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Context is the king

You still pay attention to demographics in growth marketing? Forget it! Context is more important than anything else.

In 1973 two Princeton professors J. Darley and Batson published a research called “From Jerusalem to Jericho” where they summarised the results of their experiments conducted with 59 priests.

Why would you care almost 50 years later?

Because they proved that everything you thought was crucial for your customers about your product is probably not that important.

That’s what professors did. They took 59 priests and asked them why they joined the Church. About half of priests said that it was to help others. About 50% admitted that their motivation was more selfish and they were looking for career opportunities.

Then priests were split into 3 groups and were asked to deliver a speech.

But group 1 was told they had 5 minutes to get to the auditorium.

Group 2 — that they had 15 min.

Group 3 — an hour.

That’s where the real experiment started. On their way to the lecture every priest had to pass professors’ assistants who pretended to be in distress. They groaned and cried.

Who do you think stopped to help the person in distress? Priests who joined the church to help others?

Nope! In “low hurry” group 65% of priests stopped disregarding their motivations. In the “high hurry” group almost no one stopped.

This experiment proved that personality has a lower impact on the person’s actions than the context.

But not all the context!

There’s another twist to this story: half of the students were assigned to talk about Good Samaritan (the topic that was supposed to make them more compassionate) another half - about pain points of the priesthood. Professors did not detect any topic-related impact on the empathy level of the priests.

Time pressure overweighted any other motives the participants might have had.

How can you use contextuality in your business?

— Create your user journey map and find out as much as you can about jobs-to-be-done during customer interviews.

— JTBD provide insights on the most important context for your customers. The circumstances they find themselves in and that has driven them to look for a solution of their problem are more important than your pricing policy, competition, UI attractiveness, UX quality or anything else.

If you need more information on this subject feel free to contact me on Twitter or LinkedIn (DMs are open) I'm also available on ProductHunt if you prefer this network.

Useful links and resources:

1) Darley, J. M., and Batson, C.D., "From Jerusalem to Jericho": A study of Situational and Dispositional Variables in Helping Behavior". JPSP, 1973, 27, 100-108.
2) How to interview customers to validate your idea
3) Customer interview 101

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