Duffy’s Dispatches: An Interview with Context Creative

Context Creative is a marketing and web design company which helped launch our website into the exosphere. I shouted a few questions into the void, and Andy Strote, Context Creative’s Director of Strategic Services, kindly shouted back.

Duffy: Greetings, Andy. Could you tell us how you got involved with Story Planet?

Andy: I knew about Dave Eggers before there was a Story Planet. In fact, about 10 years ago, I made a point of visiting 826 Valencia on a vacation in San Francisco. I have a t-shirt from the pirate store! Then one of my friends, and eventual Story Planet board member Daniel Ho said a similar outlet might open in Toronto, and was I interested?

Sure! The first meeting was in a bar at Bloor and Bathurst. There were many people involved with getting this off the ground obviously, but that night I volunteered Context Creative to build the website. And it rolled from there….

Duffy: From strategizing marketing campaigns to developing websites, Context Creative appears to do it all. (If you’re ever looking for a career change, we could use your versatility on long-term space missions.)  Can you expand a little on the different ways you bring a client’s vision to life?

 Andy: The first step in bringing a client’s vision to life is to ensure we all have a common understanding of that vision. It’s important that we’re very clear on the objectives, the audience(s) we’re talking to, the outcomes we’re expecting and what constitutes success.

Then, we make sure we’ve defined the audience in a way that’s useful.

Once we’re clear on objectives and our audience, we look at media. In most cases the campaign will have some presence on the company or product website, or it may need its own site. But perhaps it’s also on paper. Maybe an insert that could be distributed in media, but also handed out at events. We’re always looking for the biggest bang for the budget, so if something can do double duty, it helps. Also campaigns are likely to include social media and perhaps email.

So, then we write, design, produce and deliver the campaigns. Once they’re launched, we measure, observe, adjust if necessary and rinse and repeat.

Each project is a bit different and has its own challenges, and that’s what keeps it interesting.

Duffy: Besides helping us with our website, you also generously donated two computers to our space. Why is community engagement important to Context Creative?

Andy: It’s quite simple. We live in a big city. At Context, we’re fortunate enough that sometimes we can help others, and so we do. I think there’s a moral obligation to do so. Everyone can decide what’s right for them, and how they want to contribute, but doing so is just part of life. We don’t live on an island, and we’re all in this together.

Students enjoying Context Creative's gifted iMac computer

Duffy: Storytelling is the backbone of our organization, and it seems to span many disciplines. In what way is marketing similar to storytelling as well?

Andy: That’s a very interesting and timely question because it’s currently the subject of a lot of discussion. Sometimes in marketing we get so focused on the “features” of a product or service,that we forget about the benefits to the user. Why would the user care? What’s the story?

As much as people like to think they’re rational, they don’t actually buy for rational reasons. They buy on emotion, and then justify their emotional decision with rational points.

Smart marketers tap into the emotions, and once you’re talking emotion, you’re talking stories. It all comes down to how it makes you feel, even for an everyday product like laundry detergent. Underlying every purchasing decision is a set of emotions. Some are stronger than others, but they’re there. Good marketers know how to appeal to those emotions, and it’s often in the form of a story.