Our Lens for Exploring Context

The lens you will be using to explore the larger context for your field of study and its associated professions in the upcoming weeks is decision-making. How will current trends, concerns, and research related to my academic discipline inform the decisions I make about my academic and professional development or personal interests?  In other words: what do I need to know about my field of study to make good academic and professional choices?

An easy way to understand the relationship between context and decision-making is to look at an example of a marketing campaign that failed when context influencing consumer behavior was not taken into account. (Note: The quality of the video clip is poor, but it will give you the gist of the advertisers’ approach.)

Nothing offensive about that commercial, right? Who wouldn’t want her hair to look good?

Regardless of how good Affinity shampoo might have made their hair look, women did not buy the shampoo because they did not want to identify themselves as “older.” The marketing campaign did not take into account the cultural context for women in the 1980s: American attitudes toward aging. To read an analysis of how cultural context sank Affinity shampoo, click here.

As you can see from the Affinity shampoo example, a series of decisions went into the making of the commercial: how the product would be described in the voiceover, the gender of the voiceover artist, the gender of the model, the age of the model, what she would say, what the product packaging would look like, the product tagline on the screen, and so on. When you view the commercial, you can see that every one of these decisions made sense–except they ignored the larger context of America’s youth culture.

Please read the article: “Riding Happy into the Golden Years,” to learn more about the fall out of Affinity shampoo and the consequences of misreading an audience.


Additional horrible and/or unfortunate ads whose marketing teams misread context:

Strategic Decision-Making: It’s Not Just for Marketing Executives & CEOs

The Center for Simplified Strategic Planning (CSSP)2 defines strategic thinking in a way that is directly relevant to making decisions about academic and professional development:

Strategic thinking is a process that defines the manner in which people think about, assess, view, and create the future for themselves and others. Strategic thinking is an extremely effective and valuable tool. One can apply strategic thinking to arrive at decisions that can be related to your work or personal life. Strategic thinking involves developing an entire set of critical skills. What are those critical skills? (“Strategic Thinking,” n.d.)

Visit the Center for Simplified Strategic Planning to learn about the eleven critical skills for strategic thinking.


Strategic thinking: 11 critical thinking skills. (n.d.). Retrieved July 26, 2021, from Center for Simplified Strategic Planning website: https://www.cssp.com/CD0808b/ CriticalStrategicThinkingSkills/


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