Context - it is Relevant
The importance of context is so obvious when I am making choices, I wonder
why it is not obvious to most of the people involved in consumer research.
When I am ordering in a restaurant, I find that a hamburger will have
different levels of appeal depending on the other items on the menu. If
I am in McDonalds, a hamburger doesn't look too bad, but if I am in my favorite
restaurant, The Grey Hound Tavern, I have no interest in a hamburger even
though they serve an excellent one. I would probably order their Walleye
Pike or Kentucky Hot Brown.
What does this have to do with market research? I believe a lot.
If we know that the context or environment has a lot to do with how
we see things, why then do we not consider how important context is when
we assess such things as brand appeal, container copy, pricing and other visual
aspects of our products?
This particular thought came about while I was digging through some papers
relating to a Customer Satisfaction Talk I gave back in 1996. In the
papers I found an article by Stephen Nolls, professor at Arizona State and
Itamar Simonson, professor at Stanford. They were writing about their
article that was to appear in the Journal of Marketing Research,
to the importance of "Positioning the Product" as it relates to in-store
locations. Their paper concluded, "You must measure consumers' preferences
in the same contexts that consumers will encounter in the marketplace."
observation is not new, check the writings of people like Dr. Richard Lutz,
University of Florida, Dr. Richard Fox, University of Georgia, Dr. William
Baker, University of Vermont, Dr. Gerald Bersetell, Gerald Berstell &
Co., Dr. Denise Nitterhouse, DePaul University, etc. The environmental
effect has been widely expressed and totally ignored by the market research
community in general.
If the above is true, would you ever test a new container copy in the
back room of a mall or even on a computer screen? I have seen a number
of failures when good scoring products moved from the test environment into
the market. One in particular involved a new bottle and art work that
received excellent scores in the mall test situation but when it was placed
on the store shelf in context with the store environment and competition,
it performed miserably.
A good friend experienced pricing context effects when evaluating a new
meat entree. It seems that he got radically different results when
the entree was placed next to steaks versus when placed next to ground round.
Now to compound the problem of understanding purchase choice and motivation,
we learn more about "The Science of Shopping" with the emergence of the Path
Method utilized by Dr. Herb Sorensen.
For interesting reading see the Fall 2003 issue of Marketing
Winning in the marketplace is all about knowing and understanding
the consumer (and the customer).
Sponsor: Sorensen Associates Inc
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Minneapolis, MN 888.616.0123
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