When you take a job at Costco, you put a good amount of time into your orientation. Of course, like most jobs, there are plenty of boring videos about safety and you’ll have read through plenty of brand-specific content.

How to Apply Context Marketing to Your Business to Improve Sales

However, you’ll also learn a little about marketing and sales in a Costco orientation. One of these practices is something Costco attributes much of its success to: The 5 R’s of Merchandising. It’s a concept that isn’t proprietary to Costco, but it’s significant that they teach it to all their employees. Costco teaches the R’s like this: 

At Costco, our success is, among other things, attributed to having the Right product in the Right place at the Right time in the Right quantities at the Right price. 


If you can understand the importance of the 5 R’s of Merchandising, you can understand the concept of context marketing.

What is Context Marketing?

Context marketing is a fairly new buzzword in the marketing world. The concept is simple, but the execution is much more difficult. Simply put, it’s easy to write about a product, but it’s much harder to write about it in a way that allows a prospective buyer to visualize it in the context of their lives. 

Similar to the 5 R’s, when using the powerful methods of context marketing, we need to show buyers the perfect picture of the product in action to be successful with sales. We need to show the product as being highly purposeful and highly relevant to the person buying it. 

Instead of the 5 R’s, let’s consider the 5 W’s (and an ‘H’). Answer these questions instead: 

Who is the product for and Why do they need it? What will it do for them and When will they use it most? Where will they use it and How will it be used? 

If you can answer these questions, you’ve gone a long way in helping your buyer feel confident investing in your product.

Writing with Context

Here’s the dictionary definition of ‘out of context’: 

“If a statement or remark is quoted out of context, the circumstances in which it was said are not correctly reported, so that it seems to mean something different from the meaning that was intended.”

Basically, another way to say ‘context’ is ‘meaning.’ 

So, ‘writing with context’ is essentially ‘writing with meaning.’ To write with meaning — to make our words mean something to our readers — we have to invoke an emotional response. 

Think of a commercial that made you feel something. Have you ever been caught off guard by an advertisement that made you excited or scared? Consider a time you read a blog article or Facebook post that made you cry. These writers somehow managed to write in a way that allowed you to become part of their story. You allowed yourself to make it personal. You saw yourself in context, as if it was written just for you.

So how do you make your readers feel something? 

You need to understand your audience really well. You need to know where they go with their friends and what they like to do on Saturday nights. You need to know what time they get out of bed in the morning and how many times they pour a cup of coffee a day. Okay… Not really. But you do have to understand what their lives look like. Then, and only then, you’ll be able to write copy that speaks directly to them. 

In fact, you’ll want to write your copy for your specific ideal client. It’s not easy to shrink your audience to that size, I know, but it will help your content connect directly to that person with context.  

The next time you write something, stop when you’re a few sentences in and ask yourself about the ‘5 W’s and the H.’ Do your text and the answers to the questions match up to your target audience? Try to highlight three things in your writing that matter to your audience; how do these things make that person feel?

Getting into Specifics

You’ll know you’re beginning to understand context marketing when your audience begins to want what you’re selling. You’ll know you’re successful when they feel like they need it – they suddenly can’t imagine their lives without it.

In advertising, this is accomplished through remarketing or retargeting strategies. Super savvy marketers are getting smart by accessing tools like a user’s search history to create targeted ads. This is the new wave of context marketing, which gives agencies who are able to access this technology a head start. They’re already putting their content in front of an interested audience (p.s. We work with agencies that do this!) 

For example, a marketer selling a product called Down-to-Earth Organic Oatmeal might use the keyword ‘organic granola’ as criteria for their audience. Suddenly, the consumer who has already been looking for organic granola online might begin to see ads for Down-to-Earth Organic Oatmeal in their social media or Google ads. 

Take this one step further, and the oatmeal company might even target one specific ad to a 40-year-old mother and a different ad to a 20-year-old college student. 

This technology is changing the way we advertise, but it’s also changing the organic marketing world. Even without massive ad budgets, you can create organic content for your website that resonates with your audience.

Here’s our step-by-step process for creating contextualized content for websites and blogs: 

  • Ideal client avatar
  • Brand story 
  • Brand voice guide
  • Customer buying journey

Each of these pieces helps us discover keywords that will resonate with your audience. In turn, we can create content that they’ll find, engage with, and share.

Context Marketing is the Evolution of Marketing

Don’t tell your customers what a product does. Show them. Even better, show them in the context of their current lives. 

If the concept is foreign, don’t worry. Writing skills improve with time, so keep practicing! See what’s working and what’s not and keep adjusting. Track your metrics and find what hits closest to home, and then keep making that kind of content.