What Marketers Can Learn from Teachers

July 19, 2019 - Reading Time: 4 minutes

It’s tough being a teacher. You’ve got a ton of knowledge to impart to your students but they are mostly disinterested and unmotivated, with attention and memory spans shorter than a goldfish.

Sound familiar?

Consumers are like students and marketers are like teachers. Most consumers are apathetic and don’t care about what you have to say about your product. How do you make them pay attention? How do you make them remember you?

Here’s what marketers can learn from teachers.

1. Spell out the benefits of the benefits

Remember those school trips to the zoo or a museum?

Schools provide these experiences to show students that the abstract concepts they learn in the classroom are drawn from and applied to the everyday world. Knowledge is only useful insofar as we know how to apply it.

Here’s where Jerry Weissman’s concept of WIIFY (“What’s in it for you?”) comes in. People are interested in things that benefit themselves. If kids thought learning about probability would help them beat their friends at cards, they would probably pay closer attention during Maths class. School excursions make learning more exciting because students are able to see the concrete benefits of the knowledge they have gained in class.

Likewise, marketers shouldn’t simply wave a list of product features in consumers’ faces. A product feature doesn’t count as a benefit; spell out what’s in it for the consumer. The benefit isn’t the fact that a camera can record videos in 4K. The benefit is that users can capture and relive memories, like the moment their child uttered his first word, in high resolution.

2. Brevity

Consumers, like kids, have short attention spans. That is why you need to keep your messages short and to-the-point. In their book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, Chip and Dan Heath cited proverbs as a great example of a sticky message that is simple yet profound.

For centuries, proverbs have been used to transfer knowledge from one generation to another. Teachers still use them to this day. Proverbs – such as “the early bird catches the worm” and “don’t count your chickens before they hatch” – are single sentences that aptly communicate abstract ideas. They stick because they are simple yet meaningful.

How can marketers apply this?

According to the Heath brothers, you should start by identifying the core of your message and work towards communicating it in compact sentences. Sieve out all unnecessary details.

There is perhaps no other company that demonstrates this better than Apple. Take a look at their ads targeted at Android users.

These ads are shockingly simple in concept but their message is as clear as day: Switch to an iPhone.

3. Tap into Schemas

Ever come across a concept that is so complex that you are unsure how to put it into words? One way that teachers help students with difficult concepts is by getting students to tap into their schemas.

Via Verywell Mind

Schemas are pre-recorded information stored in our memories. By referencing their students’ existing knowledge, teachers can make foreign concepts easier to grasp. In other words, students will be able to apply existing schemas to help them understand new, complex concepts. It also helps them remember.

In marketing, referencing well-known knowledge can keep messages short and memorable. It can also help consumers understand more complex products.

4. Tell a story

Think of the famous fable The Tortoise and the Hare. If you had to tell someone the story right now, including the moral lesson that it conveys (“slow and steady wins the race”), you would probably be able to do so easily. Now, try to think of the last time you actually heard this story. Chances are that it was such a long time ago you don’t even remember.

That is the power of story.

Fables have been used for centuries by teachers as a way to impart moral lessons to kids. Morality is too abstract a concept for young children to grasp; a story makes the complex concept more palatable.

In marketing, a story is a useful and engaging way to convey a message to an audience. Human beings are emotional creatures; stories tap into these emotions and this makes them more memorable than a list of statistics. That is not to say that data isn’t important. It is. However, the way you present data is just as important as the data itself. Stories are memorable because they connect with people at an emotional level, data doesn’t.

Stories are also a great way to spell out the benefits of your product clearly to your audience (refer to point #1). It is all too easy for marketers to make the mistake of passing data off as a benefit. A story, on the other hand, naturally keeps marketers in check because it requires a different frame of mind (the emotional instead of the analytical one) to conceive.

5. Use Videos

The audio-visual nature of video makes it a great tool for explaining complicated concepts to students and helping them see the big picture.

Videos are also important in helping consumers understand and remember your product. Videos are especially useful to marketers because they are more efficient at conveying a large amount of information as opposed to text.

The next time you embark on a marketing campaign, remember these pedagogical techniques and apply them. Just like the best lessons, a well-crafted marketing message will be remembered for a very long time.


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