The first time I heard that context matters was with the teacher and friend Lluis Martínez – Ribes. It was in one of his great marketing classes at ESADE (more than 20 years ago). He was talking about the enormous importance of context in the field of marketing. It was undoubtedly one of the most decisive variables in marketing management. An aspect to take into account for any executive. Lluís commented, for example, what a glass of water was worth. In many bars it is usually free if you ask for it to accompany a coffee. But in another context, for example in the middle of the desert, the same glass of water can have a very high value. Same product, same characteristics… everything the same except the context. And this “little difference” makes a “big difference”. In marketing, context matters.
And on personal branding issues, context also plays a really relevant role. To explain it, I am going to rely on a social experiment that was carried out for the first time in 2007. The experiment was organized by the newspaper The Washington Post and had the violinist Joshua Bell as the protagonist. The virtuoso violinist played for 43 minutes in the Washington subway. He was incognito, dressed in jeans, a long-sleeved shirt and a cap. It was accompanied by a Stradivarius violin valued at € 3.5 million.
During his performance he managed to complete a repertoire of 6 melodies by classical composers. 1,097 people passed near the artist during his performance of which only 27 decided to contribute financially; only 7 stopped to listen carefully to the music and only one person realized that it was the well-known violinist. Joshua Bell raised $32 and 17 cents in the 43 minutes of his performance (later donated to charity).
Serve this well-known and ingenious example to reelevate the importance of context in the development of your personal branding. You can be one of the best violinists in the world, you can use one of the best violins … but if you don’t act in the right context, it will be of little use.
So think carefully about how is your staging, where you “act”, what is your personal image, what your website says about you, or your profile on social networks, or your business cards. Analyze and define your context well. Because the context you choose can enhance (or ruin) your personal brand.
As the British anthropologist Gregory Bateson said, “Without context, words and actions have no meaning.”