say that chocolate chip cookies are literally my favorite food on the planet.

George: Cookies should just be one of the staple food groups. I'll have to write somebody about that. One of the things that I like to do is I like to ask interesting questions in the podcast. There's a couple that I throw in here just for some effect and see where it goes. The first one that we love to start out with is, it could be a dream or it could be a nightmare, but when you think about a world minus cookies, what keeps you up at night?

Jodi: That's a very interesting question. I think it's around the idea that you have built a massive ecosystem with agencies, ad tech, publishers, and advertisers who have all relied on where we are. We're going to talk a little bit about how we got here and why we're moving to the cookieless universe, but I don't want it all to collapse. We would have advertisers who can't reach people with their goods that are important, we might need to buy these things that they've been targeting us for. You have people's jobs that are on the line, livelihoods, companies, dreams that have all been here.

I really actually hope that we can collectively as an industry, and I think everyone listening has a role in this conversation and I'm glad that you've tuned in, to be able to help make sure that we can navigate effectively to what's next without causing a serious demise.

George: It's so interesting to hear you go in that direction. There are two words that for some reason just popped out to me. You said have relied on, and then you said have the responsibility to. I think that's going to be interesting to think about relying on something as you move forward and what that will be, and being responsible in the way that you act or do things and what things might be as well.

Let's back up. We have to have a little bit of a history lesson here. I'm fearful as a marketer that I might be part of the problem historically. I'm fearful that maybe some of the Marketing Smarts listeners might hear themselves in your answer. Jodi, how the heck did we get here, why do we need a cookieless future?

Jodi: Well, it ties to that word responsibility. I was one of those people early on who participated in the journey. For anyone listening, you might hear all kinds of experts come on and talk about privacy. I actually got to privacy from targeted advertising. I stalked you for cars. You're welcome.

How we got here is because the cookie, the little piece of code that has been traveling the internet times thousands of companies who have packaged it all together and shared and sold and then leveraged and used it so that I could be encouraged to buy a new pair of shoes, or a package of gluten-free cookies that I just have to have, or the new kitchen light that I didn't buy but you really want me to have, or I forgot to get it in my shopping cart, please give it to me now. Every time you have some type of tool or technology, people are going to use it for good and then you're going to have some actors who don't, and they push the envelope too far.

What has happened is we have privacy laws that have arisen. There's been privacy laws for a while, but to help with the modern day, GDPR, which actually while we're recording this recently celebrated its fifth birthday. We all need to have some cookies in honor of its fifth birthday. Forget those cupcake things, we're doing cookies.

In all seriousness, we had this big law that now said hold on, let's really understand what is actually happening. There was no control, there was no ability for the individual to decide what was collected, stop the collection, be informed of the collection. There was no part until GDPR came on the scene. Since then, there has been a plethora of laws that have shifted the landscape from a privacy perspective.

The "how we got here" is kind of what you learned in kindergarten, a few people were the bad actors and now there's a bunch of rules.

George: First of all, I was not one of those bad actors, so I will be able to sleep tonight. Marketing Smarts listeners, I'm sure you were not one of those folks as well.

What's interesting, when I hear you talk about GDPR, I want to go off the beaten path for a second. Some people understand what that means. There's a lot of people that might not know what that means. We're going to dive in a little bit deeper to some other things, as far as legal acts and all that stuff. What would you say to the business that goes, "Isn't that a UK thing?"

Jodi: It was that EU thing that also then had to be copied to be a UK thing, which is getting updated again because it's been five years. It is the big modern-day privacy law focused on the way the global economy and data is being shared. While it was passed in the EU, anyone around the globe who was targeting or tracking people based in the EU then had to comply. It made it a global law that everyone had to be paying attention to, even if you were based in the US and it was overseas. I used to tell people if you were a solo blogger with a global audience, congratulations, you still had to pay attention to it.

What I think is unique about that law compared to many of the ones that we have in the US is there is no floor, they expect a company to treat each individual with the same amount of respect whether you're a small solo blogger or a large multinational, because in their mind it's an individual-first as opposed to a company-first law. I think that's a pretty critical piece to understanding how we got here. Before, it was always based on what was good for the company. Now there is a shift for companies to think about we have to put the person first.

George: By the way, I love that. Not only from a law perspective, but from a marketing and sales strategy of putting the human first in these processes. There's going to be a lot of things that we might bump against the word trust as we continue our conversation through this.

