Want to reach teens? One of the best ways to do so is through teachers and classroom experiences. The messages are trusted, the engagement is deep, and when teens grapple with a topic, they evolve from being mere students to becoming ambassadors.
Certainly no one would advocate that brands advertise in schools. But corporations, associations, non-profits and government agencies have been sponsoring “thoughtfully branded” educational content for years. One example is Colgate’s Bright Smiles, Bright Futures initiative which promotes oral health through in-school literacy programs. Johnson & Johnson created a “science of germs” supplemental curriculum to teach youngsters how to care for small injuries in order to avoid infections.
The key to successful education marketing is threefold:
1. Promote behaviors, not brands. Think improved nutrition, responsible driving, financial literacy, or environmental awareness.
2. Embed the message in a topictaught in the classroom, such as math, science, English language arts, health, or social studies.
3. Align the content to current education standards. As of now, over 40 states have adopted Common Core standards, so if you want a teacher to adopt a program into the classroom, it must fit seamlessly into the school day.
From the looks of it, however, one would think the school year ran from mid-July to early September. After all, that’s when marketers spend the big bucks promoting services and products.
In actuality, that’s probably the worst time to try to engage teachers. The weeks leading up to the beginning of the school year (not to mention the first month of school) is spent setting up the classroom, getting to know students, and establishing a routine. Instead, savvy marketers would take a look at the calendar throughout the school year and see how they could develop supplemental curriculum to support a topic aligned to a particular day, month or season. Colgate has done that for over 20 years; it owns National Children’s Dental Health Month in February and reaches 50 million students and families every year.
Everyone knows the typical events – Thanksgiving, winter holidays, Valentine’s Day. But practically every day of the year has been assigned to some esoteric celebration or commemoration. Let’s skip over August and September, shall we? Sharpen your pencils and take note of just a few ways brands, corporations or associations could own a topic in schools:
Dictionary Day: Mattel, maker of the game Balderdash, could certainly develop some fun vocabulary-building activities that tie into English language arts or world language subjects.
Great American Smokeout: CVS, with its recent announcement that it would no longer carry cigarettes in its stores, could easily develop a curriculum that teaches the science of nicotine. (How much more powerful would that be than a hallway poster saying “Smoking kills”?)
Letter Writing Day: The U.S. Postal Service could benefit from encouraging letter writing. With actual sentences. On actual paper. And in the process, impart social studies, geography and English language arts skills.
National Puzzle Day: The Alzheimer’s Association could promote science and critical thinking skills through lessons focusing on crosswords and the effect it has on our brains.
Ferris Wheel Day: It’s not just a day in the park. Ferris wheels are a structural feat of algebraic equations and engineering. K’nex would do well by creating curriculum focused on the science of machines and algebra.
Plant a Flower Day: Burpee Seeds, how about a gardening curriculum that aligned with national science, math and social studies standards?
World Laboratory Day: Pharmaceutical companies may be the last entity you’d want in schools. But they could support STEM education without ever promoting a product.
Be a Millionaire Day (also Lucky Penny Day): What bank wouldn’t want to support financial literacy, especially since the topic is required by so many states.
National Yo-Yo Day: Duncan could develop a fun and engaging lesson in engineering.
What other unique ways can you think to engage teens where they spend most of their day?