Brands as Neo Educators
Savvy brands that embrace the future of Edutainment will give audiences a behind-the-scenes look at the company. They’ll demystify professional processes, improve transparency, and make the impossible feel a little more possible. And they'll do it all in ways that feel accessible, engaging, and tactile.
Their ROI for doing so? Building brand awareness, trust, and connection. The priceless trifecta of creating customer loyalty.
And the best of the best will simultaneously build themselves a diverse pipeline of fresh talent. Win.
Previously, for brands, Edutainment was just product education in an entertaining manner. It was an afterthought and often considered a tactic used by brands with poor marketing.
At Wavetable, we want to help brands reimagine this word by removing the stigma. Edutainment 3.0 is so much more than dropping science trivia into an ad campaign or using actors and comedians to front the customer support videos.
And you can do more than just entertaining product education. Now, with the psychology around people’s motivation to buy and the impact of content and experiences on that motivation, a new wave of influence is emerging. When brands think about neo education, they unlock new ideas for business models, product marketing, global expansion, and much more.
This Edutainment 3.0 trend explores how effective brands can be when they go beyond the “buy our stuff” pitch in education.
Why this trend matters
Amid an increasing reliance on - and disillusionment with - social media platforms as the primary vehicle to build awareness and engagement, smart brands will use the power of education.
The educational marketing of the future is rooted in creating demand. This will happen by educating potential customers in a way that transforms them into advocates and ambassadors.
In Action: Brands as Neo Educators
In 2019, Nike collaborated with the late Virgil Abloh (artistic designer for Louis Vuitton menswear and co-founder of Milan-based streetwear label Off-White) to increase young people’s access to capital and diversify the creative industries.
The result was the NikeLab Re-Creation Center. Hosted in Abloh’s hometown of Chicago, the center offered free creative workshops for local youth, and 10 creatives received eight-week mentorships.
The following year, Abloh and Nike were back in Chicago for All-Star Academy, an initiative combining youth basketball coaching with education programming in sports design, science, and journalism.
The future of retail is in experiences - and experiential education can simultaneously engage, educate and entertain.
An extension of Apple’s ‘Today at Apple’ initiative, this series of how-to videos is conducted by Apple’s Creative Pros. These videos give out tips and tricks about getting creative at home with fun and engaging projects.
From “How to draw playful portraits with iPad” to “How to make your videos more cinematic with iPhone,” Apple customers have plenty of resources to get their creative juices flowing.
Electronics retailer Best Buy’s Career Pathways program helps teens gain expertise in the most in-demand careers in their own communities, and builds a diverse talent pipeline for Best Buy and other companies.
In the 12 month program, students spend the first nine months at the Teen Tech Center learning skills in areas like cyber security, digital arts, computer repair, retail skills, entrepreneurship, communication and project management. Many move on to paid summer internships in local businesses or Best Buy stores.
There are two aspects we like about this initiative.
- Tailoring to local needs: Best Buy provides a grant to pay for coordinators who run the program but also connect with local businesses to sculpt the program, and create summer internship positions. Each Teen Tech Center also has curriculum partners that best reflect the local market.
- Multiple pathways: Students build hard skills in programming and equipment repair, but also in areas such as in communication and collaboration. Keeping multiple routes open offers a great sense of possibility for participants.
When it comes to product education and customer support hubs that double up as smart brand marketing initiatives, Webflow are right up there. This software tool for building websites is a cool piece of kit, but despite being positioned as ‘no code’ it still has a pretty steep learning curve.
How to mitigate the inevitable issues of users either dropping off, or not even starting in the first place? Education.
Webflow University has hundreds of lessons and courses on just about every aspect of web design you can think of. But beyond the breadth of content is the approach. Along with strong curriculum design and a highly active community of designers and developers, everything is delivered with a blend of visual approaches, and a strong dash of humor to to make lessons memorable and engaging.
It’s working - and in some unexpected ways. The trailer for the 2.0 release of the University has 1.6m YouTube views. Just to be clear, this is for an intro video for a series of videos teaching you how to use a software package.
ZingTrain is the training arm of independent grocery chain Zingerman’s. The ZingTrain was founded by Maggie Bayless in June of 1994. All she had was a $1,000 investment, a desk in her attic, a second phone line, a fax modem, and a vision - developing strong training systems would be key to creating a Community of Businesses.
They're known for training on some of the most sought-after business topics, ranging from customer service and leadership to training, visioning, and open-book finance, among others.
Executives from a wide range of industries and geographies now join ZingTrain’s tasty range of training offerings.
To help make at-home breast checks for potential signs of cancer habitual, CoppaFeel created Boob Bot, a Facebook Messenger monthly subscription tool that’s inclusive, informative, and fun.
The brand then promoted the tool with a thumb-stopping, lighthearted campaign that focused not just on utility but also on levity.
Tracksmith is an “elite amateur” running-gear brand that believes running and creativity go hand in hand.
Their fellowship supports runners, who have creative ambitions, with year-long creativity grants. Whether film or photography, poetry or fiction, podcasts, music, painting, or sculpture, runners are invited to submit concepts for consideration to receive a grant. The goal of the grant is to inspire and ignite action within the larger running community.
Founder Matt Taylor explained: “It’s hard for new voices to break through, and that hinders the sport’s growth and ability to reach new audiences.”
Key Themes for Edutainment 3.0
Offer Economic Uplifts
Shifts in culture are making brands realize they need to update their values. Movements like Black Lives Matter were a turning point that led organizations to fund initiatives that addressed systematic inequities. Coaching programs like Gucci’s Changemakers have made brands more inclusive.