Let's back up a couple of feet. One of the things that I try to do is level-set to all of the different types of listeners so that they fully understand I am prepared to now run with the rest of this session because we're talking about the same thing. When you say to navigate a world minus cookies and all of the cool tactics and strategies you listed two questions ago, what the heck do you even mean by minus cookies, what does that equal for us?

Jodi: Let's define the cookie. There is a little piece of code that drops on a computer when you go to website ABC, and then there's a couple hundred or a couple thousand, depending on the size of the company, that might keep getting dropped as you continue on that website or a bunch of other websites. What that means is if I go to the shoe website and I don't buy shoes, I can now go browse the web, go to my favorite social media platform, and they can serve me up an ad that tries to encourage me to buy those shoes.

There are also some other cookies along the way to analyze how effective the ad was. Maybe in the car space, I was looking at a blue car, but you really want to sell me a silver car, or you really want to make sure that I don't get a silver car, you really want me to have a blue car, or you want to make sure that I don't see five ads all the time. There's a variety of different kinds of cookies. Not all cookies are created equal and not all cookies are bad. The general essence of a cookie is some little tracking piece.

If I use this analogy, it often helps people understand the tracking piece a little bit more and as we start to build for trust. We talked about this digital cookie trail that is created when you're online. Imagine you're outside going for a walk, and someone is behind you with a little notepad. They note what you're wearing. They note how far it is from your house to the Starbucks. They note what you're getting at the Starbucks. They note what kind of car you drove. They note everything else that you're doing. You're going to go to this office, you're going to order this for lunch, go to this yoga gym, play these music stations, come home, open your fridge, have your smart TV watch your shows, and we could keep going.

After the first 30 seconds when you notice this person behind you with the little notebook, you probably would stop and say, "What are you doing? I don't want that tracking anymore." In my example, I followed you the entire day. That is what is happening in the land of cookies, we are following the trail all the time to be able to capture that data to build profiles. I'm a mom in Atlanta. Someone else is a younger demographic in Atlanta. Someone else likes sports. Someone else likes luxury cars. All different kinds of profiles are getting created left and right.

In a land minus cookies, I'm not going to be able to build those profiles reliant on somebody else to do that in the same way. In some places, I have to opt in for the tracking and the cookie. A few people might do that. A significant majority might not do that because they don't like the idea of the tracking, they don't want the person behind them writing everything down, even if it is an invisible piece of code doing it on a website, which is what I used to do. We're not going to talk about how long ago, because that's going to make me older, but it was before social media was doing it because they wanted our data.

In all seriousness, what we mean is we're not going to have that ability to track with a little piece of code unless the person opts in to do so. I'm not going to be able to have the same easy mechanisms. I'm going to have to rely on other tools and methodologies to be able to get us there.

George: First of all, Marketing Smarts listeners, rewind and just listen to that again. If we have a whole lot of listeners listening to this episode, there will probably be less people that will actually accept the cookies. For the first time in my life, I was like oh my god, that's creepy. I would be like, "What is going on right now?" You don't really think about it that way unless you're having the conversation that we're having today of there is this thing tracking you with a notepad and it knows everything.

Here's what's fun for me. As I start to think about the fact of if this is the case of what's been happening and where we're going and privacy, it's not going backward, it's only going to go forward, how the heck can marketers navigate this in a way that they can still do the things that they need to do? Like you said earlier, you might need that product. As a marketer, what are some key elements that we have to be thinking about or leaning into as we go forward and navigate this they didn't approve it, they did approve it, it doesn't exist, we don't have that anymore when people convert on our site?

Talk me through that whole mental mess that happens in my brain.

Jodi: There's a variety of different options that exist. We only have a little bit of time, so we can cover some of the big ones. I think the biggest one that has been talked about for years is first-party data, which companies have already been doing. The angle that I really want to help organizations focus on is how to get accurate first-party data and how to build the relationship.

I recently was at, and this happens almost always for coffee shops—not only coffee shops, I know it happens at other places, too—"Thank you so much for stopping by. Here is your receipt." Then it's the first email, though most recently I think it was the third email, but in a week's time, "We'd like to know your birthday to give you a birthday coupon." I don't know about you, but typically I don't walk around with a sign that says, "Here's my birthday. Give me free coffee or 10% off." I want free coffee, that sounds great, but I don't know who you are and what you're going to do with that information yet.

