The context revolution … how it could change how marketing to become more available, permissioned, personal, authentic and purposeful

April 6, 2020

In a world of limitless media noise, how can businesses break through to customers? Context.

We are in the midst of a massive media revolution. For the first time in history, ordinary people around the world have the ability to create, distribute, and consume content instantly, from anywhere, using connected devices. The massive increase in media “noise” created by these consumers and devices creates an entirely new situation that makes conventional marketing models obsolete. And yet countless companies and marketing organizations continue to rely on traditional models, assuming that their “campaigns” will sway customers. They couldn’t be more wrong.

First a little context of my own.

I first met Mathew Sweezey at a huge digital marketing event in Rimini. It’s a strange place out of season. I ran for 10km along the seafront, and saw beach after beach, cafe after cafe, incredible homes and luxurious spas. But not a person around. It was April, so the sun was shining. But not one Italian was heading to the beach. Rimini is a bit like Atlantic City in the USA, or Blackpool in the UK. Bold and brash in summer, dormant beyond. And then in walks Sweezey. He had chosen to make a bit of a world tour of his trip to the keynote, with Rimini included. A kind of late gap year as he already works for Salesforce. He wasn’t brash , but he did have a bold vision for marketing.

Having spent my early career as a marketer, and been CEO of the world’s largest network of marketers, I feel its my subject too. But beyond Kotler and Aaker, Godin (that permission word, again!) and Lindstrom, few people have really challenged the rules of marketing. We still have the 4Ps, 4Cs, or variants on them. But then up stood Mathew (his opening line is always his name – his mother chose Mathew with one “t”, so nobody would call him Matt, or Mat). His session was fresh and fabulous, and he has a personal obsession to design great slides, which I love. So much that a few months later I invited him to join me on stage again, this time in Istanbul. In between the Grand Bazaar and much meze, he gave another fantastic session.

Sweezey’s new book¬†The Context Marketing Revolution: How to Motivate Buyers in the Age of Infinite Media¬†boldly outlines this new “infinite media” environment and poses a profound question: In a transformed world where customers shape their own experience, what is the key to breaking through and motivating them to buy? It is context–the close linkage between an individual’s immediate desires and the experiences a brand creates to fulfill them. Drawing on new research and new insights into current consumer psychology, Sweezey defines the five key elements of context. Customer experiences must be:

  • Available: Helping people achieve the value they seek in the moment
  • Permissioned (is that actually a word?): Giving people what they’ve asked for, on their terms
  • Personal: Going beyond how personal it is to how personally you can deliver it
  • Authentic: Combining voice, empathy, and brand congruence simultaneously
  • Purposeful: Creating a deeper connection to the brand, beyond the product.

He uses vivid examples to highlight a new marketing model used by high-performing brands big and small. The final part of the book shifts to execution, providing a new rule book for context-based marketing.

“The Context Marketing Revolution” he likes to declare, will change forever how you think about the purpose and practice of marketing. Maybe it will.