Photo by Patrik Gothe
As consumer appetite for information continues to grow, the boundaries of learning have widened. Learning is now a life-long process, ingrained in our everyday expectations and desires.
This trend for ‘forever-development’ is significant for brands. By positioning themselves as educators, these smart movers are creating value with heightened experiences that connect with us on a deeper level and give us something extra. Consumers aren’t fooled – we know there’s a two-way deal: education in exchange for our sale, loyalty and recommendations. But if the education is meaningful, it seems we’re happy to be of service.
The educational spectrum for brands is broad ranging – from providing information in an engaging and entertaining format, through to transferring deeper know how. We’ve looked at seven brands, each taking a different approach, but all successfully using education to engage us and provide a distinct business benefit.
A brand with a reputation for education is Dyson. Last year it opened the first ever Dyson demo shop on Oxford Street and recently The James Dyson Foundation launched its latest Engineering Box. The Engineering Box is a reverse engineering kits that takes students through the design process by disassembling a Dyson machine to understand how it works by taking it apart. Each year the Foundation increases the inventory in the box to challenge more students to think like engineers. So far more than 130,000 students in the UK and US have tackled the box. The box and teaching materials are available to classrooms free of charge and are loaned to a school for four weeks at a time. It’s a great way to get Dyson talked about in the home, while reinforcing their reputation for being a world-leading engineering company making a positive contribution to society.
Bank of America
In the US, Bank of America have teamed up with online teaching platform Khan Academy to offer its customers a personalised learning platform around a number of financial topics. ‘Better Money Habits’ was tailored to each user’s experience depending on their answers to a number of key questions. This transparent example of their values in action improves customer trust and loyalty which in turn reduces attrition. It will also make working for Bank of America a more inspiring, attractive proposition for new generation talent who are driven to make a difference in their careers.
The iconic vinegar brand, Sarsens, capitalised on the trend for heritage hobbies and launched a series of masterclasses for its customers to help them get to grips with pickling (and also their vinegar!). Using a series of historical food specialists they explained how pickling works and gave instruction to help customers pickle more creatively through the addition of lesser known ingredients and hints and tips from as far back as the medieval period. This example is one of the most straightforward – the more engaged we are with the brand, the product and its benefits, the more of it we buy.
Swedish retailer with a focus on food and health, ICA Gruppen, was the first organisation to launch climate-guided recipes to educate its customers on being climate-smart: more aware of our impact on the environment. The recipes were each marked with one, two or three leaves to symbolise how beneficial they are from a climate perspective. Initially, 2,000 recipes were provided but it proved so successful that going forward all Ica recipes will be climate rated. The business aims to be climate-neutral in five years and as part of its commitment to this it wants to make its customers as informed as possible. The commercial benefit of such a move is clear – differentiate in a highly competitive by taking leadership on the issues that matter most to the people you serve.
VW has its VW Autostadt centre in Wolfsburg, Germany which attracts over 2 million visitors each year. It features a museum dedicated to VW cars, a customer centre where customers can pick up new cars, a factory tour, a guide to the evolution of roads, as well as workshops and training courses focused on mobility. It is also home to the largest glass doors in the world. Autostadt provides an educational experience for all of its visitors, young or old. Its educational opportunities combine theoretical knowledge with practical experience, and useful information with an enthusiasm for learning. The centre builds deeper relationships with customers and their kids and reinforces the VW brand and reputation. The centre has been around for years, but perhaps after the emissions scandal VW their authority and permission to educate us will be somewhat compromised.
Lush, the purpose-led cosmetics company, takes an informational standpoint. Their passion for ethical and eco-friendly products determines the way they inspire and educate both their customers and staff alike. Instore, product information is clearly displayed, staff are trained to relay product understanding and demonstrations and discovery are actively encouraged. Online, more product information is given than is typical and is interspersed with interesting features on the ingredients themselves – particularly those under debate such as SLS, parabens and preservatives. The ability to interact with these articles through social media and comment platforms means that Lush has established a loyal fan base which translates into sustainable revenue.
No article on educator brands would be complete without mentioning Apple. They have spent over a decade investing in educating their customers, encouraging them to anticipate and crave product launches, even before they’ve come to market – a truely effective way of creating demand. Apple recently launched its ‘Today at Apple’ initiative which comprises live events around the world at all 495 Apple Stores. Sets include bands, photo walks, kids hour, getting started with coding, how to draw, sketch and paint with the iPad and a whole raft of other inspirational learning activities. In its first day, the Apple Stores collectively hosted 4,000 sessions and customers are descending in their droves to catch the next instalment. Angela Ahrendts, SVP of retail at Apple said: “we’re creating a modern day town square where everyone is welcome in a space where the best of Apple comes together to connect with one another, discover a new passion or take their skill to the next level. We think it will be a fun and enlightening experience for everyone who joins.”
No matter how education is incorporated into the brand experience the one thing these examples all demonstrate is commercial nous. No high performing business is entirely motivated by philanthropic desire. Ultimately it makes fiscal sense to the company for their customer to become more enlightened. And while in every case, we consumers are always aware there’s an ulterior motive, we don’t seem to mind. It is the value exchange in action.
With consumer appetite for more in-depth information at a zenith, isn’t it time brands started expanding their minds and experimenting with on-brand education?