Wherever you go, there you are – together with contextual marketing.

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Time for marketing to stop living in the past… and the future for that matter.

Living in the present moment is essential to a happy life according to Buddhist practitioners of mindfulness. It helps us to eliminate ego-centric concerns about the past and speculative fretting about the future from our lives.  In the present moment, we can create peace of mind and focus. Contextual Marketing is digital marketing’s theoretical and increasingly practical attempt to be there in the moment with customers.

From big bang theory marketing to little bang theory in 3 evolutionary steps.

1. The age of randomly broadcast liner communication has served marketing well. It has allowed some very creative individuals to elevate some TV, Press, Poster and radio campaigns above and beyond mere sales tools: many brand campaigns have crossed the threshold from awareness into the world of art. Images and phrases have become cultural reference points for generations. We often thought more of the ads than the TV shows.

2. The advent of direct marketing helped us to develop the concept of developing sustainable relationships with customers to the extent where brands could anticipate and indeed depend upon maximising the lifetime value of customer relationships.

3. In the short space of time it has existed, digital marketing has gone through many evolutions from the utilitarian disruption of search to the rise of consumer influence via social channels and the always on world of mobile. This last phase of marketing’s evolution is marked by a rapid increase in ideas, platforms and trends: for example, the much hyped concept of content marketing. While content marketing agencies claim to be at the cutting edge of the latest round of innovation, it will not be as significant as the combined effects of contextual social media sharing, mobile access, big data, location tracking, smart sensors and automatic content delivery systems designed to predict and serve in mindful contexts that are unique to any given moment in time.

Small messages that hit us for six.

Imagine you are walking towards a shop and thinking about buying things for the holiday we have had marked in our online diary for the past 6 months. The combined resources of contextual social media sharing, mobile access, big data, location tracking, smart sensors and automatic content delivery systems, sense you are  near an outlet that sells (we know it’s a camping holiday in the south of France) everything from suntan cream to 6 man/woman/person tents. In less than 100 milliseconds, your entire search, social and transactional history is compared to a vast bank of transactivation content that contains (somewhere in the petabytes of text, video and image content stored and prepped for dynamic multi-variate delivery across any digital channel) the perfect message for you in your given context. Your phone buzzes with a proposition. The poster you walk past at the shop entrance adds to the narrative. The department in the store activates displays that background the products. The product you lift from the shelf closes the deal with a call action offer activated on your phone. You buy with one click on your phone and walk out of the shop with the goods bypassing the queue at the till. Your data is updated on the fly and the system, based on your behaviour and location, generates the next iteration of right message, right time, right place.

So what’s holding back contextual marketing

Why would individual global agency networks that each control 30-40% of all the world’s advertising spend want to change anything? The manufacturing industry is always expected to increase productivity while reducing costs. That is hardly ever the case in advertising and marketing. Profits are booming in the agency world. The cost to clients is incalculable. Consumers are moving faster than the vested interest of agencies. It will take clients years to acquire the skills and, more importantly, the authority necessary to force the change. The idea that clients are in charge is currently an illusion. They are often in thrall to the agency or bound by contracts that basically take control away from them and make real-time marketing and budget control nothing more than a pipeline dream.

What’s the point in dreaming?

I will not be holding my breath for the advent of contextual marketing to sweep all before it in the next few minutes, months or perhaps even years. It’s an idea that will appear crazy to many people making serious money in the here and now, but I am reminded of the inspiring narrative in the old Apple ad from 1977 which encouraged us to Think different: “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The trouble makers. The round pegs in square holes. The ones who’s see things differently. There not fond of rules and they have no respect for the stays quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. But the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones. We see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world… are the ones who do.”

I’m there already. 

location based marketing