The proactive responsiveness of your mobile phone is called contextual awareness. This 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.