Consumers today are a well-informed group. The answer to seemingly every question can be found in seconds whenever, wherever, and with just a simple search. YouTube is flooded with how-to videos, all available on-demand and across a variety of devices. The market for online education courses has skyrocketed. If consumers are viewing traditional ads—32 percent of them don’t, as they’ve enabled ad blockers—they expect information rather than pitches from brands. Altogether, the learning marketplace is valued at a whopping $91 billion—and counting. Let’s dive deeper and examine why businesses should embrace the learning economy.
What is the Learning Economy, and Why is it Important for Businesses?
Simply put, the learning economy describes a shift in what people expect and how they consume information. Take education, for example. The accessibility of digital coursework has been uber attractive to students, with 58 million enrolled in an online course last year alone. All those how-to videos I just mentioned do more than just teach—they also convert. One in three Millennials, in fact, purchase products because of how-to videos like those found on YouTube and other sites.
Brands can capitalize from consumers’ collective desire to learn by doing one simple thing: Giving them what they want. The Big Know summed it up best:
“Learning content has the potential to create true value for consumers by helping them develop knowledge in topics they actually care about or skills they need right away. When this learning content aligns with and supports a brand’s business goals, the deep engagement that comes with it has the potential to deliver significant loyalty to the brand that made it possible.”
Benefits of the Learning Economy
Branded education—i.e., a brand’s use of content to inform its audience—is the crux of the learning economy. Here are a few reasons organizations should consider this approach:
- It’s quick and cost-effective. Part of the appeal of branded education is that it shifts control to consumers—they determine what, when, and where they consume when it comes to information. The key benefit to organizations is that consumers are generating valuable data in the process. By taking advantage of analytics surrounding consumption, a company can deliver precisely what its audience wants—without having to ask—in a way that’s both fast and less expensive than offline methods.
- It reinforces your value proposition in a way that’s appealing and authentic. Paid advertising has its place, especially if you’re embracing smart tactics like retargeting. It’s hard for a banner ad to deliver the same engagement as an online course that’s presented objectively yet still underscores a powerful value proposition.
- It promotes cross-channel distribution. As you can see in Figure 1, well-created learning content is the gift that keeps on giving for modern content marketers who take advantage of different mediums. White papers can be repurposed into social media or sales materials, in-depth how-to videos can be edited into short e-courses or website clips, etc. The possibilities are endless.
Figure 1. Source: The Big Know
Digitalist Magazine mentioned that “content production must reflect quality and variety” as one of their six content and social media trends for last year, citing, in particular, the fact that B2B customers would rather learn about products and services via content instead of through paid advertising. I agree with all of that—well, except for one key concept.
The boom of the learning economy isn’t a trend. Trends fade, coming and going like tides, and the learning economy doesn’t appear to be fading anytime soon. Its rise is directly connected to a fundamental shift in how people consume, a product of what happens when audiences are empowered by information and emboldened by choice. If your business hasn’t already, it’s time to get out in front of this movement.
The good news is you don’t have to go it alone. Hosted by our friends at The Big Know, the upcoming Learning Economy Summit in Chicago is a daylong opportunity to hear from keynote speakers and featured guests—all leaders in branded education—who will give you the tools and perspective you need to embrace the learning economy. Click here register or get more information.
Whether or not you plan to attend the May 3rd event, you don’t want to miss The Big Know’s free guide packed with insight into everything from the new advertising continuum to content design to industry perspectives and everything in between. This in-depth whitepaper is required reading for modern brands: The Marketer’s Guide to the Learning Economy.
What is your brand’s experience with the learning economy? Does your marketing team produce content that teaches? How do you know? Tell me in the comments.
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