When Carl von Clausewitz penned On War in 1873, I seriously doubt he had marketing in mind, but in his articulation of the “fog of war” he proves that he gets us.

War is the realm of uncertainty; three-quarters of the factors on which action in war is based are wrapped in a fog of greater or lesser uncertainty. A sensitive and discriminating judgement is called for; a skilled intelligence to scent out the truth.

Now…go back and replace “War” with “Marketing.” I’ll wait here.

Our reality, as a culture, is that we have based our actions and language around war. We execute campaigns. We target. We blast. We relish when small actions go viral: like handing out smallpox infected blankets, we enjoy when something we knowingly unleash infects an unwitting population. We draw battle lines and segment our enemy, carefully noting their behaviors to exploit weaknesses. We hide code in the pixels and stalk our prey.

In military war games, the application of intelligence and enemy tracking, especially through friendly force tracking systems, is key to developing a winning strategy by understanding the behaviors and context of a target to determine the optimal time, attack vector and defense posture needed to win both the battle and the war. Go ahead and let me know when this stops feeling like a MarTech pitch.

In marketing’s culture of war, who is the enemy combatant? The customer is our enemy.

Now. Imagine that in this decades long game of war, someone comes along and says, sorry but we intend to cut off a key stream of skilled intelligence. In fact, we are going to demand that you must proclaim openly and clearly to your enemy what ammunition you have collected, how you will be using your ammunition and give clear opportunity for your enemy to walk off the battlefield with zero penalty or threat of attack. Not only that, but we are also going to cut off your supply of ammunition you obtain through other parties.

The death of the 3rd party cookie and the introduction of Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) has sent some marketers (and more than a few ad and social platforms) into a tailspin. The demise of the cookie, in particular, has been slowly ratcheting up the stress levels as brands and agencies come to terms with just how often 3rd party cookie data is leveraged for everything from “personalization” (yeah, I put it in quotes…) to campaign optimization.

But let’s take a breath and just look at consumer behaviors in the wake of the ATT launch in iOS 14.5. According to a study from Flurry Analytics, a whopping 96% of users in the US are opting OUT of ad tracking. Their tracking notes that from a sample of 2.5 million daily active users, about 4% are allowing apps access to the Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA). On the other side of the data-shock canal is a study from the team at AppsFlyer in which over 13.2 million instances of a prompt being shown to an end-user. In this study, 39% of those prompts resulted in the user tapping the ALLOW button. The highest rate of “allow” opt-in were across apps like photography (64%), Shopping (44%), finance (42%), food & drink (42%) and non-gaming apps (42%).

Two dramatically different data points from dramatically different points of view. What IS clear, regardless of data source: apps and brands that hold a pre-existing level of affinity with their user are enjoying the benefit of the relationship. Casual gamers, who are typically transient and bounce from farm to farm or puzzle to puzzle, are not typically brand-loyal…and their opt-outs are demonstrating that. For these developers, we are seeing an increase in requests for account sign-ups or pre-ATT prompt content that provides more space to share messages that are in context to the app and displayed at a time that feels less dire and intrusive than the ATT prompt.

Those developers who have taken the time to articulate the VALUE of this requested exchange are also avoiding falling off the cliff. It could be argued they are, for the first time, having an open and honest value exchange discussion with their new partner, the customer.

Customers are tired of being treated like the enemy, being forced to dodge and weave their way through brand’s interpretation of “personalization” that can often be more impersonal and aggravating than mutually valued and valuable. This new age of the customer is asking marketing as an industry and a strategy to rethink our posture of war. In the absence of certain weapons, is there another way to build points of connection between the goals of our businesses and the goals of our customers.

Marketing’s job is shifting from being the General perched on top of the fill looking to pierce the fog of war to craft winning strategy and more like a seasoned host or hostess that can understand that exact moment our guests could really use another glass of wine…and be ready with the perfect sip to keep the relationship and revelry going. It is about knowing who is and isn’t lactose intolerant…and accepting those last-minute curveballs of Kelly being vegan. Afterall, you don’t blast Kelly with information about burgers when she is telling everyone about Veganuary…yet that’s exactly what you do if Kelly is the enemy and you need to control her and force her to eat chicken.

It is easy (and understandable) to have big and bold reactions to the new path of privacy and customer-valued and defined identity. These shifts can feel like the rug is being pulled out from under our strategies. But they are also an opportunity to lean into the behaviors, intentions and higher-fidelity signals our customers are leaving across our own 1st party sources. This is why we’ve seen so many technology solutions from B2B like Demandbase to B2C like Criteo leaning into better ways to deliver efficient and effective engagements through 1st party data stores.

Regardless of where the cookie crumbles, the first thing we need to accept and change is our culture. We need to admit we have been fighting a war. We need to wave the white flag so we can see just how many of our customers are relieved and ready to welcome us to a new party.