Why tracking your marketing efforts is getting harder

Sarah Stockdale

For a long time marketers have been really efficient stalkers.

We cookie users and follow them around the internet. We track what they click on, watch, open, and read. We could pop up on their feeds just around the time they searched for a solution kinda similar to ours.

In our circles, we celebrated the best stalkers for their data science prowess and brains.

And our customers thought our abilities bordered on creepy (because… they did), and so the big tech cos started to claw back some of our tools. iOS 14 meant that in 2021, 63% of iPhone users said “nah” to us tracking their mobile behavior. Safari has been limiting tracking for years with Intelligent Tracking Prevention, and Mozilla disables cross-site tracking by default on Firefox.

Third party cookies, the little nibbles that allow us to track you from website to website and attribute what you were up to— are dying a slow and painful death. Google has implemented their Privacy Sandbox to test alternatives to third party cookies, and said they’re going away for good in the second half of 2024.

Even things we still think should be trackable, aren’t.

SparkToro just released a report showing how a number of social networks are not passing along referral traffic even when using UTMs. So that “direct traffic” report in GA is catching more and more traffic that *should* be trackable from social networks like LinkedIn and Mastodon.

So for us data driven marketers, this is a bit of a mysterious and challenging time.

What do you mean I can’t hire a data wonk to run some A/B tests, optimize the ad budget, and fix everything?

That era of marketing is gone, may he rest in his blue Patagonia fleece vest.

AI is about to make everything a lot more noisy. Creating mediocre content is now really really easy.

A new era is dawning.

And honestly, I’m more excited about marketing than I’ve ever been.

Because this era isn’t about watching and manipulating your customers—it’s about connecting to them. It’s not about optimizing, it’s about creating.

This new era will require a lot more problem-solving. It's also going to require us to be more human than ever.

We'll have to build real brand trust.

We'll have to build dark social strategies and get smart about how we measure our impact.

We'll have to connect with our customers in ways that AI can't replicate.

And we might have to do a lot of this on new platforms none of us have used yet.

It's going to require a ton of imagination, and it's going to be *really hard*.

But creativity comes from constraints— and these are the most interesting constraints I’ve seen in years.

The marketers that are going to win in the next few years will be the ones that meet these problems with humanity, creativity and a little bit of fun.

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