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Why Google Rules the Contextual Marketing World


Anyone else remember the futuristic marketing shown in the high-tech thriller “Minority Report”? Tom Cruise’s character, John Anderton, would pass digital billboards sporting customized messages just for him: John Anderton! You could use a Guinness right now! or How did those turtleneck sweaters you purchased work out for you?

Maybe that level of personalization seemed wild in 2002. But today, it’s everywhere. And it’s called contextual marketing.

Contextual marketing could be loosely defined as providing targeted advertisements based on stored user information, such as the search terms you used, Web browsing history or recent online purchases. And although contextual marketing isn’t new, what we can do with it using the data and technology available today is.

Contextual Marketing on the Go

One of the key tech trends to look out for in 2015 is a focus on advanced analytics to take advantage of never-before-seen opportunities in mobile advertising. With mobile Web usage skyrocketing each year, it’s no wonder technology companies are trying to capitalize on this growing market. According to a Memeburn article, “Context is playing an increasingly central role in … enabling highly targeted ads based on recent purchases, buying habits, city of residence and interests.”

The article also suggests that a mobile user’s location is the most critical of all these pieces of information. Thanks to the pervasiveness of Wi-Fi access points, digital marketers can pinpoint your location within centimeters. And then they can try to sell you whatever’s nearby, sending targeted ads that direct you not only to stores, but to specific products within them.

And guess who among technology powerhouses has the most digital data to play with? Hint, hint: It rhymes with Boogle.

Google Takes a Bite out of Apple in the Contextual Web

It’s no surprise that Google knows you best. After all, Google most likely has access to your calendar, the content of your emails, your contacts, and the places you need directions to and from – not to mention every search you’ve ever made online.

You may be thinking, But I have an iPhone … so doesn’t Apple have all that data, too? Not necessarily. According to a Wall Street Cheat Sheet article, “Apple would be able to collect much of the same information on its mobile devices, but Google’s services are so ubiquitous that many people use them instead of the default apps … because they prefer its design or functionality to that of the native app or because they already use the service on the Web, where many of Apple’s services are not available.”

And Google’s able to use all that juicy data sourced from Gmail and Google Maps and Google Play and good old Google Search to predict what you might want to know and send you targeted advertisements closer to the point of purchase than ever before.

The Cheat Sheet goes on to say that Apple should be worried about playing catch-up in a contextual world: “Apple is considerably less experienced in mining and utilizing the vast amounts of user data that Google routinely aggregates and acts upon. While Google also has a head start in predicting user behavior with the contextual awareness of Google Now – a capability that Siri does not match – Apple should be looking to catch up to Google by making the iPhone and now the Apple Watch more contextually aware and useful for consumers.”

Over the next five years, context will continue to play an increasingly important role in digital marketing. It’ll be interesting to watch as Apple tries to take hold in a game of contextual catch-up and to see if contextualization was the missing piece that Google needed for total Web domination.