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The Art of Using Low vs High Context Marketing Strategies

They say the message sent is not always the message received. It’s natural for us to filter what we hear based on our past experiences, culture, and language. That way, we can make an intelligent guess of what was said, even if we didn’t fully hear it. As marketers, we need to decipher these contextual filters to communicate effectively with local and global audiences. This is where low vs high context marketing strategies come in.

Don’t understand what that means? No worries.

In this blog post, you’ll learn what low-context and high-context marketing strategies are and how to tailor your marketing messages to suit different communication styles.


Understanding Low vs High Context Marketing Strategies

Low context vs high content marketing is a concept derived from anthropologist Edward T Hall’s research into how people communicate in different cultural contexts. In 1956, Hall proposed that most people were fundamentally ‘low context’ or ‘high context’ in their communication style.

These preferences, he said, were shaped by the cultural backgrounds they came from. While these preferences can vary from person to person, the broader culture does affect how they might behave in different situations.

According to Hall, high-context cultures rely less on spoken words and more on the context in which something is said. On the other hand, low-context cultures preferred direct verbal communication, stating everything that needed to be said upfront.

For marketers, the takeaway is to align their messages as closely as possible with the target audience’s cultural comfort zone. This is the premise behind the low vs high context marketing strategies of today.

Understanding the factors that influence purchase decisions is crucial if you want to communicate effectively across different markets. The key is deciding whether to appeal to individual preferences and unique selling points or shared experiences.

What is Low-Context Communication? 

Low-context communication is explicit communication. In a low-context culture, information is conveyed directly and objectively. People from such cultures generally make their own choices and so tend to be very specific in how they communicate with others. They tend to be very expressive and don’t usually leave anything unsaid. 

In a nutshell, the information is in the message.

Hall classified the United States and Western Europe as being predominantly low-context societies. 

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What is High-Context Communication? 

High-context communication is indirect, implied communication. It relies more on non-verbal gestures and symbols to suggest what others may not want to say out loud. High-context communication is common among cultures that tend to think collectively, prioritizing the opinions of others over their own. 

In high-context communication, the information is in the context surrounding the message. 

According to Hill, Asian societies countries like India, Japan, and China are high-context based on their cultural characteristics. The inference for marketers is that when localizing campaigns for global markets, they must consider the culture and how it influences the communication styles of the target audience.

Read also: 9 Free Marketing Strategies to Scale Your Small Business

Differences Between Low and High-Context Marketing Strategies

Low and high-context communication styles represent opposite ends of a broad spectrum. So, the marketing strategies need to be nuanced. Here’s what makes them different.

1. Low-context marketing

The key is specific, unambiguous messaging. Subject lines and CTAs should be logical and to the point. Low-context consumers generally value transparency and need lots of clarification. So marketers need to say it like it is. If a customer does not understand your message, they may not buy your product.

In Western countries, the use of vague language can confuse consumers and make them suspicious. It may even be a red flag for fraud.


2. High context marketing

High-context marketing makes use of shared cultural or social themes that the target audience understands instinctively. The best approach is to use story-telling to highlight relationships and values more than product features.

High-context consumers tend to read between the lines so you can imply more than what you say. Marketing concepts based on cultural affinity and emotions can work well.

Read also: 6 High-Impact eCommerce Marketing Strategies to Try Now

Differences Between Low-Context and High-Context Marketing Strategies

Low context and high context marketing represent two ends of a spectrum.

1. Communication style

Low-context marketing is direct and factual compared to high-context marketing, which tends to be implicit and emotional. 

2. Messaging approach

Low-context marketing relies on facts and evidence, while high-context marketing replaces facts with narrative and symbolism.

3. Audience engagement

Low-context marketing emphasizes individual needs and expectations. On the other hand, high-context marketing gives weightage to values and cultural identity.

4. Call-to-action

Low-context marketing invites users to take specific actions, while high-context marketing is less persuasive.

5. Content style

Low-context content is objective and formal. In comparison, high-context marketing is more subjective and expressive.

Read also: 45 Business Text Message Templates For Busy Bees

Pros and Cons: Low Context vs High Context Communication

Each style has its advantages and disadvantages that marketers need to navigate carefully. Low-context marketing minimizes the risk of confusion, but people in high-context cultures may perceive it as lacking emotion.

Low-context marketing can be more cost-effective for marketers as it gets to the point quickly. You may need fewer CTAs or subject lines to get the message across. However, it can come across as too transactional.

High-context marketing appeals to cultural values and builds trust with audiences. The downside is that it can be misinterpreted if the context isn’t correct. Many international brands have had to learn this the hard way.

High-context marketing can cost more as you may need multiple messages to engage and convert customers.

Read also: Texting 101: Your Complete Guide to SMS Short Codes

Low Context vs High Context Marketing Examples

In this section, we’ll go through some examples to illustrate what these different kinds of marketing strategies look like.

