Why Marketers and Context Have to Be BFFs

Why context needs to be a marketer's best friend.Back in 2012, Nike did something that was a little unconventional – the shoe company decreased advertising spend in mass media channels in the US by 40%.

Nearly all of that investment went into digital, instead.

What Nike really wanted, according to CEO Mark Parker, was to get closer to the customer.

“Connecting used to be, ‘Here’s some product, and here’s some advertising. We hope you like it,’ ” Parker explained to Fortune. “Connecting today is a dialogue.”

Three years ago, Nike was already sprinting out to the next frontier of marketing and it all has to do with building customer experience and providing utility through contextual marketing.

Now, marketers everywhere are trying to catch up.

Consumers, Brands, Advertising: A Broken Love Triangle 

Companies have made websites. They’ve launched social media campaigns. They’ve built apps, tweeted at customers, sent email campaigns. But, for all of those efforts, customers are still outpacing them.

That’s because marketers haven’t been trying to understand the context of each customer. Despite all the digital innovations, they’re still treating digital channels as mediums for broadcasting marketing messages.

But that’s not how consumers use Twitter or Facebook and it’s not why they log onto the Internet in the first place. Marketers know this. We’re people, too, right? When you log onto Facebook, are you looking to keep up with friends or are you hoping to see what Brand Y has to say about Brand Y’s latest product?

Marketers need to start being friends with context. Like, best friends. If you ignore context, you’re ignoring what your customers are doing on digital channels. And that’s why most customers aren’t looking at your ads.

Forrester research shows that, among consumers:

  • 87% don’t trust ads on websites
  • 82% don’t trust social media posts
  • 80% don’t trust email campaigns

Customers are bombarded by so many online ads– across so many channels – that their only option is to ignore almost every single one of them. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the land of the banner ad – the average Internet user is served more than 1,700 banner ads, but the click-through rate is 0.1%.

Building an Experience from Context

Contextual Marketing

People aren’t paying attention to digital ads because they’re not relevant or useful. So the solution is simple: marketers need to enhance the customer experience, not detract from it.

That’s why marketers and context have to become BFFs. Customer context can help inform your marketing efforts as you try to create a relevant, engaging experience for your customers.

Banner ads don’t get clicked, but a tweet with interesting content – sent at the right time – will. An email blasted out to ten thousand people with the same untargeted message won’t get many click-throughs, but an email that changes the content in real-time according to the customer’s location will.

Through real-time analytics and customer data, brands can create experiences that are never irrelevant to consumers. But you don’t need to invent new products or reform your departments, either – contextual marketing starts with taking a new approach to marketing itself.

Making Marketing Useful 

Amazon has been driven by customer context from the very beginning. You don’t visit the Amazon website to sift through every possible product the company has in stock – you visit because the website is personalized to your purchase history and has extremely accurate recommendations. Amazon helps you buy things online.

Meanwhile, Uber helps customers get from Point A to Point B. Spotify and Pandora help users find the music they like the most. Netflix helps users discover new movies and TV shows.

Contextual marketing, above all, has to be useful to your customers, seamlessly improving their experience through real-time analytics, interactions, personalization, and more.

But how can retail companies build contextual marketing engines that enhance the customer experience and become helpful, instead of disruptive? What simple elements can enable brands to create real-time contextual experiences right away? How can marketers really become BFFs with context?


Register for our webinar on February 19, “The Definitive Guide to Contextual Marketing,” to learn the answers to these question and more!

 Register Today!