How contextual marketing could get you noticed in a content flood

With increased competition in ad land, where brands are all vying for consumers’ diminishing attention span, contextual marketing is one way that brands can cut through the clutter to reach their target audiences more effectively.

During a webinar hosted by MARKETING-INTERACTIVE, in collaboration with Quora, Prakash Kamdar, CEO of dentsu Singapore, said while contextual marketing was one of the oldest forms of ad targeting, it is now getting more attention in the marketing industry because consumers are expecting brands to deliver more personalised content and experiences.

Contextual marketing, along with content marketing, allows a level of personalisation for the customer experience, and ultimately, allows brands to get the right message to the right audience at the right time.

With the rising importance of contextual marketing also comes the increased emphasis placed on first-party data collection. This is especially so in light of Google’s elimination of third-party cookies when it comes to ad targeting.

“Marketers are accepting that they now need to have a first-party data strategy,” Kamdar said.

However, he is quick to add that brands need to ensure they have the necessary technology infrastructure to support the delivery of the experience on the back of the data they have collected to ensure a personalised experience.

Adding to the conversation, Gurmit Singh, general manager of APAC at Quora, said its platform invests heavily in machine learning to provide that contextual marketing.

He shared that “explainable artificial intelligence”, which is used to interpret all the data its machines has picked up, which is then turned into actionable insights. Brands can then use these actionable insights to target their ads contextually.

One of the ways Quora implements contextual marketing on its platform is by introducing different topics that users can search for. These topics are then mapped to content, which can help brands ensure better ad targeting by selecting relevant topics to place their ads next to.

“Once you pick topics that are relevant, your ads appear only on those places which are contextual, and that becomes a little more actionable for the reader,” Singh said.

He explained the ad targeting process becomes more action-oriented and intent-driven because it is based on what mood the user is currently in, and what he or she is interested in at that moment. This is more effective when compared with efforts that, for example, target audiences segmented by broad demographics such as age, he added.

“Demographic targeting is very helpful when there are multiple platforms, which are not talking to each other. However, it doesn’t give you the intent [of the users], and intent is very important in today’s context,” he said.

Therefore, while demographic targeting has evolved to be more effective over a period of time, Singh is of the view that contextual marketing captures the interest and intent better, and in turn, gets brands more value for their money invested.

Start with consumers

While contextual marketing may sound a bit more tech-inclined, both Singh and Kamdar emphasised the starting point for brands should always be understanding the consumer.

“Contextual intelligence is actually very simple. It is just understanding the user better, knowing what are the kinds of interests he/she are exhibiting, and how we can tap them,” Singh said.

He added that brands can either tap on current interests on the go, or use the history of users’ interest to provide a more holistic view of user behaviour.

For Quora, another way of collecting contextual intelligence is through the key words consumers are using. This enables the platform to know what users are reading, asking for, or answering, and that in turns gives it a lot of data about its users.

Meanwhile, Kamdar said that brands should understand its consumers before embarking on any content creation. Brands need to understand their buyers’ personas, what their needs and motivations are, and therefore, what sort of content will resonate with them, he said.

After deciding on what content they want to create, based on the data collected, brands can then look into delivering the content seamlessly, and in an omni-channel manner as well.

Same user, different context

Understanding consumers will also allow better contextual targeting because brands can look beyond superficial data and dive into its consumers’ psyche – knowing and targeting their different interests.

Singh pointed out this would mean that brands can target the same user in different contexts, and that makes brands’ marketing plans more viable because they are able to reach a larger number of users across contexts.

Bringing up an example of how Quora has tapped into that, Singh said the platform not only looks at what users are currently reading, but also what they have read in the past 30 days. This provides more in-depth data about its users which helps its contextual marketing efforts.

Chiming in with Singh, Kamdar added the parameters of contextual marketing depends on the context of the advertisement.

For example, a suitable parameter for a marketing campaign promoting a café would be location. The brand can create an ad which will show up for a suitable target audience, such as someone living nearby who is reading a blog about the best types of coffee. This is a good example of contextual targeting because the ad is only showing up to people who are within the vicinity of the café, Kamdar said.

Besides location, other parameters he mentioned included time, device, user traits and events/cultural moments. Having said that, he also added that a way for brands to be successful at contextual marketing is through understanding the behaviour and mindset of the consumer, while respecting their privacy and remaining unintrusive.