Context Creation

by Ben Perreira

People who do marketing are in the business of creating context. Our business is defined by our products being different than those our competitors are selling, and by keeping it that way. We tell stories in a way that makes people identify with the brands we create. It is a simple process.

I’m slightly obsessed with the process of product consumption, and although I am probably more of a rational buyer than most, I am far from impervious to the messages other marketers send me. 

For example, I have been thinking about buying a new car.

I know that buying a car is not the best investment because its depreciates, so it is one of the worst kind of investments. However, unlike some other investments, you get to use it and sell it when you’re done with it. So things could be worse. 

Now let’s pretend I have decided I’m going to buy a car (and likely finance it because it makes more sense to pay 3% on a car loan than use a chunk of cash that I could invest in other places). My rational brain says I should buy a used one because the above-mentioned depreciation occurs at the greatest rate in the first couple years. 

But car companies make new cars very attractive. The new car smell! No license plates as I zip along mountain roads! Free scheduled maintenance!

Probably 90% of car brands do not speak to me. They are either too patronizing (this Ford spot comes to mind) or they try to be too fancy (like this Acura spot, despite a nice sports integration). 

Hyundai’s $70,000 Equus was compared to a $330,000 Bentley here. Is there a big difference between these cars? I really don’t know. 

As a consumer I am left to the few brands that use their ads to portray their brands from a perspective with which I identify. People like me who don’t know a ton about cars (unlike my brother who is a mechanic and exclusively drives early 1990’s BMWs) have to decide based on reputation and the context marketers create around the brand.