That's just an example. It's almost the how-soon-is-too-soon to ask for all the information. Especially in a digital situation where you don't see the person, you have to build a relationship with that person on the other side. Depending on what you're selling, that's going to determine the right cadence for how that relationship is going to get built, how soon you ask whichever questions are important for you.

What often happens is, you're going to ask too many questions too soon. Maybe I'll answer your birthday question, because I like my free coffee, and I'm going to give you the wrong birthdate. Let's say I give you wrong information. You go try and append it with something else, and you're going to get a mess.

What if it's a different question? How many people listening here have ever answered the question of how much you make, what your household income is, and you pick either the I prefer not to answer or you just pick any category that sounds lovely, but you don't give accurate information? Now all of the marketers listening are using the wrong information.

I feel like when it comes to first-party data, the very first piece that people are missing is realizing that you want to build the relationship on trust for me to give more data so that you can use those analytics more effectively to send me the right messaging, so then I convert more. We can pause there for a second to see if you have any thoughts for me.

George: I do. First of all, that was a great tease, so you convert more. I wanted to lean in, but then I was like, I wanted to finish that. So, don't forget about that convert more, because I think that might even part of where my brain is going. You're talking about trust, and I hear all of the things that you're saying, and the question I want to ask you is way off the beaten path. How important is patience moving forward to marketers and what they're actually trying to achieve?

Jodi: That's a very unique question. I think it's incredibly important. Part of the challenge is I think executives who are relying on marketers want immediate results because we've been trained to live in this world of immediate action. No one wants to wait or be patient. I can do everything I ever wanted to do on a phone. In this new world, not everything is always going to be immediate. It's about building relationships.

For some products, it's going to be immediate. For some products, it's not. If you're in a B2B environment, that could be a long sale. If you're selling a home, you don't typically buy homes every day, that's a long-tail relationship. In the car industry, anywhere from three to seven years is the typical turn, whether you're in a lease or buying. If it's a shirt, it depends on how often I want to buy a shirt and what demographic I'm in.

Some of the other things to think about are, where do you have phases that are natural phases and you can move upstream. Take someone selling anything in the kids market. One of my favorite examples is furniture.

There's an organization, I bought something, and they still send me the nursery emails. I don't want the nursery emails. They can probably figure out the first time that I bought was 10 years ago, and that child is no longer in a crib. I don't have the opportunity to change it. It's either nursery or all kids, there is no in-between. I want to give you more data. Please, company, let me give you better data so you can give me more accurate emails.

Then what happens? Two things. The flip side to the first-party data. Marketers, think about how hard it is for you to get me on your list, to get me to give you data, then I give it to you, and you send me these stinky emails. My option is either unsubscribe from all or keep getting these annoying emails. There hasn't been the right preference center, which is another place, in my mind, to save the unsubscribe and give you more information. I might not want what you're giving me, but I still like you. Just let me decide what it is that I want to hear from you.

George: It's so interesting. My mind is going a thousand miles an hour right now. One of the things that I deal with almost on a daily basis with folks that we help is email preferences. I was like, "Oh my god, are we thinking about the way that we let people pick where they are in their relationship, their lifecycle, whatever you want to call it, with the way that they would like us to communicate with them, are we doing it all wrong," when I heard you say that. I'm doing a podcast, I can't go down this funnel.

Here's the thing. I want to get back to those conversions when you were like, to convert more. I want to know where you were going to go with that, but I also want to layer on if it is part of it. Maybe it's not. Where my brain goes is, if I need to get more valuable data, if it is about being patient, if it is going back to what I'll call old school trust, handshake, we really know each other, how important is it to have a lead conversion strategy that is based off of its handing off to something else that somebody might actually want to engage with?

Jodi: I think it's a combination of those things. At the end of the day, marketers have a job, which is to sell stuff. That's what the company is here for, to sell whatever product or service is here. The marketing is all about you're going to have brand awareness, you're going to have very specific direct messaging, you're going to have very tactical campaigns. There is room and a place for all of those different kinds of activities.

If we're talking about this idea of first-party data and how I'm going to get a message to you, depending on that product and service is going to determine how long it takes for someone to convert. Everyone's typical conversion time is going to be different. Whenever it is that is the accurate time for you, you want my message to not make me think, "Why did I get this message?"

