The Power of Context and the Future of Real-time Marketing
The power of context is what makes a cold beer on a hot day so refreshing. It holds our memories, controls our impulses and gives meaning to nearly every interaction we have. Context can dramatically change the meaning of a phrase or the foundation of an entire relationship.
Over the past decade, the term contextual marketing has evolved from a tactical media buying technique to a much broader way that brands interact with consumers.
Innovators now realize that context can change a dull marketing message into a meaningful human connection.
Oreos posted a lightning-fast Twitter response to this year's Super Bowl power outage reading “you can still dunk in the dark.” The post received over 15,000 retweets and set a new benchmark for real-time messaging in context.
Similarly, Shopkick has turned retail on its head by exploring another contextual frontier with its location-based retail app that feeds shoppers real-time deals and kickbacks while they are physically in the store.
As new technology blends the digital and physical world, messages out of context are becoming downright old-fashioned and context is shaping the tactics and messages that are effective in reaching the consumer.
Context Moves Fast
The beauty and the terror of context is that it moves at lightning speed.
News is always breaking, consumers are forever on the move and technology is quickly evolving.
The most relevant brands are building an entirely new structure that allows for speed over sloth.
Gatorade stays on the bleeding edge of context through its “Mission Control,” a physical location where social, press and web traffic can be monitored in real time.
Brands with this contextual approach moved quickly to action when bombs went off at the Boston Marathon. Instantly, contextual brands silenced their promotions and offered condolences, or in some cases, sprung into action by offering services to victims and their families. Within hours Google published a Person Finder tool. Simultaneously, JetBlue and Airbnb jumped into action to accommodate those affected.
Somehow, in context, campaigns seemed irrelevant and humans were all that mattered.
Context Is Personal
National news and events make context more obvious, but the most innovative marketers are finding context within everyday moments and events.
Nike uses its breakthrough wristband technology to track athlete’s workout patterns and build locally and socially relevant conversations online. The new platform is just one element of Nike’s contextual philosophy that is allowing the brand to begin talking “to” and “with” athletes instead of talking at them.
In May 2013, Google Now became available on IOS. Google Now boasts the ability to know your patterns, locations and life events. The technology feeds information to your phone before you ask for it. It might feed you sports updates for your favorite team, flight updates while you are traveling or dining suggestions at dinnertime.
The real story of Google Now is less about its features and more about consumer expectations and the evolution of mobile. As more and more users begin to use Google Now, Google Glass and other contextual technology, they are quickly becoming accustomed to devices that know where they are and what they are likely to need.
The Future of Context
Today’s greatest tech breakthroughs are only a hint at what might be part of our daily lives by 2020. What we know for sure is that our digital and physical worlds are quickly blending and the result means a whole new world of possibilities for innovative brands.
Samsung recently published a video that showcased the concept of using wearable devices equipped with data sensors to track health, nutrition and energy levels in the human body.
In the world of our future we might receive a notification that our energy level is low and that it might be time for something to eat.
Experts in 3-D printing are now talking about individual and real-time manufacturing of daily necessities such as food, clothing and toiletries.
Mass-produced daily products could conceivably be replaced by millions of custom orders and dispensaries on street corners. This could all happen in real time.
Google Glass, which is now being distributed to select developers, could host new applications that would insert brands and content into everyday situations.
Imagine a future where your Google Glass could alert you to dangerous weather and give you turn-by-turn directions to shelter.
The future will undoubtedly take us beyond our wildest expectations but one thing is for sure, emerging technology will change how people consume information and will further ostracize messaging that happens out of context.
Context Starts Now
For most brands, the challenge lies in a fundamental shift from campaign marketing to real-time contextual connection. Breakthroughs in technology are forcing us to learn more about the consumers and interact with them in the moment. Ironically, technology is making us all more human.
Ciccone, Alicia “Brands Show Solidarity, Support in Wake of Boston Marathon Bombings” Brand Channel