What Condition Is Your Context In?

Context is the new black. It’s the theme that keeps marketers awake at night these days. Delivering on a contextual marketing vision for your business involves dreams of sophisticated data gathering methods, flawless data integration, and agile processes for automating data to deliver valued consumers experiences. It’s the dream, with nightmare potential, for marketers across every industry.

If we don’t deliver on context, someone else surely will – we continue to see the real world of taxis, malls, and movie rentals being challenged by new and contextual experiences that harness data to deliver consumer value, while building new high-value businesses.

Another (almost audible) way to think about this is that at any given moment a “ping” of data can trigger a contextual opportunity. The data trigger opportunities are endless – weather changes, inventory fluctuations, social commentary, competitive factors, consumer mood, life milestones, channels of interaction, world events, and on and on, with a potentially different configuration from minute to minute for each and everyone of us. Phew.

Customer Circumstance

Context is really just the combination of these data “pings” related to disposition and situation for consumers and businesses. This data combination creates a specific “circumstance” within the greater Customer Context (see figure 1.) For marketers, the first step in fulfilling on a vision of context related to these circumstances is to audit the current state of affairs.


Start by evaluating the following:

Does your data gathering enable you to create contextual experiences?

Are you proactively asking for actionable consumer data within the construct of a genuine value exchange? Along with that, are you aligning data points to create communication and conversion opportunities focused on contextual value?

The answer is likely “no” at this point, and you are not alone. A recent DMA study noted that 55 percent of marketers rely on names and 53 percent rely on demographic information to personalize campaigns, with less than one-third tapping consumer interests, transactions, and event or consumer interactions with brands. Most marketers are still a long way off from delivering context, but they are moving in that direction quickly. In any business model, asking the right question at the right time (either implicitly or explicitly) with a clear consumer value proposition is the way to put context gears into motion.

All around us we can see this data exchange creating consumer value in a variety of forms, from vehicle and car insurance data, to overt (and very well done) visual surveys fueling businesses like TrunkClub and StitchFix, to socially integrated businesses, such as TripAdvisor. The possibilities are endless.

To begin to think like a contextual marketer, ask your teams to explore hypotheses related to this key question:

“If I knew X (some piece of information), what would I do differently?”

Once you assemble a set of scenarios based on “X data point would lead to this value for our customers,” you will be heading down the path to context. This is the kindling to start the fire of context on your team and to begin building out new experiences triggered by data.

Contextual marketers need to move on from big data and instead take some time to pivot and focus on customer and business “circumstances” to align data with opportunities to deliver value and drive action. With these hypotheses to explore, the next step is to test out theories across the consumer lifecycle and create contextual experiences that drive business results.

Are you heading toward context that will bring your business greater results and value to your customers?

Related reading

Overhead view of a row of four business people interviewing a young male applicant.