SHAPES for Schools

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Welcome to the education blog from SHAPES. We'll be looking at all things schools – from news to classroom resources and curriculum changes, to what teachers want and how you can help provide it.

Make your product the solution

Illustration: Simon Hayes

Illustration: Simon Hayes

I’m one of those people who can spend a long time picking shoes to go with my outfits. This is why, after nearly fifteen years of dedicated shopping, I often receive emails that are literally rows and rows of images of the newest brogues, silver heels, or cute little ballerina pumps. 

Shoe marketers and I are in a relationship that we both understand. To them, I’m the happy scroller, flicking through images, matching one colour palette to another and clicking through until I finally make a purchase.

As for me, I'm happy with the arrangement. If a high street brand is going to market to me I prefer it to be straightforward; just showcase a bunch of things I like and make it easy for me to buy on the website.

When it comes to your schools marketing, it’s tempting to assume that teachers will want you to market to them in a similar way. However, this would be mistake number One with a capital O.

For a consumer, ordering a pair of shoes and having them delivered to your door is likely to be the end of the journey. However, for a teacher, this is only the beginning; the product is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Once it has arrived on your doorstep, it must then be able to enrich teaching and learning in the classroom, often for several days, or even weeks, or even years to come…

This is why your product cannot just be a product; it must also be a solution.

We’re working on a project right now that serves as a good example for how to do this. A couple of weeks ago a publishing client asked us how they could generate interest from primary school teachers for a series of books by Sir Chris Hoy.

Now, we hear you screaming (maybe not screaming), what more need they do? All the assets are there: nice children’s books, six-time Olympic Gold medalist, bikes, wholesome, cycle-related fun… what’s not to love?

And it’s true. The temptation is to simply create an email banner, list the books in a neat row, throw in a picture of Chris Hoy’s face for good measure and voila, marketing! There’s no reason why this wouldn’t work by the way, the package is appealing enough – but the lovely people at this particular publishing house wanted to go one step further.

Instead, with our help, they decided to respond to recent news that children stop exercising at around seven years of age, when they should be doing some physical activity for at least an hour every day.

Exercise and wellbeing are hot topics for schools at the moment. Teachers are asking how they can support both of these things in the classroom and beyond. What the client chose to do was simple: they chose to provide an answer to these questions.

We won’t reveal all here, but let me summarise the strategy: to take the client’s product (nice children’s books) and then transform them into a solution by promoting a fun, active and curriculum-aligned competition that provides teachers with an ideal outlet for their students’ learning over the summer holiday (while also positioning the books as an essential ingredient for success). It’s more of a summery than a summary, really…

We’ll check back in August to reveal more of the marketing plan and to let you know how it’s going. There’s no such thing as good marketing until the results are in, after all.

In the meantime, get on your bikes! No, seriously, just remember that in order for your marketing to resonate with teachers you need to ensure that it gives them a clear indication for how they can use your product to achieve positive outcomes in the classroom. It might sound simple, but it's rarely done. It will add so much more value to what you are providing.


Jenny Baldwin