Who wants Meatballs on their Sundaes?

Count on Seth Godin to capture our attention with a quirky title and concept. While I have no intention of ever trying a meatball sundae, I was intrigued enough to pick up Meatball Sundae: Is Your Marketing Out of Sync?

Say goodbye to old marketing strategies (interrupting masses of people with ads–the meatballs) and say hello to new marketing strategies (leveraging short attention spans and creating interactions among communities of people with similar interests—the toppings).  This quirky book will help you navigate this new era of marketing.

Twitter, YouTube, Google and blogging have changed the world of marketing. Advertising for today is “me” oriented–“incredibly targeted messaging that’s about the consumer and what he wants, right now” (p. 132).  As a result, marketers can target those few people they know want their product instead of spending time and resources on the masses. It’s a switch in thinking, but I personally love the “it’s all about me” concept.

Godin summarizes the shift from mass marketing to “me” marketing in this way:

“This focus on mass is understandable if you assume that all consumers are pretty much the same or if you can’t tell them apart. The thing is, they aren’t and you can. Now for the first time, marketers can focus on who is hearing and talking about their message, and, they no longer use mass as a placeholder. . . Even more important: Mass is no longer desirable. Now that we can know who is coming to our web site or store or advertising, and which ad reached them and how, we can be far more selective about what we say and why.” p. 158

Educators everywhere are indulging in the use of many, if not all, of these new marketing options. Schools are on Facebook, superintendents Twitter, and teachers post on YouTube. Godin states: “Marketing doesn’t support the organization. The organization supports marketing.” This statement implies intentionality in the use of social media that I’m not sure is there. Yet, our parents have become “me” consumers. Parents “shop” their neighborhood public school, schools of choice (outside of district), charters and virtual schools. They’re not “shopping” to see what you offer, but to see if you have what they want. Almost every year now, at least one family tells me their child is on a wait list at another school. Yes, they’re enrolling by you, but only as insurance in the event  their child doesn’t get in. That’s just not acceptable–I want my school to be the parent’s first choice.

The bottom line is this: We can no longer count on students that live in our neighborhoods attending their neighborhood school. We need to market our schools to attract and retain students in our districts.

The following questions should be at the forefront of our minds as we consider the use of any marketing techniques, but especially the new ones.

  • How does this “me” consumerism drive how we as a school or district react to changes in education, whether economic or through parent selection?
  • Should schools be driven by “me” consumerism?
  • Do our schools allow our customers (parents) to respond either positively or negatively to our blogs, Facebook feeds or Twitters?
  • More importantly, do we listen to them when they do?

One thing is certain, change is not going away. Choices will expand. Educators will need to market with intentionality and purpose. What do you think? Will we be up to the challenge?

For more about change, you may want to check out Seth Godin’s Poke the Box or Switch: How to Change Things when Change is Hard by Chip Heath.