1. Low context marketing example


In the above example, Apple uses direct language to describe features and benefits. The messaging is clear and verifiable.

2. High-context marketing example


In the above example, the marketer makes extensive use of storytelling and imagery to create an engaging experience for the viewer with the product introduced at the very end. 

 For low-context audiences, clear product information is everything. Let’s take the example of a toothpaste known for fighting a particular gum disease. If you describe its properties using concise words and back it up with a recommendation from an authority figure such as a doctor, you can drive engagement and conversion.

For high-context audiences, you don’t need to focus on the features as much as the pre-existing assumptions or beliefs regarding regular teeth brushing. 

Read also: Emoji with Symbols – Dress Up Your Marketing Messages

Choosing the Right Strategy for Your Business

Getting the cultural context right is the key factor if you want to engage audiences globally. Here are a few fundamental elements to consider.

1. Know the audience in and out

 Conduct surveys and interviews to understand the preferred communication style. You can also create buyer personas based on the insights. Secondly, use analytics to identify engagement patterns as seen in previous campaigns.

For example, if you have a low-context audience, you should see low engagement on a contextual subject line or CTA.

2. Consider buying motives

As you discover cultural nuances, assess what drives their buying motives. For example, do they think in terms of extrinsic features and benefits, or do they prioritize intrinsic needs such as community, tradition, or cultural affinity?

As a rule of thumb, consumers from low-context cultures are more transactional, while those from high-context backgrounds tend to favor emotional affinity and shared experiences. Accordingly, you can emphasize value or connection when creating marketing messages for these audiences based on their preferences.

3. Assess the complexity of the message

Technical information is typically expressed as facts and figures. Simple messages can be easily communicated implicitly. This means that the complexity of the message can influence how it’s communicated. 

4. New vs familiar ideas

If the subject is new to the audience, the message may need to be communicated explicitly. On the other hand, if the subject is well known within the culture, then using symbols can be enough to get the message across. 

Read also: SMS Marketing – A Beginner’s Guide (Tips, Benefits, Examples)

Best Practices: How to Implement Low-Context and High-Context Strategies?

It’s important to remember that high-context or low-context cultures can’t be put into boxes. Think of it as variables on a scale of 1 to 10. Here are some recommendations on how to integrate low-context communication strategies and high-context communication strategies for different audiences.

1. Use segmentation to find the preferred communication style

Communication styles can vary from location to location – even within the same country. If you want to connect with niche groups within a larger audience, you need data.

With that in mind, segment the audience based on demographics, purchase history, online activity, reviews, social media comments, surveys, and loyalty points into micro-segments. This can help distinguish between sub-groups within the audience and tailor your messaging better. 

2. Combine images and text

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. By combining vivid, color images with detailed product descriptions, you can appeal to both low-context and high-context audiences. You can also experiment with different formats like infographics, videos, images, and GIFs.

Use A/B testing to determine the best placement, resolution, size, and responsiveness based on your campaign objectives. EngageBay comes with customizable email templates and a landing page builder that help you create, test, and deploy low-context and high-context variations in minutes. 

3. Use personalization elements

The first step is to personalize the name, subject line, and/or product details. For low-context audiences, make sure your message refers to previous interactions or purchase history. Highlight the individual benefits they get on taking the required action. 

This also means clearly outlining the next steps and closing with an actionable CTA. If you are targeting multiple customer personas, use dynamic content to customize messages. 

4. Use reporting data to refine your messaging

Analyze metrics like open rate, click-through rate, page views, video watch time, etc., to evaluate the effectiveness of each creative asset. You can rotate different variations over a few weeks to benchmark engagement and then optimize your messages based on the performance. 

5. Leverage technology to align messaging and context

Thankfully, you don’t have to decode complicated communication patterns yourself. There are a range of tools that can do the job with precision. For example, CRM tools can store and analyze purchase preferences, buying history, and previous interactions. 

You can use this information to identify patterns with specific audiences. For example, you can create segments based on criteria like preference for detailed information or emotional storytelling. CRM tools like EngageBay can also personalize messages in bulk based on custom criteria. 

Marketing automation platforms can track customer activity across channels and guide them towards conversion. They use analytics to predict customer needs and buying motives. In the context of communication preferences, you can adapt marketing strategies based on this data. By integrating CRM and marketing automation, you can identify and target micro-moments across the customer journey. 

AI-enabled chatbots can also identify communication patterns and respond in real-time. 

Read also: SMS Character Limit – Will Your Message Fit?


In the time to come, marketers will need to adapt the content in real-time based on customer behavior. EngageBay offers a complete suite of capabilities to help you create dynamic messaging across channels based on evolving tastes and preferences.

The best part is that you can test all its features for free and then upgrade based on your business needs. Sign up for free today!

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