“Where” Matters as Much as “What”

Seinfeld was in its fourth season when it identified itself as a show about “nothing.” The resulting awareness of the source and structure of its humor riveted audience attention in a manner that was and is unique. Who before or since has been quite so blatant as to make the context the subject in television comedy?

But context is an important subject in a world where content increasingly shapes our day-to-day experiences.

Take the phenomenon that was Kony 2012. At more than a hundred million views on YouTube and Vimeo there’s no arguing that it found an audience. Where else but the Internet could this have happened? The instant-access, click-and-view mechanisms provided by the Web, coupled with the viral sharing of social media, propagated the message with a ferocity that caught critics, advocates and the producers completely off guard. So much so that the resulting discussion that took over the traditional media and sparked the exact political response that it sought.

For Seinfeld and Kony alike, success provides an astute comment on the relationship between context and content. And that’s a lesson for marketers. The rules of connecting have changed the relevance of what was formerly a fairly straight-forward decision making process around creative development and the media buy.

Seinfeld worked because it had a lot to say about nothing. Kony worked because of a combination of how it phrased its message and how that message was placed. And while these examples are otherwise disconnected, that’s partly the point.

For marketers and businesses the message is simple. What you say is as important as how and where you say it. And using communications to advance business goals requires a mastery of both the media and the message.