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The context rules

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Knowing that the context affects people's judgements of products leads to the insight that it can be both more powerful and easier to change a product's context than to change the product itself. So we can use situations and behaviours (travel to/from work, lunch, a night on the town) as the springboard for finding new contexts in which the product can engage with the consumer.

We never make our judgements about phenomena or products in isolation. Instead, we use the context as our frame of reference for forming an opinion. In actual fact, the context generally has more significance for our judgements and reactions than the products and marketing in themselves. This is what is termed context effects.

Two very illuminating examples of this are the brands Dressmann (a Scandinavian men's clothing store) and McDonald's, which are perceived totally differently in several of their markets. Studies have shown that Dressmann – somewhat simplistically – is seen as ‘budget-priced everyday fashion’ in Sweden and appeals primarily to men over 30 years of age; while Dressmann shops and clothing in Finland are perceived as trendy and the brand is very successful among the young. In Sweden, McDonald's is synonymous with fast food and its restaurants appeal primarily to people who want to get something to eat quickly that's simple and cheap. In some countries in Eastern Europe, ...

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