The importance of context in marketing

Category: Notes on Digital Marketing | 4 min read

A keyword is typed into Google.

It says: "dog food meaning"

Your first thought should be this: why would someone type that?

There are a few reasonable answers. Maybe they aren't an english speaker and are assuming Google will translate it for them. It's possible this is a search made on a Google home and it didn't quite hear them properly...

The reality is that Kate heard someone say "I wonder how much they eat their own dog food at Google?" and she had no idea what that person was talking about.

If you Google that you'll notice that the first thing Google shows is a dictionary definition of the term, when all the other websites it shows all show the more useful slang definition.

I could take this article in the direction of looking for negative terms like "meaning" as that is probably not a term by someone looking to buy your dog food but I actually want to go a different way:

What's the context of the person seeing your ad?

It's kind of an old idea...

Remember when Apple was doing those "I'm a Mac and I'm a PC" ads? They were pretty good regardless of what you think of the brand. One thing I remember though is being on a news site. Like all news sites it had a lot of ads, including two big ones. One at the top just below the headline and another on the right side of the article. Pretty classic ad placement.

What Apple did was put the Mac guy on the side and the PC guy at the top. Not too crazy except for one little thing: they interacted with each other.

Naturally I, and probably everyone else, mostly ignored the ad until we noticed that the Mac guy was handing the PC guy stuff from the article. It was insane and stood out.

Because Apple was thinking of the context of the news site. Not just the brand or messaging but where we were.

This isn't just something from the Internet age though. There are countless examples of context used in advertising. From Mcdonalds using their golden arches to point hungry drivers to the nearest restaurant to cold medicine ads only being shown when the weather is crappy.

You may be thinking sure, this is interesting. I will see how I can use context to start improving my advertising.

For example, this kind of thinking has lead SEO's to finally start organizing keyword research by buyer journey point, which is a great first step. With the focus Google is putting on that journey and just how complex it is, you'll certainly be able to improve your strategy based on that.

"What is Fortnight?"

and

"reviews for Fortnight"

are clearly different stages of the buyer journey and using that as part of your strategy will certainly improve things.

But...

I know, I have to add that but.

I want you to go further than that.

The keyword a person types in is a pretty good context but think about that Kate example above. She just heard something she didn't understand so she Googled it. Simple enough but what else could be a factor?

Is she in an office or out in a park? If shes in a park is the weather good? Is she talking to a Google Home? Might she be in her living room watching TV?

A classic example of context is knowing when your ad plays on TV and showing display ads to the person on their tablet if they open it at a similar time.

Those are just the "facts" of context though - something more important to think about is the mindset of the context. If the person is in an office working they may be curious about something but not looking to buy. That means you should show a different ad than if they are at home and seeing your ad on TV.

Do you show a different ad if the person is feeling confused versus annoyed?

I know some companies like to conquest on things like "brand customer service". They see the context of a person being annoyed with their competitor so they want to show their ads while the customer deals with the competitors customer service.

This is somewhat clever but the mindset of that person is annoyance. They are in a very negative frame of mind and now your brand is being shown to them while they feel annoyed, does that really sound like something you want your potential customers to associate with your brand?

All this to say:

This article is actually all about empathy. I sort of just took you on that journey to get you to the point of realizing what empathy really means in marketing. You need to think about the potential customer and what they are going through.

Where are they? How do they feel? Why are they on the site you are advertising on? Where are they in the buyer journey?

These are complicated questions with no easy answers but the first step is to simply start thinking about them. Answering one or two of them can massively improve a digital marketing strategy.

They are typing that keyword into Google because they are bored, well I have a boredom killing product, how about I help them out?

Google recently released a way to use contextual keyword search audiences with Youtube. The person searches for a review of the new Toyota, reads a couple then leaves. Later they are bored browsing Youtube videos... How can you use that context? What are they feeling? What are they thinking about?

Not to mention

Context is going to get far more important as we lose valuable cookie data. Finding the "right" people will continue to be a challenge where context can actually help us turn others INTO the right people.

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