Us vs. Them Thinking: You’ve Been Cookied

Cookie-monster I don't know if you have noticed, the way we talk about customers inside organizations, which is then refected at marketing events, can use some rethinking.

Many are still looking for easy transference of the same old ways of doing things from traditional marketing to social. Perhaps the signs of solutions in search of a problem, or maybe a symptom of hanging on for relevance in an environment that is changing.

The kind of talk that speaks of people as leads continues to be "us" vs. "them" thinking, and it means cutting out opportunity.

Before you jump all over me, we all recognize industry jargon for what it is, jargon. Yet, unless we begin to talk differently about what happens when we organize activities and content to be in contact with customers and prospects, we will continue to think of them as "leads".

Who loves to be called a lead? It's not just words. They affect the way we act, too. If it looks and smells and feels familiar to the old ways of doing things, it will get the same results. This is why traditional push marketing has run out of juice. And it is a symptom of a deeper issue.

The issue is businesses are way behind on the social media/networks adoption curve compared to their customers.

Customer as teachers

You can tell who has spent time with customers and who hasn't in your marketing group. Those who have, see customers as teachers and have a good grasp of what happens on the front lines with customer support and service.

Which is the reason why organizations that have continuity and true integration between customer service and marketing groups have a competitive advantage. This carries over into social, as people who are used to dealing with individual customers understand better where people come from — if they are any good and want to, of course.

This idea of customers as teacher is counter-intuitive, because so many of our interactions with customers in the past have been the result of dissatisfaction and issues, and not a proactive conversation.

You've been cookied

However, I strongly believe that those conversations will continue to be manufactured and ring as false as long as marketers think of customers as clicks to cookie on a site. Indeed, many are even using the term as a verb these days.

If you're not familiar with the term, here's how cookies work. Aurem Hoffman wrote a good post recently about the role of cookies in erasing online anonymity and proposed solutions to the issue. The truth is many customers are not aware of these practices today. Wait a couple of years, and more technology-savvy customers may. Or they may not. There is a reason why spam exists, it gets people.

There are all kinds of other stealth ways that organizations collect customer data. What is not being done today, is using that data to actually help the customer, instead of hoarding those cookies in the company's jar for immediate gratification by marketers.

I dump all cookies at every session and resist the urge to sign up for papers, unless I use a throwaway email address. I look to supporting, buying from and interacting with organizations that make products I love and talk and act as "us" as much as possible.

You've been cookied to me means that there is little intention of getting to the true interaction part. More marketing done to you, than thinking about customers as teachers. When I had this conversation with direct marketing colleagues, they pushed back — almost implied that customers want to be cookied.

So I naturally wonder, do you mind? Is this something you never thought about? Do you manage the cookies in your browser?


[image control in the new TypePad composer is weird. I would have preferred more margin wrapped around the text. Then again, nobody asked this customer what features were helpful.]

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0 responses to “Us vs. Them Thinking: You’ve Been Cookied”

  1. If you consider the offline world, credit bureaus have enough information on you to allow credit card companies to send pre-approved offers to you via direct mail. In a similar vein, online cookies could be just a small start to something much bigger about your online identity. I think the issue is that there is a lack of transparency around the topic – I’m glad you bring it up! Great post and love your blog!

  2. I believe there is some merit in learning from your customers whom you successfully established a relationship with and the online activity of your ‘leads’. This is where the cookie part steps in. Cookies may have gotten a bad rep as sales reps and even marketers play ‘big brother’ by calling prospects when they see them return to a site or crafting their conversation based on pages viewed (borderline creapy but full of data!). Suyog touched upon it in the comment as well but, I would ask ‘what part of our lives is not being ‘cookied’?’ Credit cards are tracked for purchase patterns, our cell phones are monitored regularly and the government just proposed that all online conversations are monitored (including my comments on your blog).
    To answer your question, I do not actively monitor the cookies in my browser. I think there is an opportunity for marketers to leverage the data collected by these tracking tools but keep it internal to learn what’s resonating and what’s not.

  3. I had no idea businesses felt so strongly about cookies. The fact that it’s used as a verb is news to me as well!
    This reminds me of entering my full contact information to get a free white paper, only to find the white paper is merely a sales brochure of minimal value to me, that leads to phone calls and emails. Please drink a knife. That’s BS.
    Lead generation is inherently crooked.
    Community development is where it’s at.
    Now, I think I’ll review my cookie settings…

  4. @Suyog – not if you opted out, they are not, which I did. In addition to lack of transparency, there is a lack of respect and consideration for customers. I have repeatedly opted out of telemarketing calls with current providers to continue to get annoying recorded phone calls. Which is when I buy with competitors.
    @Gianandrea – what gets me is that marketers are people, too, aren’t they?
    @Brian – I have been in enough inside conversations to know that we need to start thinking about customers differently. And of value, of course. Then again, often the direct marketing teams don’t collaborate well with the demand generation people. In that case, the one cookie is the only reward perceived for the group and they must have it 🙂

  5. Valeria, apparently they are humans too. This is the reason why we do perform web monitoring with a staff of copywriters and publicists: people that can read and understand before turning everything in a bottom line.

  6. I definitely haven’t personally seen Cookie used as a verb in the business circles I’ve run in. Nor do we use it. But I’m not surprised that it has.
    The point that traditional marketing push has run out of juice cannot be understated. I think we’re all over saturated with messages. I know I filter out most everything unless it sparks an emotional chord. That’s getting harder and harder for me. (Or my filter’s getting stronger).
    That said, I just read how new web standards – html5 is opening the door to further penetration of cookies and will make it harder to remove them from your computer, further eroding whatever privacy you thought you had – or could maintain – online. Unscrupulous advertisers could use them to get a lot more personal data than the average user might think possible. And it’ll be tough for web browsers to keep up and manage them all:

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