Context is King

Context is King, Ben Rachel (Planning Director, Soul)

Content requires context to achieve the greatest impact.  Understanding both consumer and environment is essential in matching content with the correct context.

Faced with so much choice, the decision about which brand to buy is beset with potential for anxiety, guilt and regret – not words we like to associate with our happy world of brand storytelling.

While our industry continues to bang the drum for content and focuses on creating more and more of it, not enough focus is being given to the context in which it is deployed.

Buying a car or a holiday is a classic example. Sure, lying in a hammock with a cold beer or zooming around in your new car is great, but it doesn’t follow though that the buying process is enjoyable. But most marketing assumes it is.

Simply retargeting people with price messages isn’t going to solve the issue either; somewhere in the middle lies the helpful content – things that actually help people to decide and act. Get this right and people are willing to pay more too.

If we take one thing out of the swathe of behavioural economic books, it should be an appreciation that good communication frames people’s decision-making through better understanding the components of the process. In many ways they’re not telling us stuff we don’t know; they’re reminding us of what we’ve forgotten.

It’s a timeless lesson. Ask any historian what the biggest problem in history is and they’ll say it’s being able to interpret the facts in their rightful historical context. You can’t just apply today’s lens to yesterday’s behaviour.

As advertisers, perhaps the first question we should be clear on is: in what context will consumers process our message and call to action? Put another way: how does the content you create help people establish a context that helps them reframe their thinking, enabling them to choose your product?

The more you understand people’s decision-making environment, the more able you will be to create content that can change that context to your brand’s advantage. After all, context is king.

Ben Rachel is founding partner and planning director at Soul London

Original article published 1 June 2015 in The Guardian.  The online version can be found here.