Recently I attended a live webcast of TEDxChange in Dubai. Broadcast from New York City and sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the event hosted a series of famous speakers that reflected on the world’s progress towards achieving the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (i.e., end poverty and hunger, universal education, global partnership, combat HIV/AIDS, etc.). After mentally chewing on the event for a couple of weeks, what keeps coming back to me is Melinda Gates’ praise of Coke:
“Coke is everywhere. In fact, when I travel in the developing world, Coke is ubiquitous! … We’re trying to deliver condoms to people or vaccinations… Coke’s success makes you stop and wonder—How is it that they can get Coke to these far flung places? If they can do that, why can’t governments and NGOs do the same thing? … They sell 1.5 billion servings every single day. That is like every man, woman and child have a serving of Coke every week”.
Melinda then went on to point out that much of Coke’s success is due to its use of real time data, ability to tap into local entrepreneurs and incredible marketing. First two success factors aside, for this post I want to think about marketing because when it comes to using marketing and helping kids understand the power of marketing, most schools and educational content companies completely miss the mark.
What if schools, textbooks and e-learning sites used content like this to sell kids on reading?
Or, what if gym teachers used content like this to inspire kids to move?
Packaging and messaging matters! As much as we tell kids, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” the reality of the situation is that humans can’t not be influenced by look and feel. After all, why do you buy Coke, when generic cola is half the price?
Building on Melinda Gates’ message, as educators, parents and content providers, we need to:
- Think like marketeers when it comes to encouraging and inspiring curiosity, wellness and a love of learning in those we teach and love.
- Explicitly teach children how marketing influences their outlook, tastes and opinions so that they become critical and savvy media consumers and producers.
If Coke can use marketing to convince millions of people to drink a sugary beverage that rots out their teeth and adds pounds to their waistlines, surely we can all use the power of marketing to help kids make informed and healthy choices as well!
So, as the good ol’ saying goes, “Practice makes perfect!” Here are some activities that will help you, your students and children understand and utilize the power of marketing and messaging:
- Information Visualization 101—Use tools like Paper.li, Storify, and these Twitter visualization tools to show students the difference between a Plain Jane Twitter feed and a Visualized Twitter feed. What happens when you take the same data set and visualize it differently? How do “look and feel” factors influence audience thinking? For other great examples of the power of look and feel, take a look at Information is Beautiful.
- Don’t be fooled by a Hippo—Take a look at the following sites with your students/children: North American House Hippo, Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus and MLK.org. What marketing techniques do they use to fool readers into buying their messages?
- The Making of Media—Watch this Dove commercial to better understand how images are manipulated in the media. Next, go through a stack of magazines to spot which images are “real” and which are not.
Now Make Something! Take what you’ve learned from Coke and the activities above and apply your new marketing and messaging insights to creating more engaging lesson plans, presentations and projects. If Coke can do it, so can you!
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(Image available under CC license by Coca-Cola Gallery)