The pedagogy of marketing

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teacher in class

A couple of years ago I worked with an education company. Travelling elementary, middle and high schools in the northeast, interviewing teachers, administrators and observing kids, I was amazed by how K12 education is changing. And, in many cases, not. The tools and pedagogy are there, we just have to use them.

What became most clear to me after my time in education was a simple observation about teaching and learning. The latter is the result of the former. But only if done well. You see, there is bad teaching but there is no bad learning. Understanding the linkage is important.

This observation powered an insight that changed my approach to branding and marketing. Most marketing is about teaching. While the best marketing is about learning. The old days of reach and frequency –smother consumers with repetition– akin to learning ABCs or months of the year, is not how we need to market in the 21st century. Not with the constant bombardment of media and messages. And messy messages at that.

With a rich “organizing principle for your product, experience and messaging” (a brand strategy), brought to life through learning moments and learning demonstrations, you can connect with and motivate consumers. Stand at the front of the class and recite benefits (teach) and you will fail. Peace.


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One of the hardest jobs in the world, I suspect, is teaching special needs children. Spec Ed, insiders call it. I am no expert but I do know there are certain stimuli that get through to special needs kids. They like to touch. They like the color purple. Certain sounds and instruments are soothing. Special needs children learn better when distractions are minimized and their individual leaning sweet spot found.  This individualized learning modus extends to non-special needs children. Children learn at different paces because they are like snowflakes.

In marketing, there are some similarities. Predisposing a consumer to your product and pitch does not benefit from a cookie cutter approach. Brand planners who understand buying behavior, context and psychology have a leg up when avoiding the cookie cutter approach. This deeper understanding can give form to the organizing principle that is the brand plan (here defined as 1 Claim, 3 Support Planks). This organizing principle offers flexibility to teach consumers in different learning places, yet enough control for brand managers to stay focused.

Consumers are so overwhelmed by marketing, unsupported claims, imagery, song and marko-babble, they can’t concentrate. We need to create a distraction-less, replicable selling schemes that are indelible. With a tight brand plan we can impact product, experience, benefit set, and most importantly muscle memory. Marketing is about creating behavior or changing behavior. The pedagogy of marketing. Peace.

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