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What's the context?

By Mark Iremonger, MD & Strategy Partner at Nucco, a UNIT9 company. In previous lives, Mark has been MD of UNIT9, the Head of Digital and Head of Planning at BBDO’s Proximity London, the Chief Strategy Officer, and then CEO at the Hearst Corporation’s iCrossing.  Agency strategic lead for P&G, Allianz, Lloyds Banking Group, Royal Mail, J&J and Aviva.  Mark has been a member of the British Council’s Creative Industries Advisory Panel, a Vice Chair of BIMA, a member of D&AD, and a board member of Wired Sussex, which promotes digital creativity, innovation and growth.

Context provides essential information about the audience, environment, and circumstances that shape the meaning and impact of your campaign. 

There are plenty of circumstances where context will not be relevant; however it is valuable to sense check this on your briefs.  

For example, if you have a water company brief in the UK in 2023, it is impossible to ignore negative consumer perceptions of the category (‘fat cats’ and ‘sewage dumping’).  You should also consider changing consumer attitudes towards the environment….  Or UK rail providers (broken systems, unreliable, expensive services…) will need to think carefully about how they might engage consumers given consumer sentiment.

Another example in the UK is the ‘big six’ consumer energy companies, where consumers universally recognise customer service as terrible, in a “they’re all as bad as each other” way.  Knowledge of this attitude is essential when planning campaigns and message priorities in the category.

Not considering context has led to massive backfires and unintended consequences of marketing communications.  Consider the track record of carbon fuel businesses like Shell over the past decade and their attempts to frame a positive environmental narrative against a wall of consumer mistrust that leads to unwelcome accusations of green-washing that completely undermine the campaign’s original objective (try googling ‘Shell green ad’ if you’d like to explore this subject more).

"The main reason to consider context is to make sure there are no elephants in the room and to avoid elephant traps on your way."

Considering different contexts helps you tailor your communications to make them more effective and avoid elephant traps.  We look at five areas as part of checking context:

Societal - Are there narratives relevant to your audience and objective?
Market - What’s going on? What is your client’s position?
Competitor - What are your brand's competitors doing that you should consider?
Consumer - Are there sentiments amongst your audience group?
Channel - Are there particular channels you need to consider for your audience?

Once you’re confident in the context surrounding your campaign, you can develop an insight.

If you missed S1E4: Strategy and Planning Guide: Is the audience clear? you can view it here.

I hope you enjoy the series, please feel free to message me directly with your thoughts and comments at mark.iremonger@nucco.co.uk.

The next article in this series is S1E6: Is there an insight?

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