Marketo and the Future of Cookie Tracking

Generally when someone takes something away there’s a tendency to view it as a loss. Yesterday it was on the ledger and today it’s missing, so we assume that we are somehow diminished by it. Recently, some marketers have been feeling that way about 3rd party cookies as they have been subjected to blocking and other measures of censure. But do these changes in the browser ecosystem actually represent a loss, and if so what are the implications for Marketo users? Before this question can be adequately addressed, it’s worth remembering that in the realm of internet tracking there are a variety of cookie types in use.

The predominant type is the 1st Party Cookie, this cookie provides considerable value to the website visitor as it provides useful functions such as keeping the person logged in during a session or remembering form fill data. Reciprocating value is realized by the marketer as cookies also function to associate a visitor’s profile with their website interactions. Pre-conversion activities can also be logged and then retroactively associated with a visitor’s identifying information should it be provided at a later date. First-person tracking is not considered a compromise to a website visitor’s privacy because there is a clear connection between the browsing activity and the domain that the website visitor is interacting with. First-person cookies are here to stay for the foreseeable future and are not being called into question. In this respect, Marketo is on solid ground as the code that places the cookies (known as Munchkin code), sets tracking through 1st person cookies.

In contrast to the steadfast nature of the 1st party cookie is the 3rd party cookie. It is this type of cookie that has been slated for sunsetting by the browser developers. Two years ago Apple began blocking 3rd party cookies via an update to Safari. Mozilla was quick to follow suit with similar amendments to Firefox. Rolling out this April, Google’s new release of Chrome 90 will provide convenient access to privacy settings that will allow users to opt out of third party tracking. This is only a stop on the way to completely disassociate Chrome from 3rd party cookies. The elimination of 3rd party cookies will effectively eliminate, or at the very least, completely overhaul how re-marketing initiatives are conducted. On screen this will result in the elimination of ads that appear to have an uncanny knowledge of your shopping preferences. Although many people are comfortable with this type of tracking behaviour, others see it as a breach of privacy and have been vocal about the need to halt the practice.

Marketers who rely heavily on 3rd party cookies reach potential buyers through associative means as they push messaging out on ad networks. To some extent, they are satisfied with relationships that achieve reach through a broadcast model that is inherently impersonal. Although this may generate reasonable returns, studies show that marketers who cultivate closer and more targeted relationships with their prospects realize greater profitability.

So what does this have to do with you as a Marketo user? Well, the news could be good. Those who have well developed marketing automation capabilities in hand (and that by definition includes Marketo users) are already forging close relationships with their prospects. Competitors who have been relying on the broadcast models made possible by 3rd party cookies will now be playing catch-up as they develop competencies in relationship based marketing.

Those who are best positioned to capitalize on this imminent change will be well practiced in the following:

  • gaining trust early in the sales lifecycle
  • adept at getting prospects to self-identify
  • gaining needed permissions from prospective customers
  • capable of building communities within a market


In summary, the marketers who are set to gain are those who are already skilled at marketing automation. So although the elimination of 3rd party cookies may at first appear to be a tool that is being taken away (and by some measures, it is that) it also represents a unique opportunity to capture market share from competitors who have been content to rely on comparatively passive marketing strategies. Savvy Marketo users will be afforded a nice window of opportunity to continue meaningful exchanges with their leads and contacts in the absence of competitive tracking ads from their competitors.

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Jeff Stiles is a marketing automation specialist, and digital marketing enthusiast. His favourite colour is #00a3e0, formerly Pantone 299 C.