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The Power of Context: Why Environment Changes Everything

So many times you’ll hear people say that they won’t answer hypotheticals — the proverbial “What If?” question — because they don’t know the situation, or how they would feel if they were in it.

While this response could easily be a way out of answering a difficult question, the basis behind it is solid: context matters. A lot.

Yesterday, I burned a mix CD to listen to in the car. The mix was made up of MP3s ripped from CDs I already own and listen to regularly.

When I popped in the CD, I realized that I was listening to the same music, but in a completely different way. At the end of each song, I expected to hear the next song from the original CD, but got a different song on the mix.

When my wife, a teacher, sees any of her school kids outside of school, she’s often greeted with shyness and awkward looks. In fact, one of her fellow teachers was asked by a student if the teachers sleep at school.

Kids aren’t used to seeing their teachers outside of school. Think about it: were you?

It’s a completely different environment than they are used to. Context changes everything.

A kid who is loud in class may be speechless when he sees his teacher at the grocery store. The experience is totally different than what he is used to.

In product marketing, the context has to be correct. Timing, placement and packaging are crucial.

And when you get the context correct, change it. Give your audience an entirely different experience.

They won’t be expecting it. But they’ll understand it in a whole new way.

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