You’re probably an agri-marketer if you instinctively grasp the relationship between Facebook cookies and Roundup herbicide.

Roundup, a trademarked name for the broad-spectrum herbicide glyphosate, was a wildly effective product farmers used for decades to decimate weeds. Once paired with glyphosate-resistant crops, it was a juggernaut on the farm.

Glyphosate’s siren song was so enticing that it lulled much of the grower community into a habitual use that led to weed resistance. Eventually, some new weed control methods were needed to overcome that reliance. Importantly, farmers also found that a renaissance of more traditional approaches was effective in controlling weeds. Roundup worked so well that agriculture built behaviors and systems confident in its perennial effectiveness.

However, when weed resistance developed, farmers adapted, in part by going old-school and in part by embracing the new.

Let’s dunk that cookie

Here’s the parallel to marketing. We’ve grown reliant on building audiences and hyper-targeting on Facebook because it worked really well. Pick some interests, lay a cookie or two, flip some switches and reap the harvest.

Then two things happened.

First, Apple threw a punch in September of 2021 by forcing apps, including Facebook, to ask for permission to track a user’s data. Fewer than 20% of users said yes to that, curbing Facebook’s ability to sell its hyper-targeted audiences. Revenue for the social platform fell, which tanked its stock.

Secondly, Facebook broke its social contract with users. Facebook users invest in building their social circle, expecting to catch up with friends and family when they log on, not be “entertained” by people they don’t know. When they don’t see what they expect, they leave Facebook.

Time for marketing crop rotation

When things stop working, agri-marketers must respond just like the farmers we serve. Give pyridate a try, shift the budget to what works, plant some cover crops and if you’ve been around long enough, chuckle at things like old-school “context” ads - the marketing equivalent of QR codes or the farming equivalent of walking beans.

Some suggest that as much as 80% of budgets on paid Facebook/Instagram have been shifted elsewhere. If you’ve experienced a drop in effectiveness on social, you’ve likely shifted your budget too.

What next?

Just like animated gifs and 2,4D, sometimes what’s old works like new. Any agri-marketer worth their salt never gave up on the right mix of print, radio, direct, email marketing and farming publications’ digital offerings. The reason those tactics still work is that those media publishers are still trusted sources of information for farmers. A layered media plan gives you both the reach and frequency to convert. Diversify your marketing, just like farmers diversify their operations. As far as Facebook goes…

…Don’t build on rented land

And that rented ground turns out to be over-reliance on Facebook and its cookie-based audiences. Assets for the future are built on the ground you own, and at the center is first-party data. We’ve harped about this for years, and if you took our advice, you’re reaping the rewards. It is worth repeating: The data you own is one of your most valuable assets. Collect it correctly, and you can reach those audiences and still be privacy compliant.

While we can’t change the current trajectory of Facebook, we can, like farmers, use both time-tested and new tactics to increase our marketing yields.