Mind the Gap
Filling the gaps left by traditional higher education institutions is a new opportunity for brands. Areas like self-discovery, career exploration, and training through micro apprenticeships are prime examples of where brands can make a name for themselves. Pair this with our trend on businesses getting in the groove.
Take Audiences Behind the Scenes
Brands that demystify professional processes will attract new respect from people, especially Gen Z. Initiatives that bring newcomers into the fold will hit a sweet spot. Great examples of this are Elle UK and Essence/Ulta magazine co-creations with teens and Alexander McQueen detailing how couture garments are created.
Co-Creational Creative Catalysts
Marginalized creatives are having their voices heard and amplified by brands. They’ve sparked a sense of possibility within this audience through co-authorship. The focus is not just learning, it’s about collaboration, co-creation, and shared ownership.
Wavetable’s Hot Tip: Co-Creation
We see a real edge in co-creation. Creativity is amplified with real-life experiences and people often feel empowered after they create something new, something that they didn’t think was possible before.
Furthermore, more people need to engage in real projects to learn, grow and develop their professional profiles.
Universities and online courses can only do so much; theory can only go so far. It's through tangible projects that new voices can really thrive.
P.S. We're working on a number of projects in this area. If you're curious to chat, we'd love to hear from you.
In Action: Ones to Watch
Vulcabras Azaleia - the leading Brazillian footwear company - had to pivot because of the Coronavirus pandemic. So they launched a social selling scheme that invited consumers to sell Olympikus brand sneakers for a 10% commission. But they couldn’t just say, “hey, sell these shoes.” They knew they needed to help people develop this skill. Escola do Corre was born.
This online learning platform is for digital entrepreneurship and covers topics like social media marketing and selling strategies.
And it’s working. According to Márcio Callage, Vulcabras Azaleia chief marketing officer, over 7,500 Brazilians have enrolled in the Corre Junto Brasil social-selling program.
Tommy Hilfiger launched a new fashion business school in partnership with Elmira College in the Fall of 2021 semester.
Through this groundbreaking partnership, students will be able to enroll in a fashion concentration program and train for a career in the industry by learning marketing and fashion merchandising.
Hilfiger’s goal is to find and cultivate exceptional talent while bridging the gap between students’ passion and their education.
The publishing imprint launched by UK grime music star Stormzy and Penguin Random House – partnered with HSBC to create a live-streamed school event series on financial wellbeing and entrepreneurialism.
Bringing in creative directors, wellness consultants, and entrepreneurs, the pilot series launched in three UK schools, with resource packs and 1,500 books were donated to school libraries.
We’re big fans of Stormzy’s initiatives (from book publishing, to social activism, to supporting underrepresented students at Oxford University) and hope future editions can inject more Edutainment 3.0 elements to really bring the concepts to life.
Startup bank GoHenry recently launched Money Missions , designed to help make every kid smart with money. Missions range from understanding how taxes work, to learning how to start a business as a teenager.
Each mission includes games, quizzes and videos, and has plenty of gamification elements like badges, rewards, and unlocks.
We’re excited to see where this may go next:
- Could GoHenry fund new businesses?
- What if players got access to a GoHenry entrepreneurial community?
- What if could the Money Missions took advantage of our emerging Play-to-Learn-to-Earn trend...?
And why couldn’t all this work for adults, too...?
Guidelines for Greatness
For brands to thrive as neo educators, they need to go beyond solely marketing and sales efforts. One way to be pointed in the right direction is to focus on developing programs rather than ‘one and done’ campaigns or activations
Find your fit
Certain brands will have an advantage simply because of the industries and activities they’re associated with. The likes of CPG, gaming, entertainment, toys, and supplies seem to have a more “natural” fit for the neo educator role. But just because it’s not immediately obvious, it doesn’t mean it’s not for you. Brands from all sectors can find their fit.
Purpose-driven brands perform better
Brands with a purpose witness higher market share gains and grow three times faster on average than their competitors, according to Deloitte. And they simultaneously achieve higher workforce and customer satisfaction levels. Just watch out for purpose-washing...
Make it a part of your identity
Those with activist-educational strategies and clear brand values are forging ahead. An excellent example of this is Patagonia. They’ve been an outspoken advocate of environmental conservation both in the US and abroad.
Create footholds in a post-pandemic era of diminished opportunity. Smart brands can become launchpads for a whole new world of careers.
There’s plenty of opportunity to take the vast quantity of data generated by brands and repackage them into explorable visualizations. Check out our friends over at The Pudding for some inspiration around using data to create story-driven educational moments.
Unpack the process
Demystify professional processes and turn them into intentionally-designed learning experiences.
Customers are demanding much more from brands - whether it’s better customer service, more social responsibility, or transparent environmental policies. Becoming a neo educator offers the chance to do just that.
How can your brand compete with other educators such as Youtubers and EdTech platforms? What can you offer that no one else can? In other words, what is your unique role as an educator?
How to make these initiatives valuable enough beyond CSR? Or is CSR enough of a driver?
Cost of entry
Do you need to develop new skills or capacities?
A combination of a “campaign-style” approach and relatively small-scale initiatives means there’s a lack of hard data to demonstrate success and outcomes.
Open source vs secret sauce
Balance the benefits of opening up processes without losing any ‘secret sauce’.
Spark Your Creativity
Ideas to jumpstart your imagination and help you include Edutainment 3.0 in your endeavors:
- If you could offer any asset, campaign or product from your brand as something for fans to remix - what would it be?
- What would it look if your brand becomes 100% transparent? What are the 2nd and 3rd order effects...?
- Perhaps the very best example of Brand as Neo Educator is Red Bull Music Academy (RBMA). Which elements of their success would you bring to your company? And what would the next generation RBMA look look like?