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Monday, May 6, 2013

Do You Know What Happens? Take a Guess.

Context matters.

We all know what happens when you wring out a wet washcloth, right?

We probably do. Unless the context changes. Take a look at what happens when this very common process happens in space. Different context often means a different result. Can you guess what will happen?

Marketers need to be hyper-aware of the context—the environment of their message—in order to make good decisions about their message. There are countless examples of messages souring a marketing initiative because of the context.

Here's one example: Texas Instruments was preparing to speak in front of a large sales group that was staying at a hotel. They were going to introduce new products, new promotions and most importantly a new spiff program for the salespeople. The marketing idea was to have chocolates delivered to each person's hotel room as part of the nightly turn-down service. So, theoretically, as the salespeople went to sleep the night before the big presentation they would enjoy a chocolate compliments of Texas Instruments. Sweet message, sweet timing. Great idea.

The problem was that Texas Instruments was going to also present a similar program to a competing sales group that was staying in the exact same hotel the very next week. A situation primed to lead to an error. Yes, the chocolates arrived on time with a customized message. But they delivered the wrong chocolates. So instead of welcoming a sales group to a great message and a feeling of being special the chocolate only reminded them that they were gaining no advantage because the same program was going to become a standard across all sales channels.

Essentially, it was like calling your current best friend the name of your ex-best friend. Ouch.

The next day the Texas Instruments presenter, a sales channel product marketer, delivered the message that should have won the audience over. Instead they had to do it while being pelted with chocolates. The point is this, you have to know your context. What was intended on being a great context with a warmed up crowd was in fact turned into a hostile context. While the marketing team back at Texas Instruments couldn't fix the problem (things happen), the presenter could have. They could have apologized, asked for the audience to toss the chocolates on stage and for the one that landed it nearest the Texas Instruments logo they would win $100.

They didn't, and I can attest that Texas Instruments sales through that sales channel, through that sales team plummeted. Instead of recognizing the changed context and adapting, the product marketer held on to the original message. They believed (because I asked them) that the sales program was strong enough to overcome the snafu. On the face value it would have, but the context of the moment that the message was delivered made all the facts impossible to believe. Sort of like what happens to the water that you wring out of a towel in space. Not what you expect.

Context matters.

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