Talking about email marketing, I can't tell you how many people are getting on email lists, or they've gathered a bunch of data, they bought a list, or they're people that they haven't emailed in a long time and they want to email them. That's not going to convert well because I'm going to have my—very official term—"scratch your head" test. We don't want people to have the scratch-your-head test because then they go down the unsubscribe, then you have to have your preference center that you just talked about setting up.

Instead, we want them to feel like, "Oh my gosh, I have to have this." That's what copywriters are doing, or AI tools that copywriters are reviewing now, whatever version of that. The copy has to convert. This is the most amazing thing, it's going to solve my problem, or I just have to have this, I'm going to convert. Wouldn't it be amazing if you had the right data to get the right people to convert on the right products?

Cookies helped us in one avenue trying to get better targeting, which is where when you said are we going back to old school, I feel like it's better. We do have the ability to have better data to be able to segment your audience in a manner that we didn't before digital was here. Because digital is kind of being abused, we have to backtrack and change things.

The ability to have that first-party data means we can be very specific and be able to convert people, potentially more quickly because you can shorten the funnel. Also, potentially shorten the trust window based on the kind of data that you're able to get. But if you push too quickly, then you're going to mess the whole thing up.

George: There's two things that I love in that section, by the way. I love the ninja throat punch to AI-assisted writing tools that you just threw in there. Then I love when I heard you say, marketers are here to sell stuff. It's so true. If you are a modern marketer, understanding that you have to be generating revenue, there has to be a direct line to ROI, it makes it so that you have more job stability and security because you're not just something that is absorbing money out of the budget. To hear you say marketers are here to sell stuff, I absolutely love that.

Time flies when we're having fun, and I am having fun with this episode, but let's keep chugging along. I want to drive into what are some of the potholes, some of the hurdles that B2B marketers might run into. Are there things—one, two, three—that you'd be like, just watch out for this?

Jodi: That is a very unique question as well. You have lots of really great unique questions, George. I think in terms of potholes, it's thinking that any of the cool technologies that are being sold to you are going to solve all of it. Take your CMP flavor of the month, or a CRM on steroids, or the idea of a clean room. One of the other ideas that I wanted to bring up was a clean room, because we talked a lot about first-party data, and some of the other ways that companies can navigate in a cookieless era is going to be a clean room.

The technologies are only going to work as well as the data is here. If you have really good solid data that you can put into a clean room, or that you can use in a CDP, then those tools will be really beneficial. If you're hoping it's going to be magic with little fairy wands, then it's not going to be. I think people who don't do the homework, don't really understand the technology as well and what it can do for them, or don't understand how it can work and there is a privacy impact that they didn't appreciate.

For example, in a clean room, you want to make sure the data that you're sharing is in line with your own privacy notice and is in line with your own contracts that you have, or you could create a big privacy snafu. Then you get to the legal team, and they tell you, "No, you can't do this." So, you want to avoid those kinds of things and build them all upfront.

Those would be some of the big pitfalls that I see B2B people have.

George: Let's pump the brakes for a hot second. The folks that are listening that heard you say clean room and are like, "Huh? What is that?" Can you just share what a clean room is, if they have it and don't know it, if they might not have it? Just wax poetic on that for a couple hot minutes.

Jodi: A clean room, at its simplest, is an organization that allows different companies to bring data there and share it without the personal information actually going to the other party.

Let's say you're Company A and I'm company B. We want to share our information together, but I don't really want you to actually have my data, I just want to be able to glean some of the benefits of it, and the same is true on the other side. We would go to the clean room company, put the data in there, and that company is the one that does all the matchy-matchy. We say, "I really want to run a campaign over here." We facilitate that through that clean room to be able to do it.

So, we get the benefit of merging data in a more privacy-friendly way, and that allows all the benefits that you would have of trying to merge data, but in a privacy-happy way.

George: Super dope. Thank you for hitting that so that the listeners understand that that's either a thing that they could do or that they have been doing. If they've been doing it, they probably understood the term, but I digress.

One of the things that I like to do is look at both sides of the coin. I asked you about potholes and hurdles. What does success look like? How do we know as an organization or as a group of B2B marketers inside of an organization that we're navigating a world minus cookies, but we've reached marketing nirvana in said scenario? What does that look like?

