Monthly Archives: September 2007

Advertising Education

It smells great! It makes your skin glow! It protects you from UV rays! yada yada yada, you got to try it out! How many times have you seen one of these soap commercials and thought that this is something I got to have? That’s the magic of effective advertising. This makes me wonder, if advertisements can make a commodity so glamorous, so attractive and so precious, how much impact it can have in making children excited about education.

Advertising should be the first step to attract students towards education today. Studying coursework is something that is becoming the last thing most folks wants to do after playing video games and spending time on facebook, among other things. This is because it looks like the least attractive thing out there. You can argue the quality of education provided at schools is more important. Of course, it is, and that is true even for a soap bar. You advertise to make people buy one, and if the quality of the product is good, they will buy it again. Same is true for education. Advertising in no way, shape or form fills in for bad quality of education. It only complements good quality education to make its “customers” give it a first shot.

Now that we are talking about advertising education, let’s look at some factors that might affect how we go about doing it. Who are the target customers in this case? The aim of advertising education is to make it interesting for the students who think they have a choice of doing something else that looks more attractive than studying. So to limit the scope of this discussion, I would say the target customer is anyone who is currently studying in school. There is large number of kids who never went to school because of some reason or the other. There are lot of issues to deal with in that case, which I would like to talk about in some future posts.

Who is the competitor? This is a little bit tricky. No one is saying your target customers not to study. So you are in a way not competing against anyone directly. But there are a whole slew of products and services out there that are competing to gain attention of a teenager. So that forms your competition. It’s the video game companies, the facebooks and the myspaces, any product that targets time of your target customer.

Who should advertise education? I think it should be clear that I am talking about advertising education, not a perticular school or a perticular school district. As far as educating teenagers is concerned, there can be no one organization or institute that can take this responsibility. Same is true for advertising it or making it attractive. So I think onus for advertising education should be shared by all the organization, institutes and the government, who wants the teenagers to stay in school and remain focused rather than dropping out and getting in trouble.

How to advertise education? That’s the million dollar question. Traditional media advertising might not work that well for advertising education. A few ideas that come to me in this space are around making the effectively use of “competition” to advertise it. The gaming companies and the social networking sites can play a major role in this effort. By creating more games that are related to education material and are equally compelling and attractive as the Halos and Project Gothams, the teenagers will be attracted towards them. Those games should have an education level on them and coolness factor of a player should be how good he or she is in playing these games. The gaming companies and others should go an extra mile to advertise these games and make them competitive enough to make teenagers want to study and excel in them. Facebook platform and the likes should have more applications that are related to education, and promote these applications just like they do photo sharing and music sharing applications to make the visitors collaborate and discuss about education.

The basic idea is to make people taking about education just like they talk about anything interesting in this world. Interest is always a more powerful motivator, much bigger than fear or force, and by effective advertising, interest and attraction can be generated towards education.

Comparative Advertising

Recently I saw online banner ads for that said: 10% off on over 900,000 books. This made me wonder why the banner is not saying: get books for 10% less than at any online bookstore. By referring to in their advertisement, is doing two major mistakes. First, they are doing some free advertisement for and acknowledging it as the leading bookstore online. Second, it is loosing its own identity as a bookstore. What is the unique reason someone should go to Because it has 900,000 books (which may not cover the entire long tail) that are also at but 10% cheaper. If there were only 2 online bookstores, this ad would have made a little more sense, but when there are a zillion out there, and you want price to be your USP, why not say any online bookstore and gain an identity that we sell books at cheapest rate?

Another example that falls in this category is the commercial of Hyundai Azera, where the comparison is made to Lexus LS460. Hyundai can claim that it is a smart move to compare its model with a car far more popular and expensive, and provoke the customer to think why not buy a car more economical when it has all the same features except a fancy one. But to look at the flip side of the coin, the commercial does a huge favor for Lexus. Any customer will have a natural instinct to explore and find out what else is there is LS460 that makes it more expensive, and I can bet that a Lexus sales person will be able to point many if you ask him/her. I think the Hyundai commercial also makes a statement about the buyer of this car. Isn’t it saying that this person is driving an Azera because he could not (or may be would not) afford a Lexus LS460?

Many companies use this kind of advertising strategy where they explicitly mention the name of a competitor in their advertisements. I think just by comparing, the brand exposes a natural inferiority about its own product. But, if for some reason, you find a necessity to compare on a mass scale like in an advertisement, it’s always better to generalize the comparison without naming any other company.

One thing to make clear is that finger-pointing comparison has nothing to do with modestly acknowledging that you are not at the number one position. There are far better ways to do that. The first example that comes to mind is Avis. The car rental company so wonderfully campaigned saying: we are number 2: so we try harder. Yes, they are comparing here, but no one knows just from this statement with whom. And as Avis gained market share, they kicked out the “we are number 2” part, making its tagline “We try harder”.

To summarize, we all know that comparison is inevitable, and in most cases, customer will do the comparison before making a buying decision. If as a brand you want to force the comparison, do it in a way that it benefits more to you than to your competitors and make sure there is no chance of backfiring.

Positive vibe makes all the difference

Have you ever been at a place where you feel an overflow of positive energy? Some place where you feel excited, happy and energized? What is your reaction to that? Most of the time, you enjoy that experience, and depending on what it is, you may want to have a repeat experience of it. That’s what a positive vibe is and in a World where a customer is exposed to a lot of options, it is something that can make all the difference.

Positive vibe is one of the biggest differentiators. It makes a difference in a lot of things from a simple television advertisement spot to grocery shopping to workplace environment to almost anything you can think about. In case of advertisements, positive vibe plays a role in generating a desire to have the product. The best examples that come to my mind are the Porsche commercial (long version) or the iPhone ad. These advertisements make you chuckle. Why? Because the advertisement creates a good feeling about the product. A thought that says, may be (in case of Porsche, “one day”;-)) I should buy this product. That’s a unique feeling that makes the commercial stand out because you don’t get the same feeling while watching the other dozen car and cell phone commercials. 

Another explicit case where positive vibe directly converts in dollars is shopping centers. Whether it is grocery shopping or shopping for a furniture, the positive vibe makes the customer feel comfortable to spend more time and money at the store. Some examples that pop into mind while thinking about the happy and energized atmosphere at shopping places are Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. These stores make the customer feel at home while shopping. The staff exemplifies a feeling of happiness increasing the footfall in these stores and the number of return customers.

There are places where positive vibe doesn’t make a that straight forward difference, but it can still be instrumental in many ways. For example, consider schools. Schools are there to provide education to the students. If schools can develop a positive vibe, the learning experience can become even better for students. Students should not feel going to school as a burden or necessity. They should rather be thrilled and excited to be at school. In order to do that, the students should feel welcome, energized and happy at the school. This will encourage students to spend more time and energy at what they do at school. This will improve their preformance of what they do, irrespective of whether it is learning math and science, or excelling in sports.

The vibe does make a difference. Sometimes big, sometimes small. This makes me wonder why are there shops where it is not there. Why are there ads that don’t make you excited about a product or an online store where you don’t feel like buying something? This raises the obvious question: is positive vibe something can be created? Yes, I think it can be. In fact it should be. It should be in your list of required features you want to be there. At the end, it’s all about creativity. If you can pump in some creativity in order to make the place or product more attractive, with the explicit thought in mind to bring in the feel good factor, you can generate this critical differentiating factor.