Contextual Marketing Planning and the 6 Ws

With one quarter of 2015 already behind us, the contextual race is definitely on! We hear the word context every other minute these days – almost more than selfie or vape! It’s time to move beyond the hype and get real with contextual marketing.

Enter data. Data drives experience. New business models are using data to deliver new levels of consumer value by asking, “If we knew X, what would we do differently?” You can bet that whiteboards in marketing conference rooms everywhere are filling up with answers to this question.

Whiteboard concepts are a great start, but what happens next? The tougher job for marketers is translating these ideas and hypothetical concepts to “rubber meets the road” plans and programs. It recently occurred to me that the Six Ws (the ones that were engrained in my brain back in journalism school) offer a lot of practical value for working through this process.

Let’s run through how asking even more questions can help marketers build plans that bring contextual concepts to reality.


Who are the customers that care about this content or concept? Can we identify them? How many of them are there? How fresh is the data we have on this audience or target? How accessible is this data? Can we augment our data to find more of this type of consumer?


What are we providing? Is it aligned with the consumer disposition (profile/CRM style data) and situation (dynamic, real-time data)? Is it perceived to be of value? Is it a differentiator? Will it help drive a meaningful action or conversion? What elements require testing to optimize our programs?


At what point in time should we deliver this information? Do we know when an individual is at the “when” point – either a place, time, or point in their lifecycle? Are we able to deliver it at the right time to provide value and make an impact? Do we need to test the timing to be sure it’s really being delivered at the point of maximum impact?


What delivery channel makes the most sense? Email? Mobile SMS? Push notifications? Social media venues? Social sharing? Display retargeting? All of the above? When and where – right time and place – are especially important to delivering contextual value to fast moving consumers. Testing various channels and integrated touch points is more important than ever.


Once you’ve made it through four of the Ws, you’ll begin to see a plan taking shape and uncover gaps that need to be filled. It’s time to answer the question – “how on Earth are we going to make this happen?” Before you get further into thoughts about the data deployment details, let’s skip to the final, and I would assert, most important W …


Why are we doing this – what’s the point, or objective? It’s important to define a clear business case for context. This is where deeper knowledge about your industry, competitors, key consumer segments, consumer expectations, channel preferences, innovations, business circumstances, and more come into play. The answer will influence the level of investment, the time to market, and ability to make progress to support business goals.

As we are challenged with delivering more contextual marketing experiences, we need to answer some tough questions and accelerate processes to move these programs forward. The Six Ws can help marketers dig in and get real about contextual opportunities. Heading into the remaining eight months of 2015, let’s dig in, ask the right questions, and begin to deliver contextual value to valued consumers.

Image via Shutterstock.

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