Have you ever read the same message on two separate occasions and interpreted the words completely differently? That’s the power of context.
In marketing, you can’t be sure how your messaging is going to be received, or the mood of each individual reader, but you can maintain an awareness of generic external circumstances and use that insight to determine the sensitivity and relevance of your marketing messaging.
Word choice and context work in partnership with each other, manifesting equal responsibility for the outcome of your messaging. For the purpose of illustration, let’s take the word ‘blue’. According to Wikipedia, the colour blue symbolises serenity, inspiration and stability, a calming colour likely derivative from its association to the sea and sky. If only it were that simple and everybody agreed about its connotations.
Simply changing the neighbouring verb to the word ‘blue’ alters its meaning entirely:
- Supporting blue – this could be an insight into your favourite football team, political allegiance or commitment to the services of the NHS
- Feeling blue – indicative of your mood, suggesting negative connotations
- Hearing blues – this refers to a genre of jazz music
- Seeing blue – lesser known, but this refers to a condition leading to visual disturbance following too much exposure to blue light
Then comes the context of external circumstance. On New Year’s Eve 2020, Brexit was hot on the agenda in the UK. As a result of the concerns around this, London’s midnight firework display faced criticism from a proportion of viewers for the decision to light the city’s bridges blue, due to the perceived inappropriate association with the European Union at a time considered desolate for many with the UK’s imminent departure.
Just last week, the mention of blue carried connotations of misery and negativity on the infamous Blue Monday – a day coined by Sky Travel in 2005 by supposedly using a formula to calculate the most depressing day of the year. This week, however, the contrast of white snow and blue sky in many parts of the country has been a talking point, deemed the best pick me up of the winter lockdown experience to date, raising spirits across the country.
For much of 2020, we, as an industry, were lighting businesses blue in support of the NHS and windows were filled nationally with blue support for their incredible efforts.
Ask someone what blue means to them today, and it’ll likely be a different answer to last Monday, and the week before that, and the month before that. It’s a trivial example, but having an awareness of the general mood of the public, hot topics and events going on around you is key in nailing your messaging. Last year was as good a reminder as ever that timing is everything. A campaign that might have had it all in February likely suddenly became redundant come March. You might be surprised by the impact of slightly tweaking your wording to turn something from entirely irrelevant to perfectly relevant. From hugely insensitive to wholly understanding.
Think about your words, think about the ways they could be received and stay aware.
In need of help with your brand’s messaging when navigating the sensitivities of the pandemic and beyond? Get in touch with the team to discuss your future marketing strategy.