Context is Half of Everything

Jason Stapleton
Scottsdale, AZ
Sunday, 2:27 p.m.

Hello again my friend,

If you want to get into a war zone, you can’t take a direct flight.

You have to take a commercial airline to a more hospitable country first. Then find someone crazy enough to fly you into hell.

That’s what I did in 2005 during my first trip to Iraq.

My work in the military left me with a particular set of skills. Ones that were only valuable to a small group of people in very dangerous places.

So I had been contracted by a private security company to do high-threat personal security for the U.S. State Department.

But as I said, I couldn’t just fly into Bagdad Airport. I had to fly to Jordan first.

Once I made it to Jordan the company put me up in a hotel while I waited for a plane that could fly me into Baghdad.

The first morning I was there I went down to breakfast. Unlike your average continental breakfast in the States, this one consisted of meats, cheeses and flatbread.

I piled my plate high and sat down. No sooner had my ass hit the chair when a waiter approached to ask me if I wanted anything to drink.

“Coffee?” I asked.

“Nescafe?” He fired back.

Being a country boy from Kansas I had no idea what a Nescafe was. But it had the word ‘Cafe’ in it. So I nodded in agreement.

Three minutes later a piping hot cup of coffee was placed in front of me. I grabbed the cup and took a sip.

Dam if that wasn’t the best cup of coffee I’d ever had in my life. I drank 3 more.

Over the next several years I would rave about the coffee in Jordan. I would tell all my friends and family back home how amazing it was.

They call it Nescafe.” I’d say. “And it’s the best coffee you’ve ever had.”

Then one morning I mentioned how much I loved the coffee to a buddy of mine in Iraq.

“You know it’s just instant coffee right?”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Nescafe. It’s just instant coffee. It comes in a packet. You put the coffee pounder in the cup and pour hot water over it. You can buy it at any grocery store in the States.”

I was shocked. In America, instant coffee is considered revolting. A brew reserved for the peasants. No self-respecting coffee drinker would lower themselves to drinking instant coffee.

Yet here I was, talking it up like some uncultured rube.

I was sure there must be something different about Nescafe. So the next time I was home I bought a box of it.

I pulled out the packet, poured the powder into my cup and added some hot water.

Now for the moment of truth.

I took a sip.

Coffee. Just coffee. Nothing spectacular. Just plain old instant coffee.

Context is Half of Everything

Have you ever wondered why Guinness tastes better in Ireland?

Or why the food always tastes better at an expensive restaurant?

It’s not because they make the beer different in Ireland. Or that the food is 10 times better in a fancy restaurant.

The truth is, half of all our experiences are contextual.

It’s why a Michelin star restaurant spends so much time attending to the smallest detail.

  • How are guests greeted at the door?
  • How are they brought to their seats?
  • How are the menus and wine lists handed to the guest?
  • How is the food presented on the plate?

It all matters.

How to Add Context to Your Marketing

In the last 1700s, a Scottish inventor named James Watt created the most efficient steam engine on earth.

His goal was to sell it to mining and construction companies. Ones that relied heavily on human and animal labor.

But he needed a way of explaining the new engine’s value to uneducated men who didn’t like change.

It would be a waste of time to talk about steam flow rates or pressure-volume diagrams. Instead, he spoke to his audience in their own language.

He related his engine’s value in terms of Horse Power.

This was something every man in the company could understand. It also allowed them to calculate a cost/benefit.

Feeding and sheltering animals is expensive. If Watt’s new engine could do the work of ten horses – his new contraption had quantifiable value.

How Can You Create Context in Your Marketing?

1) Start with the environment. Where is your prospect likely to consume your marketing message?

If you’re on Linkedin or Facebook I find it helpful to imagine my prospect sitting on the toilet scrolling through posts.

Long-form content won’t perform well in that environment.

But if they’re on Youtube I know they’re in a different mindset entirely. People go to Youtube to learn. They are there to consume long-form content.

Shorts might be effective at getting exposure but you won’t convert any views into leads.

So before you create anything, consider where and how your prospect will receive that message.

2) Wrap the message in a language your prospect will understand.

Just like James Watts didn’t rattle off technical specs to his audience, you need to consider the experience and understanding of your buyer.

As a business coach, I know most of my buyers are less experienced than me. Sure I could talk to them about advanced ideas like Nero-linguistic theory. Or try to teach them techniques like Hypnotic Pacing.

But my audience isn’t that sophisticated. They want to know simple, actionable things they can do to gain more followers and make more sales.

So I make things relatable.

Like I did in this letter. Everyone has experienced the context effect in their lives. We’ve all scrolled through TikTok and Facebook while sitting on the can.

That’s imagery and context that helps drive my point home. It makes the subject relatable.

3) When No Context Is Available, Create It.

One of my favorite ways to create context is using the Decoy Effect.

Humans have a very hard time knowing what things should cost. In the absence of any context, the brain is left to guess the best choice.

And we never want our prospects guessing. Especially when they’re ready to buy.

Buy using a simple technique like the Decoy Effect we can create context that influences the decision our prospect will make.

It looks like this:

Let’s say you’re at the theater and you’re trying to decide what popcorn to buy. Given just two options, most people would choose the small popcorn. Because nobody ever finishes the big one.

But when we add a decoy option into the mix it changes everything.

Given that most people want more than a small but less than a large you’d assume they would choose the medium.

But since the large is only 50 cents more, it’s hard to justify not buying a large.

And we know this works.

The Economist Magazine Study

In 2009, The Economist Magazine ran an online pricing page with three options:

  • Option A: Web Only – $59 for a one-year subscription
  • Option B: Print Only – $125 for a one-year subscription
  • Option C: Web & Print – $125 for both a one-year subscription to the print edition and online access to

Dan Ariely, a professor of behavioral economics, ran the study and found 16% chose Option A, 0% chose Option B, and 84% chose Option C.

But when the second option was removed, the outcomes were reversed – 68% chose Option A, and only 32% chose Option C.

That’s an extra $34,320 for every 1,000 subscribers! (See how I used context?)

Or an increase of 42.8%! (And again here.)

I could keep going but this letter is already longer than I intended it to be. So I’ll leave it here for now.

This week, while you’re out on social media, building trust and authority, remember how important context is to everything your write and say.

How can you create more clarity for your audience?

What is a unique way you could frame your ideas that will resonate with your prospects?

It’s not easy. It’s not supposed to be. Originality is rare. That’s why most people are carbon copies of what others think or feel.

Remember – Context is half of everything. The better job you do creating it, the more money you’ll make.

Talk soon,


If you enjoyed this newsletter there are 2 ways I can help you:

1. If you’re looking to start or grow your solo business I’d recommend joining my Leverage Coaching Group.

The LEVERAGE Coaching Group was created to help solopreneurs and entrepreneurs grow a six-figure business. One that provides both financial freedom and income mobility.

We do this in 3 ways:

  1. On-Demand Training on Sales, Marketing & Brand Development.
  2. Monthly LIVE Coaching Sessions where I do a ‘deep dive’ on the marketing & sales strategies that are working NOW.
  3. Weekly “Office Hours” with no agenda other than helping you implement your growth plan.

It’s a unique coaching program, unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. Click here to join now.

2. If you have a successful business but you’re feeling burned out and frustrated then it’s time to start building the systems into your business that will free you from the day-to-day grind: check out my The Business Growth Accelerator

Share the Post:

Give Yourself an Unfair Advantage

Enter your best email address below: