How to Educate Consumers Without Boring Them to Death


Did you know marketing & advertising is one of the least trusted industries?

I mean… it’s not surprising. When’s the last time you watched a TV ad and thought “wow, I really trust what they’re saying. They have my best interests at heart.”

Nowadays, consumers see through marketing messages with a quick Google search.

As a result, they’re carving their own shopping journeys — stealing control from traditionally brand run moments, like product research.

Consumers this year report that they desire to search for information about a specific product or product category rather than receive information during the find inspiration moment
— Deloitte

That means you have to change your messaging from “hey, this will solve your problems, you should buy it” to “hey, here’s the information you need to make an informed decision.”

Brands and retailers who make that strategy shift see some major benefits beyond just product sales. As William Craig put it:

The more informed and empowered customers are, the more satisfied and confident they are with their choices. And that kind of confidence almost always leads to loyalty.
— William Craig

A Tiny Problem

This is all sounds great right? Have more information available and you'll get increased loyalty & sales.

Not so fast... there’s a small catch.

The problem (as I'm sure you know) is there's a lot of content competing for your consumers’ attention. And when you’re not forcing them to interact with your messaging (like in a video ad) your content has to be useful or entertaining (preferably both) to keep their eyes on the page.

Your article about buying a new blender has to be more interesting — or at least more useful — than a Buzzfeed article about 23 adorable kittens (you’re welcome).

It’s not an easy goal.

As an added complication, the path-to-purchase isn't really a path anymore. It's more like an anti-gravity chamber with consumers bouncing around from research to inspiration to purchase.

Your "research stage" content may be the content your customers see first -- and unless it's interesting they’re going to keep scrolling.

So how do you capture your customers’ attention and educate them about your products?

  1. Make it Easy to Consume. No one wants to spend 45 minutes reading a jargon-filled novel on your new blender.

  2. Don’t Push Content at Your Consumers. Be the friend sharing interesting news and advice -- not the annoying friend trying to sell stuff from their Facebook page.

  3. Give Them a Reason to Care. If your content isn't interesting… or useful... and there's no benefit to your consumers if they engage with it... why would they?

With those guidelines in mind, here are some ideas for educational (yet entertaining) marketing campaigns.

3 Fun Ideas for Educational Marketing Campaigns (and 6 real-world examples)

1. Interactive Website Content

As consumers are searching for information about your products, one obvious place they'll look is your website. But to capture their attention — and make your content memorable — you need to think outside the standard product description and picture.

That’s where interactive content can come in handy.

Interactive content turns the shopper from a passive browser to an active participant. And that can help them grasp your messaging faster — and improve recall.

In fact, Demand Metric found that interactive content generates 2X more conversions than passive content and is 23% more effective at educating consumers.

Best Practices

  1. Be Helpful. Don’t just aim for ‘cool.’ Find a moment of friction in your customer’s path-to-purchase and use interactive content to smooth the way.

  2. Make it personal. Tailoring options is an easy way to help consumers find what they're looking for and personalize their experience.

  3. Link to more information. You aren’t going to able able to answer every question a customer has in one piece of interactive content. Make sure to point them to places where they can find more info.

Example #1 — Clairol: MyShade

One of the worst parts of dying your own hair is braving the hair dye aisle. There are so many shades and brands, and it's hard to picture what a colour will look like on you. Clairol's "MyShade" app does a great job at addressing this pain point and making it easier for customers to pick their perfect shade. The interactive app lets you upload a pic of yourself and "try on" different hair colours — which is not only fun, but makes you feel much more confident about your purchase.

Clairol also has a TON of educational content in their "Beauty School" section of their website -- from blog posts on hair colour trends, to video tutorials on using their products. The only thing that would make it better is if they linked to their content from the app, so consumers could find hair colours they like and click to read more on how to apply the product.

Example #2 — Bellroy Wallets

One of the hardest parts of buying a wallet online is trying to guess whether it’ll hold all your stuff. Bellroy does a great job of answering this question with the interactive slider tool (shown above) and video ‘demos’ for each of their products. Even without seeing the product in person, I’m confident I could fit all the Starbucks gift cards I got last Christmas inside.

Bellroy knows their value proposition (slim & functional wallets) — and the interactive content on their website does a great job of showing it off.

2. Product Recommendation Quizzes

I know, I know.

Quizzes are technically interactive website content. But they’re incredibly useful at the research stage, so I thought I’d go into a bit more detail about how to do them well.

People love quizzes. I’m definitely not the only one who has gotten sucked down a Buzzfeed wormhole just to find out which Harry Potter character you are. (Neville, in case you were wondering).

