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Tag: marketing (Page 2 of 2)

Selling EdTech

Larry Cuban, one of the best critics of the way we use technology for K12 instruction, has a great post about how companies market technology to schools, an $18 billion industry and growing, and why their products are usually out of touch with teacher and student needs.

The largest part of the problem is the big gap between the people who write the purchase orders, “school district IT professionals, district office administrators, and superintendents”, and the students and teachers who actually use the products.

That is where the money is. School officers are the ones who recommend to boards of education what to buy and how to deploy devices and software. From start-ups to established companies, high-tech representatives rarely involve teachers or students in their pitches to district officers or school boards. So the paradox is that the end-users (teachers and students) have little to do with purchasing decisions.

Cuban also notes that the companies rarely observe actual classrooms to see how their products might be used. Instead they depend on surveys, focus groups, and occasionally academic research (but only when it fits their approach).

So what can be done?

Cuban offers two great suggestions. First, companies need to talk to teacher and students and spend some money on learning about what happens in real classrooms. And second, dial back the “over-the-top claims” promising to provide solutions appropriate to every school everywhere.

But that doesn’t address the other part of this situation, the people buying this stuff. The folks on our end making the purchasing decisions who don’t teach (and may never have taught), rarely if ever work with kids1, and, in the case of the IT department, are more concerned with password management and how the technology works on “their” network than whether it is instructionally sound or even useful.

Marketing Without Twitter

I’m not a fan of internet censorship filtering in schools (or really anywhere). I know we want to keep kids away from the really bad stuff on the web, so I’ll grant that some electronic measures are necessary.

Still I see far too many teachers relying on the technology instead of learning to manage internet use in their classrooms, and especially as an alternative to helping their students learn to responsibly navigate the web. Maybe because it’s not on the test.

Anyway, when it comes to filtering, I have to admit our overly-large school district does a pretty good job in keeping a very light touch on the process. At the top level we choose to block sites in certain categories, mostly the stuff the state requires. Staff members then have the option to request that specific sites be blocked (or unblocked) at their school, subject to approval of the principal.

Although in the past many schools chose to put resources like Facebook and YouTube on the block, very few, even at the elementary level, do so now. Blocking Pinterest is currently popular but that will probably change over time and a new boogyman will take it’s place.

However, every so often, a blocking request is submitted that I find somewhat puzzling and, in this case, rather amusing.

Last month a teacher in one of our high schools submitted a request (twice) to have Twitter blocked. It seems there had been some bullying incidents using that service and she seemed to believe that getting rid of the website would help solve the problem. It’s not an unusual approach: blame the technology. I’m guessing she didn’t realize students were likely using their phones to access Twitter, bypassing both our network and Twitter’s homepage.

What I found really odd about the request came from what this person teaches: business marketing.

How the hell do you teach about marking products and services in 2013 without addressing the use of Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites? Every company in the US and elsewhere is scrambling to figure out how to make these tools work for them.

Of all the classes in this school, I would expect social media to be a major topic in those dealing with the modern business world.

By the way, the principal denied the request, although I don’t know if any of this was part of his reasoning.

Patching Up The Ritz

Another company steeped in the analog tradition is trying to figure out their place in the digital world.

Within weeks, Ritz said in an interview, the company, called Ritz Camera & Image, will reinvent itself in a new ad campaign aimed at drawing a hipper crowd into its stores, which now number around 375.


They plan to sell smart phones alongside a stock of digital cameras. Customers can supply their digital images and video clips and Ritz will package them onto a DVD, with chapter breaks and music. And if they want LCD HD televisions on which to view those images, they can buy those, too, from Ritz.

The retooled Ritz Camera & Image will “appeal to younger customers who were brought up in the computer-digital world who may not understand everything that photography means to them,” Ritz, 60, said in an interview in his oak-paneled office at the company’s headquarters in Beltsville.

I wonder if the people at Ritz have bothered to talk to this “hipper crowd” they’re trying to turn into customers.

Do they really want physical media like DVDs when it’s so easy to post pictures on the web (for free), create slide shows (for free), embed the show in a web page (for free or very close), and share the results through multiple channels (for free)?

As for video, many people in the demographic Ritz seems to be aiming for don’t care if the end result is all that polished. Normally the video is recorded and posted with little editing in between.

It will be interesting to see what the company does in their transformation, especially since photography is rapidly moving away from the formal process that was at the heart of Ritz’s success for so many years.

I haven’t been in a Ritz store in many years (probably not in their target group for the future anyway), at least since I purchased a DSLR (online, not in a physical store) three years ago.

And there’s nothing in this story about their plans for reorganization that will entice me to return.

Photo by BOSSoNe0013 and used under a Creative Commons License.

Are You Following Skittles?

By way of MediaPost comes the story of an interesting change in corporate marketing.

The makers of Skittles, those little rainbow-colored, sort-of-maybe fruit-flavored sugar pills, have abandoned the idea of actually maintaining a web site for the brand.skittles.jpg

Instead all that’s left is a little widget that ties together their article on Wikipedia (now the “home page”) with content from their Facebook page, Twitter feed, flickr photostream, and other references from the social media chatter.

You might think the candy maker is taking a risk by letting the public determine their brand image.

Here’s the message Skittles is sending: What consumers say about the brand is more important than what the brand has to say to consumers.

Skittles.com isn’t exactly a top destination online. Compete, Quantcast and Google Trends respectively report the most recent month’s Skittles.com unique visitors as 18,000, 15,000, and too few to track. To paraphrase Kris Kristofferson, Skittles.com’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose.

What does it say about social networking when Skittles has more fans on Facebook (nearly 600,000!) than they had monthly visitors to the site?

Probably nothing. Just another odd and interesting piece about the ever-evolving saga of life on the web.

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