In Search of a Promotional Context - MKTX
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In Search of a Promotional Context

When I was a young man with very many, young children, I watched a lot of PBS cable. I memorized all the Sesame Street songs from RUBBER DUCKY to ABC-DEF-GHI.

I’m watching more PBS again, this time via streaming, and now I find myself memorizing Viking River Cruises and Ralph Lauren commercials. Hearing them so many times, it can’t be helped, nor the opportunity to study and reflect on them. At least they are clear and coherent.

What strikes me about both is the rich context. The word context is rooted in Latin meaning weaving together, like a tapestry. Viking weaves together music, narration, and images (many ironically from aerial cameras) to create a context of the wonderments of travel, discovery, and splendor of foreign or historic cultures. Ralph Lauren uses images, narrative by Ralph Lauren himself, and music to place the viewer in the context of the creative process of an apparel designer. What’s most interesting to me is that he explains that in order to design for a woman, he creates a world around her which he calls the “World of Ralph Lauren.” He’s creating a context for her to excel. The context suggests everything that belongs and also what doesn’t.

Creating a context — an environment, a world — to showcase your products and services where your brand excels is also an imaginative way to think about brand positioning. Consider the ideal environment in which your product excels. Answering the question why it excels will reveal your strongest position. Picture this ideal environment and then build a complete campaign, using a variety of media, within that context and wrap that around the product, just as Ralph Lauren wraps a world around his imaginary customer.

A current example at MKTX is Evluma, which designs, manufactures and sells LED outdoor area lights to electric utilities serving rural communities. Their unique reliability features really excel in the country because rural utilities have to travel up to 100 miles to replace a failed lighting component. So that’s why, for Evluma, the images, music and narration are all in the context of things rural, from imagery to values.

Here’s a link to the magazine we produced about the making of the “Light of the Country” campaign.

And a music video


Joe Santana

Joe is a playful conceptualizer whose insights and creative leadership have assisted dozens of Northwest high technology and industrial enterprises. He toured the country with theater companies in principal roles as a child actor, received a classic prep school education, and after a dual major in science and English at USF, operated a California cattle ranch for two years before returning to complete his education at UP and settling in Portland. Joe's experience includes four years at Tektronix as their first creative director and corporate advertising manager. He went on to hold creative director positions at ad agencies Santana & English, Ltd., The Technology Group/Advertising, EvansGroup, and B/E/S/T Advertising, where his creative campaigns helped sustain three years of 30% growth for Tek's $600 million color printer division prior to its purchase by Xerox. He joined MKTX in 1999. Every Friday he suits up with a bow-tie and drives his 1940 Packard convertible.