There has been a lot of buzz recently about “contextual marketing” and along with the buzz there seems to be confusion as to what contextual marketing really means.
Interestingly, I think many of us would argue that every marketing campaign is contextual. After all, the definition of context is, “the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed.”
If we think about the word and its meaning for even a second we would realize that our goals, objectives, creative briefs, and measurement strategies provide us with the business context for the campaign. Our creative (content or ads) reflects the needs and sentiments of the customer, and our media strategy mirrors the demographics, behavior, affinities, and state of mind of the customer. So what’s the deal?
To answer that question, I decided to take a step back, ask questions of my clients and study a myriad of articles and reports on the subject. Hopefully, this blog will help all of us get on the same page about what contextual marketing means in a world of customer empowerment, big data, personalization at scale, and on demand lifestyles.
Contextual Marketing is Not a New Idea.
From my informal research it appears some think contextual marketing is a new idea. Well, it’s not. Cable TV and Magazine Publishers have been selling their advertising space based on context for decades, with pitches espousing the merits of everything from the environment the messages appear in is as important as the message itself, to targeting customers based on their psychographics, affinities, and behaviors.
The difference now is the evolution of technology, our customers pervasive use of that technology, and the data it provides. The result is a level of granularity (all the way down to “in the moment”) not previously afforded. It was certainly difficult before the advent of online and mobile commerce to isolate which messages and environments delivered the desired results. Not anymore.
It is this granularity and complexity that is causing us to relook at contextual marketing, redefine it, and develop new processes for delivering (and measuring) the old adage of “the right message, to the right people, at the right time”. This is where, I believe, we need to focus our thinking. We need to make sure we are all on the same page as to what contextual marketing means today and prepare for what it might mean tomorrow…
The Evolution: The Right Customer Experience, at the Right Time, in the Right Place.
The first thing we need to do is separate business context from customer context, which, in many organizations gets “rolled together”. In Selligent’s recent white paper, Context Changes Everything: A New Foundation for Delivering Customer Value, they provide an illuminating infographic that breaks down the business and customer circumstance. They go on to state, “Knowing the balance of customer and business circumstances, and beginning to gather and leverage the right data to expose each, gives marketers the opportunity to deliver new and improved levels of value for customers, and the possibility of changing the very relationship they have with them.”
This, in my opinion is the very essence of where businesses, and in particular, marketers need to focus their attention. Before we can truly deliver contextual marketing we need to create a complete picture of the end to end customer lifecycle and journey. Only if we understand where and when our brand “fits” within this lifecycle and journey can we begin to address our customers’ needs and wants with the right experiences, delivered in the right place, at the right time.
Timing is Everything!
In fact, I would argue that “timing is everything” in our on-demand world. Sure, the right place is important, but our omni-channel organizations should be able to take care of “place”. But delivering experiences at “the right time” takes on a whole new meaning within a multi-tasking, 24/7, digital lifestyle. So if we are to achieve customer loyalty, our customer lifecycle and journey insights need to include a thorough understanding of when our customers are “in the mood”, or have the attention span, to engage with our brand. And, of course, getting the timing right comes with its own challenges. In my estimation, it will push us to examine our internal resources and processes for hyper time sensitive delivery of the appropriate and personalized experience.
Constantly Evolving Sophistication
I think I’ve demonstrated that contextual marketing is not a new idea, but that its definition is evolving as customer sophistication evolves. And, let’s agree that context is everything for any successful marketing campaign, especially in the age of customer empowerment and their on-demand state of mind.
Finally, let’s give more thought to how we can uncover the necessary insights to drive customer loyalty that elevates timing as a critical element driving our chances of success. Because one thing is for sure, the right experience, in the right place, at the right time is not an easy algorithm to solve, partly because we are dealing with fickle humans, but also because the relationship between technology and the customer is only going to continue to evolve, with customers becoming more sophisticated, and marketing’s need for real time insights even more critical.
For more about how VeraCentra provides end-to-end customer lifecycle and journey solutions for our clients go to, veracentra.com.
About the Author: Connie is passionate about customer relationship strategy and truly understands consumer behavior. An executive level advisor for some of the world’s most prestigious brands, Connie has a track record of delivering game changing customer strategy alongside significant bottom line results. Through the years, companies such as GE Capital, Intuit Software and Costco Wholesale have sought Connie’s expertise. Connie is President and Founder of VeraCentra, a Customer Relationship Agency.
VeraCentra’s Closed Loop Solution is an integrated approach that brings together relationship strategy and data scientist teams to overcome technology and data challenges to help yield actionable customer insights. And our Journey design services coupled with our digital platform integration team work in parallel to advance action, creating and automating customer messages. Our Closed Loop Solution is fully integrated, allowing you to realize a quick return on your customer relationship marketing investment.