Three powerful (and under used) digital marketing techniques PART 2: CONTEXT MARKETING

In the first of this series, a few weeks back, we explored ad retargeting. Today, part two brings us to what many consider the marketing frontier—completely personalized experiences or “context marketing.” Hitch up your wagon…

You, yes YOU, the red dude. Much of marketing will soon be very much about the individual’s needs in the moment.

You, yes YOU, the red dude. Much of marketing will soon be very much about the individual’s needs in the moment.


A recent survey of top CMOs reported that their number-one priority was to create personalized experiences for their customers.

When I read that, I immediately thought of my favorite place to shop—Amazon. I love how I go on there, look for something I want, and find alternate items, companion pieces, package deals, customer reviews, ratings and specs. It’s retail that has reached a state of enlightenment. No lines. No driving. No mall rats. I gladly click proceed to check out, and eagerly await the goods to come right to my door. How could you not be giddy over that?!?

Amazon succeeds in making online shopping personal and intoxicatingly convenient. And most of what they do is automated, so it’s scalable to millions of saps like me.

But, not everyone has Amazon’s business model, history or technological mojo. Many marketers, as we saw in that statistic up top, want more personal, deeper experiences for their customers, too… whether it’s a few thousand or tens of millions. But how do you do that?

Forrester Research recently explored this question in a white paper entitled Advance to Next-Generation Personalization. This report really raised my awareness of this movement in marketing. You can get the pdf here, but to save you the time and for your immediate gratification, I’ve outlined some of the big picture points:

“Personalization” is just too small a term for the stuff we can create. Our palette is now much bigger, with many more colors to play with. There’s…

Historical data – Or, what the customer did in the past. People’s past actions reveal volumes.

Profile data – In English: Who the customer is, where he or she lives, specific interests and more.

Real-time situational feedback – Translate that to: What the customer is doing right now, where he/she is, what time it is, what device he/she is using, etc. It’s a snapshot of the “now.”

After perusing this smorgasbord of data, suddenly “personalization” seems, well, lightweight. Today, people prefer the term context marketing… understanding and addressing a customer’s experience in context. Did anyone else just feel that paradigm shift?

Context marketing is about being right, all the time. No, not like your significant other. It’s about delivering the right experience, to the right person, at the right time, and on the right device (make that multiple devices). Lots of challenges there, but at least some of that can be automated.

Brands that master context marketing are kicking butt and taking names. They’re enjoying customers that are truly engaged with them, loyal up the wazoo, and forever fattening up their bottom lines.

Let me take context marketing into the real world, with a real-life example:

7-Eleven 7-Eleven is one of the best-known convenience store brands. And they’re really good at delivering what people want while they’re in the store—coffee, snacks, lottery, light groceries, and shelves of stuff. 7-Eleven’s digital agency, T3, took things to another level, though, with context marketing. They got customers to constantly think about specific goodies 7-Eleven rustles up, without even being in the store.

They did this by developing a custom app that combined location, time-of-day and weather data with 7-Eleven products and offers. The app takes all this info into account, continually, and lets the user know about great deals that would taste awesome right about now…

On cold days, the app highlights warm drinks, like coffee and hot cocoa

Around noon, the app spotlights what’s on the lunch menu that day—changing what it features based on the weather (it doesn’t show soup, for example, during heat waves). It does the same at dinnertime and in-between meals, with snacks.

For all the items the app showcases, it will often have an accompanying offer, such as BOGO, to drive store traffic.

Then, the app locates the nearest 7-Eleven for you. So you can go pick up the goods, show the offer on the phone, and leave as a satisfied customer.

Pretty clever, huh? You can see a video of the 7-Eleven app here.

Right now, context marketing takes some moderately heavy resources to pull off—but there are more companies that do it, and even a few off-the-shelf products showing up that can help with the process. As with all technology, it will become cheaper and easier—and soon, we all won’t remember a time where we actually had to think or do something. Ah, technology.

– Andy Badalamenti is the creative director for CI-Group

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