What is Context Marketing?

Although content marketing is one of the most familiar topics for marketers today, it can be difficult to create and manage content marketing campaigns because they aren't always effective.

What ends up happening is that content gets stuck in a long cycle of creation and sharing. Advertisers spend time creating content that doesn't get shared or voted on by others. This creates a domino effect because the lack of engagement means advertisers must create more content.

  • Content marketing is a necessity for brand building and awareness; however, it is not the only way to market your business.
  • Context marketing offers an element of timeliness to your marketing efforts, reaching your audience at the most effective time. 
  • Context marketing is popular on apps and programs like Waze, Google AdSense, and Facebook Ads.

Content marketers need to define their goals before they begin creating content. If your goal is to increase revenue through leads, then you should focus on creating high-quality content that offers an easily digestible format and comes from a trustworthy source.

Content-first design is a great way to drive business to your site and your product but to drive even better traffic and rankings, you need to ensure that the content is fully contextualized to the potential customer; this point is where context marketing makes the biggest difference.

What is content marketing?

Of course, content marketing is something we're all familiar with, but if you need a quick refresher…

Content marketing comes in many forms. You can use a simple blog, or content management system on your website to create blog content. Other options include video, audio, and infographics. You can even use social media platforms like Instagram to share products with your audience. Ultimately, you want to create content that will help you attract and retain customers so they're willing to listen to what you have to say.

What is context marketing?

Context marketing takes the concept of content marketing and kicks it up a notch. Instead of simply putting out content for audiences to interact with as they come across it, context marketing is all about delivering the perfect content to just the right people at just the right time.

The best way to take advantage of context marketing is to know your clients and your leads as much as possible. Rather than only knowing what type of business they're in broadly, such as B2B, you'll know which content they interact with and what line of work they're in specifically.

Why is contextual marketing important to your business?

Contextual marketing enhances your customer experience by presenting your customers with what they might want to see at the time they want to see it. This model is in opposition to other types of marketing that present content no matter the context.

Context marketing can help drive new customers who might not have searched for or even heard of your product or service and instead will be served advertising for it in a more organic way. Instead of being predatory, like some marketing campaigns, customers are more likely to interact with an organic ad.

Context marketing vs. content marketing

The main difference between context and content marketing is timing. Context marketing is advertising that is delivered based on what a customer is currently doing. Content marketing relies on creating new content for every possible client scenario.

The main differences between the two lie in when advertising is served to customers and how much content is being made.

The advantages of contextual marketing

Once you have data systems in place, it’s easy to continue delivering ads without doing much extra work. Your ads will appear as they are appropriate to your potential customers, all without you having to create a new ad campaign as you would with content marketing.

More affordable

The reason context marketing is so popular is that it's less expensive, and it's much easier to take on than content or behavioral marketing. Because contextual marketing is less personalized, it doesn't require multiple new campaigns for each type of customer you hope to attract. You need to put out one kind of ad and deliver it at the right time. Context marketing is about delivering content at the right time, not about delivering specific content at any time.

To create a successful contextual marketing campaign, you only need to rely on the data you've already collected about your ideal customer base to continue to run your contextual marketing campaigns. You already know what your target customer looks like, so you don't need to collect data from everyone that may look at your website, which is expensive.

No privacy issues

Contextual marketing campaigns are less vulnerable to privacy issues. While behavioral marketing is often subject to criticism for tracking and targeting user behavior and search history, contextual marketing doesn't.

Contextual marketing is less likely to be criticized because it delivers ads to a wide variety of people based on what they’re doing at that moment, not because of what they’ve been doing for months.

In other words, context marketing presents relevant information to your customers without following them around the internet.

How to set up your data collection before using context marketing

The thing that sets a context marketing campaign apart from a content marketing effort is data collection. This aspect also sets context marketing apart from behavioral marketing because the data collection is different. 

While both types of marketing collect data about customers, behavioral marketing relies on collecting longitudinal data about internet use from any potential customers. Context marketing relies on collecting data only about ideal customers. 

