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One-Minute MarketerContextual Awareness for Marketing

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Contextual Awareness for Marketing

The proactive responsiveness of your mobile phone is called contextual awareness.  TiStock_000007133590_Mediumhis is manifested when your phone seems to know what word you are typing with just one or two letters. It is the anticipation by the machine that is truly attractive–it is like mind reading.  But I have another definition based on marketing: Contextual awareness is the anticipation (or understanding) of where the marketing is going to actually happen and understanding the environmental influences around it.

For example, you design a billboard on a desktop and look at it from about 2.5 feet away. It looks great. Yet billboard locations are not all the same: A vinyl billboard design is viewed by motorists much differently than a digital billboard; and daytime digital billboards look different from the nighttime postings. Not to mention, you have to read all those words in two seconds from 400 feet away. Without having marketing contextual awareness, you are designing in a literal vacuum of knowledge.

Understanding marketing contextual awareness comes from research (focus groups, surveys, in-depth interviews and in-field research), intimately knowing the target audience and doing simulations with the materials.  This will help close the disconnection gap between creative viewed in an office and in-the-field implementation. You can see this everywhere:

  • Trade show booths with unwieldy packets of materials
  • White backgrounds for daytime digital billboards
  • General materials mailed to state legislators
  • Brochure racks that never need refilling
  • Commercials with green grass and blue skies running in February in the Midwest
  • Using broadcast TV ads at a movie theater or for a YouTube pre-roll
  • Long copy on a website
  • Signs that are blocked from sight by people or objects

Claudia Alvarez Diaz (writing in the English Creative Review) says that the act of “creative translation is not just about being creative, the process must be backed up with solid research.” I’d say the research certainly needs to be about who, yet maybe more importantly, where.




Written by:

Mark wrote his first direct-mail fundraising letter in 1981 for the University of Iowa Center for Advancement. The effort raised a few million dollars in undiscovered wills and legacy gifts. From that day forward Mark discovered a love of the big idea that moves the needle. After 12 years at KWWL, Mark became a business owner as a co-founder of ME&V — rebranded as AMPERAGE in 2015. After 25 years of leading creative teams in video production, graphic design, PR, writing and web development, Mark transitioned out of ownership in 2021. Today he serves in an employee role as special projects consultant. He is creatively ambidextrous — son of an artist and engineer — and famous for distilling complex ideas down to a few words and a few visuals. Mark is a writer. When he found that many nonprofits struggled with complex branding puzzles, he wrote the book, “NonProfit-NonMarketing .” He also wrote a novel called “Reenactment.” Mark is an active blogger OneMinuteMarketer® with nearly 1,000 readers each week on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. One of his most popular YouTube videos is on “How to Look Good on Zoom.” One of Mark’s fondest business memories was being named to INC 500 two times and attending the INC 500 conference with other winners. Mark is considered by some a Civil War expert (and that explains his novel). Mark also served as an adjunct professor in the business and in the communications departments at Wartburg College. Mark is a graduate of the University of Iowa and is currently vice president of the University of Iowa Journalism and Mass Communications Advisory Board. Mark is married to state Sen. Liz Mathis, and the two love to travel, even when it means being trapped by a volcano in the Czech Republic for three weeks.