One of the buzzwords finding renewed popularity in the digital marketing space is context marketing, or the ability to look into the context of what your customers want and deliver on that need.
While the term itself is nothing new, having been around for at least the last ten years or so, its newfound fame sees it join content marketing, advocacy marketing, persona marketing, and influence marketing as terms that marketers are now including in their strategic and tactical briefs.
But here’s the thing – if you’re not already a “context marketer”, you need to ask yourself what kind of marketer you’ve been so far.
Context in Marketing is Nothing New
While social marketers looking to present a new billing revenue driver to clients might try and push context marketing as the new “must have solution”, the truth of the matter is context is nothing new when it comes to marketing.
Probably the simplest example of context marketing is an email drip campaign. Much like the term suggests, this uses automated selections (drips) based on recipient actions to move a customer along the purchase life cycle. A basic example would look like this:
- Email is sent out;
- Action taken (opened or ignored/bounced);
- If opened, move to the next stage (send a link to a download, free resource, etc). If bounced, clean list. If unopened, send different message;
- If new link from opened email acted upon, send a sales message/final call to action (CTA). If new message to the previously unopened email acted upon, move to the next stage (download link, free resource, etc.);
- Close the sale or move to next stage, or clean list;
- Rinse and repeat.
As you can see, this is a really simple overview of a drip campaign via email, that uses the context of the action to deliver the next phase, all the while moving the customer along the various stages of the purchase life cycle.
The reason this is pertinent, though, is it’s been happening for years, long before “context marketing” started to gain traction in the online space.
Context Marketing in the Offline Space
It’s not just the digital world where context marketing has been used before it even became a phrase. Retailers, for example, use context in everything they do when it comes to their marketing campaigns.
It’s why you’re occasionally asked for your postcode when shopping, or asked to fill out surveys online after your shopping experience. This data allows flyers to be targeted to the demographics of a specific neighbourhood based on age, gender, income, etc.
The same goes for seasonal ads – at their most basic level, these are also examples of context marketing at play. Look at the back-to-school ads that begin running in the weeks leading up to a new semester; or the games and toy ads that begin in early Fall for the festive season.
Then there’s the context of emotion and surroundings that sway the purchase decision based on where you are, and what your perception is of the venue you’re at.
For example, independent coffee houses play soft music, while mixing the scents of coffee with the aroma of scented candles and dimmed lights, to evoke a peaceful setting in which customers are more likely to stay longer and make repeat purchases.
Home stagers place a roast in the oven, or leave a freshly baked cake on the countertop, to evoke a feeling of homeliness to attract buyers.
All of this is context.
Understanding Your Buyer Through Context
The truth of the matter is context marketing is nothing more than understanding your customers, and this has been the heart of good marketing for decades – or should be.
Seen by many as the Father of Advertising, David Ogilvy nailed it in his belief that,
The function of advertising is to sell; successful advertising for any product is based on information about its consumer.
It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about advertising or marketing – knowledge of your buyer gives you the data you need to meet that buyer’s needs. In other words, understand your customer and you’ll have the context to be successful.
If you don’t understand your customer, whether you’re trying to retain or gain them, any message you put out will lose a large part of its effectiveness. Lose the effectiveness, lose the customer.