Contextual Marketing 101 – Using Data For Impactful Ad Campaigns

You’ve heard of digital marketing terms like SEO, content marketing and Conversion Rate Optimization, but what about contextual marketing? To effectively promote your business and product, you need to deploy a full suite of marketing tools and techniques available to you not just digitally but offline, too.

If you want to take your business to the next level, you can’t forget about contextual marketing. 

Here’s what we’ll cover:

What is Contextual Marketing?

Contextual marketing is a digital marketing strategy that employs the use of targeted advertising based on a user’s online trends and habits.  Recent web browsing, online search terms, and conversations on digital messaging apps all provide data to create effective contextual marketing. In addition, while creating contextual ads, the age of your target audience and current events have a great impact on an ad’s success.

In short, in order to be effective, contextual marketing must be relevant and timely to the consumer you wish to target. Delivering relevant content through contextual targeting of an ad is a cost-effective, behaviour-driven approach to digital marketing.  Do you know what it takes to deliver effective, contextual marketing?

How Do You Deliver Contextual Marketing?

To understand how contextual marketing delivers relevant information to your target consumer, you first must understand the impacts of buyer personas in general. For example,  it is important to understand your audience’s age range, professional role or aspirations, how they engage online and what brand statements will resonate with them. 

The contextual marketing strategy for a target audience of stay at home mothers in their forties is very different from the strategy for college students in their early twenties.

There are a number of ways brands, both big and small, can harness the power of data to inform their contextual marketing strategies. Social media is considered the strongest source for the data collection on a brand’s current and potential customer base. 

This data collection is vital to the success of a campaign and understanding what contextual advertisements will have the greatest impact on your bottom line. Social media statistics are easily accessible and can be effectively used to develop contextual ads within their platforms.

But what if your target audience is not on social media?  The data collection required for contextual advertising can be found in other sources such as web browsing history and website traffic.  

For example, the amount of time a user spends on a particular website can inform a brand about their shopping habits, preferences, and interests. These are all important factors brands will want to consider when developing a marketing strategy focused on contextual ads. The majority of these types of ads are delivered by an external platform such as Google Ads.

5 Examples of Effective Contextual Marketing

1. Oreo Twitter ads During the SuperBowl 2013 Blackout
what is contextual marketing
(https://twitter.com/Oreo/status/298246571718483968)

One of the most common examples of effective contextual marketing is the Oreo “Dunk in the Dark” Twitter ad during the SuperBowl 2013 blackout. 

By moving quickly, Oreo was able to maximize current events and online trending data to make a splash with their “You can still dunk in the dark” Twitter ad. 

The ad, posted in real-time during the SuperBowl power outage was simple yet effective and is a memorable example of contextual advertising – more memorable than the expensive SuperBowl television commercials of that year.

2. WestJet Christmas Miracle Holiday Campaign
contextual marketing how to
(https://www.westjet.com/en-ca/about-us/christmas-miracle)

Another well-known example of contextual advertising is the WestJet Christmas Miracle, a video where unsuspecting travellers told an automated screen their Christmas wishes before their plane departed. Upon arrival at their destination, all the passengers had their Christmas wishes  granted. 

This elaborate marketing strategy leveraged holiday sentiment and took advantage of the tools available to ensure the video went viral. Releasing the ad solely online, WestJet made a big splash in the world of holiday ads, breaking through the barrage of holiday sentiment advertising in a unique and memorable way.

3. Sports Den Sochi Olympics
contextual marketing beginner guide
(Shutterstock)

During the Sochi Olympics in 2014,  Canadian sportswear chain Sports Den tailored it’s Google ads to align with the different matchups between Canada and other countries. 

For example, when the Canadian teams would face off against their American rivals, the Sports Den created targeted ad copy that said “Screw the US.” This strategy delivered significant results for the company and its overall sales.

4. M&M’s Flavour Voting
contextual marketing 101
(https://www.mms.com/en-us/)

After noticing a decline in millennials purchasing chocolate candy, M&Ms created an integrated social media polling system to help determine their next flavour of peanut M&Ms. 

This type of brand engagement targeted their ideal consumer base (millennials) and reached them where they already interact (social media). This voting style of marketing has been recreated by many brands and is a multifaceted and dynamic approach to contextual marketing.

5. 16Handles
contextual marketing best practices

American soft-serve chain 16Handles leveraged the power of contextual marketing by understanding their consumers and where to access them. 

Identifying their target demographic as teens and young adults, the brand launched an integrated Snapchat ad campaign to specifically target those types of consumers. By asking a user to share a photo of themselves at a 16Handles store, the user was immediately sent a discount coupon in real-time. 

Utilizing SnapChat’s limited time frame functions, discount recipients had to show a cashier their coupon within 10 seconds of receiving, ensuring they were in the store and set to immediately become a customer. This campaign increased traffic to 16Handles stores and was praised as being an overall success for sales.

Key Takeaways On Contextual Marketing

The key to success in the world of marketing, and more specifically contextual marketing, is the use of timely and relevant information to reach your target audience. By creating content that is useful and applicable to your target audience, you will increase engagement and value to your brand.

Vincent Lee

Written By Vincent Lee

The Managing Editor at Advesa, Vincent is a mechanical keyboard enthusiast, a lover of cats, and a purveyor of fine roasted matcha teas. When not writing, he enjoys exercising and biking around his beautiful hometown of Vancouver. He is also a strong supporter of the oxford comma.