According to Digiday, 96% of users who start Buzzfeed quizzes finish them.

96%! (Told you it wasn’t just me).

That stat alone is reason enough to give quizzes a try -- but keep in mind that when you use quizzes for marketing, the goal isn’t to get consumers to just finish the quiz. You want them to keep researching your products or buy them.

To do that, your quiz not only has to be interesting — it has to be useful.

One of the more useful types of quizzes are product recommendation quizzes. Consumers report they often are overwhelmed with the variety of options available to them online — and recommendation quizzes can make it easier (and more fun) to find the right product.

Best Practices

  1. Keep it Concise. Don’t make people answer 100 questions just to find out what kind of conditioner they should be buying.

  2. Ask Questions Related to Your Products. Make real recommendations -- ask for information related to features or pain points your products solve.

  3. Keep it Interesting. Use interesting graphics to keep the quiz fun. No one wants to take a product recommendation quiz that looks like a test!

Example #1 — FitBit

fitbit quiz

FitBit knows that one of the pain points for their customers is choosing the right tracker for their lifestyle. There are a lot of features and it's hard to know which you need, and which you don't. Their product recommendation quiz does a great job at quickly narrowing down your options and pointing you to more information so you can make an informed decision.

Example #2 — Fabletics

fabletics quiz -- workout question 2

Fabletics has a neat personal recommendation quiz that suggests individual pieces and outfits based on your fitness needs, style, and body shape.

This works well for athleisure, since the pieces you select need to be functional — not just look good.

And since consumers have to create a free account to get your recommendations, this quiz also acts as a great lead-gen tool — one Fabletics can use the data from to personalize email offers.

3. Gamified Sweepstakes

Didn't see that one coming did you?

It's true, sweepstakes aren't the first thing that pops to mind when you say “educational marketing” — but they have something a video ad never will: a reason for consumers to stick around.

Gamified sweepstakes aren’t like hit & run promos, with just a reg page & splash. They feature fun games that consumers can play for extended periods of time. Games that you can nest your brand messaging into.

You can also create games that encourage product exploration, giving consumers a nudge to seek out information while still letting them direct their own path-to-purchase.

Best Practices

  1. Nest Educational Messaging into the Game. Make sure your brand messaging is present, but doesn’t interfere with the user experience. Think of it like a billboard -- it should be alongside the game, not in the middle of the road.

  2. Don't Skimp on Prizes. This is how you get people to play, so make 'em good.

  3. Encourage Regular Engagement. Build a game that encourages people to play for long periods of time, or to come back and play regularly.  The longer people engage with your messaging, the more impact it will have & the more info you can include about your products.

Example #1 — Canadian Tire Reflex Ice

canadian tire reflex ice pop up

This promo is a cool example of how you can build educational messaging into the game-play itself. In this promo, the product (Reflex Ice Wipers) were a "bonus" consumers could find that helped them earn more chances to win by "clearing the way."

By playing the game consumers learned the key product benefits — namely that they’re made to deal with winter storms. There was also other educational content nested in, like quick pop-ups with brand messaging, quizzes, and incentivized interstitials.

Example #2 — Harris Teeter: Holiday Match & Win

harris teeter gamified sweepstakes splash page

68% of consumers make recipes they see in ads — which means recipes are excellent educational content for grocers and food brands.

However, cutting through the recipe clutter can be challenging. There are millions of recipes on Pinterest, food blogs, and magazines.

And you need to get consumers to read — and remember — yours.

harris teeter gamified sweepstakes recipe marketing page

This promo solved that problem by making it fun for shoppers to engage with branded recipes. By playing the game, consumers became more familiar with the ingredients & recipes — and you can bet those recipes were top of mind when consumers went grocery shopping.

Plus the game encouraged consumers to engage with the retailer in other ways — like joining their email list and making purchases — adding extra value and helping to move consumers along the path-to-purchase.

The Bottom Line

There are a lot of different ways to educate your consumers. The important thing is to keep the focus on them — how does your content help them & why should they care.

Make educational content that’s both entertaining and useful. And use gamified promotions to capture attention, educate in game-play, and nudge consumers further down the path-to-purchase.

This was post #2 in our path-to-purchase blog series. Next time we'll be covering the purchase stage, and how you can reduce friction & increase basket size

This is the 2nd post in the our path-to-purchase blog series. Catch up on the other posts below:

How to Inspire Customers and Influence Their Purchases

How to Easily Influence Consumer Decisions at the Purchase Stage

3 Reasons You Need to Market to New Customers