Contextual Clues

How much do you charge? That is a difficult question to answer for any product. Different prices carry different associations. Different locations in a shop or across the world influence money. And different competitors create a different setting for positioning your product against them. These are all questions for regular industries – What about a more subjective one?


Art and entertainment is very subjective from the audience’s perspective. Two people can see the same work or performance and have completely different experiences. It could give one person incredible value, well above and beyond what they paid. Whereas another person might get very little value from the experience.

This often happens in musical theatre when the context isn’t defined very well and the wrong people end up seeing the production.

King Kong is a great example of this effect. People who loved traditional musical theatre saw the show and didn’t enjoy it because it didn’t fit into the context of the tried-and-true musicals. On the other hand, people who regularly enjoy more spectacular entertainment from the likes of Cirque du Soleil and Global Creatures finally found a musical they loved.

What created the dissatisfied segment of the audience was the context of the show. It was positioned as a musical, all the advertising material highlighted the word musical and it took place in a traditional theatre. Had it been called King Kong: The Live Spectacular and played a huge stadium, it could have been a completely different story!

Definitive proof of this important contextual element has just been provided by a comedic YouTube channel – LifeHuntersTV – and a piece of IKEA furniture. Taking a £10 print from their local IKEA store, LifeHuntersTV placed the print in an art gallery and quizzed patrons on the work. How they felt about the painting? Whether they had heard of the (fictional) artist before? And how much did they think the painting should be worth?

Surprisingly in the art gallery context, not one person came close to the correct price with some going as high as £2.5 million. Check it out for yourself below.