Why Brands Should Use Context to Drive Shared Experiences & Deepen Influence


With so much content swallowing the internet, and the increasing fragmentation of media, getting a brand message across is becoming increasingly challenging. Writing exclusively for ExchangeWire, Ruth Zohrer, chief product officer, Mindshare, explains that the importance of context is driving a brand message home.

Does anyone remember the Fyre Festival? Borne from the depths of Instagram narcissism, the festival was promoted, very successfully, across the platform using appealing aesthetics and celebrity endorsements. Cut to the festival gates, and attendees were greeted by disaster relief tents, angry locals, and feral dogs on the loose – hardly the luxury experience of a lifetime painted online. The organiser is now facing a prison sentence for fraud.

Fyre Festival may be an extreme example, but it serves as a powerful reminder of the dangers of creating an online brand experience that the viewer cannot locate in the real world. Instead of reinforcing the ‘Fyre’ brand through the shared experience of a musical festival, the experience that brought festival-goers together online and off was one of disappointment and despair.

With fake news (and experiences) on the rise, consumers are increasingly thinking about how, when, and why, they are consuming the content they do – 60% of Brits believe the media is misleading them, for example. As a result, brands – whether they’re emerging or established – must have a strategy for linking their content to the real world if they’re to be both credible and influential in the long term.

Yet, in the fight to conquer content, brands are increasingly forgetting the importance of context: whether that’s the context that a particular message is delivered in, or the context in which the brand is likely to be experienced in the future.

This is particularly important in a fragmented media landscape. The IPA’s latest TouchPoints research found that the average UK consumer spends over eight hours consuming media a day, with 94% of consumers multi-media tasking (consuming two or more forms of media within 30 mins). Against such a backdrop, reinforcing online content with contextually relevant experiences could be the difference between a brand being heard or being lost entirely.

The importance of context is also backed up by neuroscience: studies measuring subconscious brain response to content have established that the brain works by association, and that emotional responses to content are intrinsically coloured by contextual information.

This insight was something we leveraged in Nike’s recent LDNR campaign, which sought to reconnect the brand with young Londoners who were failing to identify the brand in the real world after a slew of celebrity campaigns. Through a detailed understanding of the target consumer – 16 to 24-year-old ‘screenagers’, whose neighbourhoods were their Kingdoms – our team was able to create a campaign with context at its heart.

Each user’s experience of the campaign was entirely unique: the first touchpoint and content served was determined by the user’s location, whilst their continued journey through the campaign was coloured by their individual preferences and level of engagement. By rooting how the campaign unfolded in the user’s specific context, Nike was able to drive them to share a broader media experience with their friends as they interacted with the campaign together in real time.

Whether you’re an emerging brand, or simply one that’s trying to reconnect with your target audience in a fresh and authentic way, levering contextual insight to create a shared, real-world media experience can make the message you’re trying to get across all the more influential. After all, when you’re competing against a tide of content, you need all the help you can get to thrive in the ‘The New Era of Influence’ – a theme we’ll be exploring further at this year’s Mindshare Huddle.