Let’s take a look at what these data collection methods would look like to create a contextual marketing campaign.

The top pieces of data to collect are:

  • Customer demographics
  • Age
  • Income level
  • Needs and pains
  • Top sites

Let's break these down. Demographics and age are obvious; these categories are necessary for any marketing research study.

The income level will play into what your ideal client will want. Is your product top of the line, or is it a more modestly priced product that most people can afford?

Another great way to work on data collection is by looking at your email list. Chances are you send out emails to a client list with some regularity. How many of these emails are still active? 

People who have signed up to receive your emails and continue to receive them are a great start for developing a buyer persona. 

The people in this contact database present a wealth of information depending on how they signed up for your emails. What information have they already given you? Use this data to contextualize your ads.

Other important pieces of data to collect include examining your SEO rankings for relevant keywords. Also, collect data about your most clicked content and data from your website, including traffic data. All of this data will help you to create simple ad content for an effective campaign, all without having to make dozens of ads.

Only looking at that specific group of people visiting your site will help you create an ideal customer profile. The ideal customer profile helps you to predict which sites and search terms will be best to target with your contextual marketing campaign.

Whats Context Marketing (1)

Contextual marketing campaign examples

Some of the most common contextual marketing examples are available on social media. If you've ever visited a branded Twitter account after a significant event, like a sports game or album release, you've likely come across a tweet that ties their product into that story.

For example, Denny’s, which as far back as 2016 was recognized as one of Brand Twitter’s top accounts, recently joined the NFT (non-fungible token) trend. The brand is using its Twitter to make people more aware of its product by tweeting about NFTs, all while raising money for charity.

You can also see great examples of context marketing in apps you use daily. With the rise of internet synchronicity, data collection, and artificial intelligence-based techniques, you can see contextual ad campaigns that seem like they were designed just for you all across your technology, and they’re easier than ever to set up.

Here are a few of the top examples you've likely seen.


For years, Taco Bell has been serving ads to drivers on the popular direction app Waze. When drivers are about to pass a Taco Bell, a banner ad appears at the top of the map with relevant current deals or coupons that might entice a driver to stop off at a Taco Bell.

The reason this campaign works so well is that it is, first of all, cheap. Instead of targeting specific drivers who frequently visit Taco Bell or who have recently searched for Taco Bell, it targets anyone driving. 

By driving past a Taco Bell, a potential customer can be made just because they are near Taco Bell. People who would not have otherwise visited Taco Bell might be enticed by the current deals or images they see in the ad.

Google AdSense

Google AdSense is one of the most powerful advertising tools and makes for a great contextual marketing campaign in a pinch. The reason it works so well is that you don't need to create new or specific content for AdSense. Instead, Google will passively post a link and short ad line for your site at the top of anyone's related search results.

Facebook Ads

A final example of context marketing is Facebook ads. If you've ever joined a Facebook group or liked a new page for a hobby or place, you've probably been served an advertisement for something related to that group or location. 

For example, if you joined a Facebook group for biking, you would likely start seeing ads for bicycles, helmets, fitness trackers, GPS systems, and other related equipment that might entice you to click.

Final thoughts

Context marketing takes the work and money out of marketing to your prime target audience that content marketing made so time-consuming previously. Instead, you can turn content marketing into context marketing by collecting data about your ideal customers and delivering ads on their top sites and keywords, making for a far more effective ad campaign.

Context marketing FAQs

What is context marketing? 

Context marketing targets the right people at just the right time. For example, a context marketing campaign may target people who have searched for a certain fast-food restaurant and are currently driving past it. 

What is the difference between context marketing and content marketing?

Content marketing involves creating and sharing content with the goal to create interest in a product. Context marketing targets people based on what they are doing at that exact moment. 

How does context marketing improve overall marketing initiatives? 

Context marketing is effective at reaching people at exactly the right time for the marketing to be effective. It can cut costs and avoid any privacy issues associated with traditional marketing initiatives. 

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