PepsiCo has had its share of marketing mishaps in recent years--perhaps most notably the widely vilified ad featuring Kendall Jenner handing a Pepsi to a cop during a protest. The 2017 commercial spawned such an internet backlash that it was pulled from programming one day later.
But Pepsi has also had some major successes, namely with the PepsiCo Recycling Rally campaign launched in 2010. This project has been so successful that it earned the company a Gold Honor in the MarCom Awards in December 2017.
For this award, PepsiCo created a campaign to teach K-12 students about recycling in their schools. They focused on marketing to educators and reached a new demographic via a program that is still going strong more than eight years later.
Educators are increasingly being recognized as a valuable audience to target. They make up a significant portion of the general population, have high participation rates in a number of sectors, and are sophisticated shoppers who respond to marketing that includes independent research and facts.
There are several marketing strategies brands can employ to effectively connect with educators.
1. Join forces for an important cause.
Many companies already include corporate social responsibility as a major part of their marketing strategies, and teachers are more willing to support brands that will add value to their students' lives. PepsiCo used recycling and sustainability efforts to teach children about how to protect the environment. To follow PepsiCo's lead, find a cause that represents a common interest between your company and educators.
2. Make it a competition.
Stir up educators' competitive spirit with a contest in which classes or schools go head to head for a good cause. Everyone loves a little competition to make things interesting. A contest builds unity and teamwork within a class or school and gives teachers something concrete to work with as they attempt to get their students excited about school projects.
A great example of this is the Box Tops for Education program, which lets students collect box tops from food and other products and turn them into money and prizes for their schools.
3. Give them some extra incentive.
To encourage students to participate in these competitions, it's important to provide teachers with incentives they can use to entice students to get involved. These could include tickets to an amusement park, a class pizza party, or a movie day in class. A great example is Pizza Hut's Book It! program, in which kids earn free pizza for hitting a reading goal each month.
Motivation plays a huge role in how a student engages (or not) with a subject. These extrinsic motivators are especially powerful in changing student behavior and engagement, emphasizing skills, or encouraging certain behaviors. When used properly, they can be powerful tools for winning a child over to a school subject like reading or a civic activity like recycling.
4. Ease the lesson-planning burden.
Teachers are always looking for new materials to incorporate into their classrooms, so providing an educational component to your program or partnership will increase the chances of teachers wanting to take advantage of it. This aspect can also teach students how business and community service go together.
A major element of CSR is looking beyond the company's bottom line and engaging in causes that further the social good. In the end, these efforts serve as good PR for a brand and encourage sales, but that's not the main point. Companies tend to have resources that individuals lack, giving them the capacity to fund charities, sponsor community athletics or arts programs, and support local cultural or educational initiatives. Educators are eager for this support, especially when it comes with additional classroom tools and strategies.
5. Be selective with your audience.
First-grade teachers need different lessons and incentives than high school English teachers. Research what your demographic wants, as it will be challenging to find an overarching theme for different age ranges. Determine what type of teacher your company can most effectively connect with, and focus your efforts there.
Educators are a powerful force in society, and their influence is far-reaching. (I'm proud to say I'm a former public school math teacher myself!) Joining forces with teachers can elevate your marketing strategy, but you need the right methods to connect in a meaningful way. The tactics above will help you effectively partner with people who play an important role in shaping the minds of future generations.