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Context and Contextual Applications


We all have heard what the 3 L’s in real estate are – location, location, location. Meaning, that everything dealing with a real estate transaction and pricing, is pre-judged and determined by the location of that real estate parcel.

Taking that same thought pattern in another direction – the concept of ‘context’ determines the impact of all forms of communication – both verbal and non-verbal. We have all been in situations when something we have said or done was ‘taken out of context’ and/or twisted around to then not mean the same thing as our original intent. So in the realm of communication, I guess we could say the 3 C’s of communication are context, context, context.

We see abuses of communication context everyday in all forms of our news media. One has to always be aware of the spoken and written words one does, as well as actions and body language – this is extremely important to speakers, authors, politicians, celebrities, etc. There are always people out there who seem anxious to take other people’s ideas out of their original context and misconstrue them in a way that may even harm the original person. If you always speak from your heart and communicate with the highest and best intentions, then hopefully you will be shielded from stuff taken out of context.

Now, let’s take the same concept of context and apply it to consumer behaviors. This application of context will have a direct impact on the sales of your products or services. Recent research by Stanford University along with Korea University Business School concluded that the context of a product – how it was presented for sale, i.e. what other products it was displayed / advertised / marketed with – had a perceptual impact on the physical performance of the product. The study says, “These findings show that the choice process and the configuration of the choice set have long-term effects on the strength, stability, and attribution of the resulting preferences and can even influence product satisfaction.”

There are three ways to present your product or service in a contextual way with other comparable products:
1. Asymmetrical Dominance – One product is clearly superior to the others.
2. Compromise – One product is in the middle of the others.
3. Control – All choices are equivalent.
Depending on what you are selling as a product or service, you may want to use these contextual set offerings stated above in different ways. You also need to determine what ‘context’ you will be making the differentiations about – price, performance, workmanship, packaging, etc. You always want to show your product in the ‘best light’ so that it is the clear and obvious choice in the minds of the customer.

One part of this study used a pen as the product within the three different types of context sets listed above. Participants that chose the optimum pen out of the set types above even stated it wrote better than the other pens (even if there was no physical superior performance between the pens). This is a key factor for promoting positive ‘word of mouth’ advertising for your products or services – a happy and satisfied customer who made what they thought was a good purchase decision based on contextual sets – is sure to repurchase and spread positive remarks about your product.

So, based on this information, it looks like the 3 C’s in marketing are context, context, context. I personally see this within the sales of my hypnosis CD’s. My packaging is amazing, I have retail bar codes on the back, and all of them are professionally produced and packaged. I was at a recent hypnosis conference and saw several of my colleague’s CD’s in crappy homemade packaging with printed paper labels glued to the CD disc which were selling for more money than I charge for mine. I will bet you that if we did a contextual set analysis as discussed above that my CD’s would come out as the superior product (even if the therapy message was better on the other ones) and I bet customer feedback would be more positive for my therapy message on each CD as well.

Think about how you can use context comparisons within your products or services and remember that context is king within many different applications.



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