Jodi: We've been talking about segments for years, the idea of segmenting your audience, account-based marketing, etcetera. Those are not new terms. Success, though, is where you get it right, and it goes back to the data.

If we start with how we got here, in a cookie universe, you could rely on your own data, but you didn't necessarily have to. There are some other new cookie tools coming out. There's server-to-server that will allow you to do things more on your side, so it will still allow for some of that targeting. But if I go with the idea of segmentation, the more data you have, the better your own CRM will be, the better you can leverage a CDP, the better you can use a clean room, the better you can use any of the new tools and technology that will be here.

That's where you get that conversion again. The companies I see that are successful have a clean data set. In other words, it's not messy with I have data in this database, and I have data over in that database, but they don't actually sync to each other. I've seen situations where they have preference centers, "Jodi wants option A and B," but it didn't sync properly to the other tools and systems. That's not really clean data, because when you as a marketer are relying on either of those systems, the data didn't go back and forth the way that it was supposed to.

Success actually kind of starts with a clean data environment. I don't mean to say clean data warehouse, but just getting all of your data in order is one of the first places. Then you can put on top of it all of the other cool tools, and then you can leverage all of the segments, doing so properly.

George: I love the conversation of data hygiene. I love that conversation. I would have that on a daily basis, because it helps us do the right things with what we're trying to do inside of marketing.

I usually have a final question, and I'm going to ask you that final question, but I vaguely remember you saying something earlier in the episode that you wrote a book. Tell me and the listeners a little bit more about said book and why they might be interested in it.

Jodi: I would love to. Thank you. The book is called Data Reimagined: Building Trust One Byte at a Time. It was written for people like all of you listening, it is for the business professional who is not a privacy and security expert but needs to understand the universe of privacy and why it matters. Maybe you listening do understand it, but your executive team isn't completely getting it. A lot of times, it's marketers who come and say, "I really need this cookie banner thing, or this privacy notice. Help me figure it out."

We start there, but there's all these other areas that you have to pay attention to. What we do is we use real stories, we've protected the innocent, but they're all real stories that we have encountered and experienced. We use humor throughout to try to make a topic that might not be at the top of everyone's list (except for mine) on privacy and security, and explain it in a manner that makes everyone go, "Oh, I can see how that is really valuable. I can see how building trust with customers makes some sense." That is our book.

George: Love it. Thanks for sharing that. Jodi, this has been absolutely amazing. I have learned some stuff, and I'm sure that the Marketing Smarts listeners have learned a few things along the way as well. Hopefully, they have the rewind button and a notepad, a tablet, or some chalk for their wall, whatever they need to move forward in the right way.

My last question for you, because we're all on a journey, and you've been on a journey as far as privacy and GDPR and all of the things that are coming from those directions, what are some words of wisdom based on that journey? What would you want to share with the Marketing Smarts listeners? It could be about a cookieless future, it could be about building trust, I'll even open it up to it could be about life itself. What words of wisdom do you want to leave us with?

Jodi: Today we're talking about cookieless. There are new tools that will come out, and then those tools will continue to change. We have AI that is going to continue to change the universe.

What I would offer is to understand your customer and put the customer first. Include other people, and really realize that the journey you're on is to help explain to your customers why they should be buying XYZ. Think about that relationship, and don't forget that it really is all about trust as the end goal of building a lifelong relationship with that customer or company, and to really ask for help.

George: Marketing Smarts listeners, did you take lots of notes? I have to ask, what is your one thing, your number one execution opportunity after this podcast episode? Make sure you reach out and let us know in my inbox or on Twitter using the hashtag #MPB2B.

I also have to ask are you a free member of the MarketingProfs community yet? If not, head over to You won't regret the additional B2B marketing education that you'll be adding to your life.

We'd like it if you could leave us a rating or review on your favorite podcast app, but we'd love it if you would share this episode with a coworker or friend. Until we meet in the next episode of the Marketing Smarts Podcast where we talk with Adrian Moreno about how to become the go-to expert in your niche, I hope you do just a couple of things. One, reach out and let us know what conversation you'd like to listen in on next. Two, focus on getting 1% better at your craft each and every day. Finally, remember to be a happy, helpful, humble B2B marketing human. We'll see you in the next episode of the Marketing Smarts Podcast.

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