Abhishek Keni
Guest Article

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Can mathematics be a brand?

In the Eighth standard, our History teacher told us the story of the Civil Disobedience movement during the freedom struggle. However, nobody in the class seemed willing to listen to her; they continued talking to one another; ignoring the only adult in the room (ironic, given the topic). In a fit of rage she would throw the duster on the podium and yell, "Is this a fish market?"

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Abhishek KeniFast forward 15 years later and I now realise, she was right. A classroom is indeed a market. It's a market that comprises 50-60 consumers (students) in one cluster with different needs, wants and requirements.

Some of them like science, others art, and some take to sports. Students aspire to be many things - scientists, the next Sachin Tendulkar, a fashion diva/ international superstar like Priyanka Chopra or a tech icon like Steve Jobs.

An ideal marketing challenge for any category (brand or product) is to identify the needs, wants and requirements of consumers and provide solutions for them with the right marketing mix. Can we marketers use this classroom analogy to solve a problem?

First of all, does a problem which needs to be solved exist in a classroom?

Yes, it does, especially in our country. There are problems like:

- Kids whose interests lie in science are showered with mathematics formulae.

- Those not paying attention in history class, because everything, except art, sounds 'uninteresting' to them.

Things we have done in the past to solve this problem include:

- Blaming the authorities for stringent education rules, where kids are forced to study all subjects wherein their interest lie only in one or two; and

- Abolishing the examination system, assuming kids can't handle the pressure.

Nevertheless, we should not forget that Sundar Pichai and Satya Nadella are the products of this same system. Indian brains are respected globally and it's the same education system which has done that. The system is not a problem; the way education is 'consumed' is a problem.

Here is where marketers and advertisers can play a crucial role because they are the magicians who can bring life, soul and voice to a product and make it a 'brand'; one that goes on to become an integral part of the consumer's life.

Here is an example of how it can work:

Let's take mathematics to start; let's consider it a brand. The problem for this brand is that consumers feel it's too tedious and its concepts are difficult to memorise. So, our single minded proposition for the communication is to make mathematics a preferred choice for kids who love to play.

Insight: Mathematics is considered to be boring because most of the 'consumers' do not know where to apply the concepts which are being learnt from their books.

Idea: Create a market place in the classroom.

Execution: Teachers distribute paper currency among kids in the classroom and create a makeshift market place. Let them pretend to be buyers and sellers of goods and consumables while teachers guide them in the real usage of concepts like 'unitary method', etc. This will ensure kids understand the practical usage of numbers and can later learn how best to use it, moreover, start living with it.

Implications for the advertising business

Agencies that pitch for educational institutes can no longer just demand money for creating artwork of hoardings with messaging like 'No. 1 Institute in India', 'Spacious Classrooms', etc. They can have a bigger say in the business of education management. Educational institutes can find a more valuable partner when they collaborate with creative agencies.

The point I'm trying to make is not to make teachers redundant, but to tweak education so that teachers can find a valuable platform to showcase their expertise i.e. teaching!

The next revolution in education is not about using tablets instead of books, but in changing the way education is consumed.

Also, we can make use of storytelling to make childhood more enjoyable. Problems like the infamous 'Blue Whale Challenge' are just symptoms of a bigger problem i.e. mental illnesses like depression, caused due to stress. This can be a result of many factors. However, education can become that powerful tool which could curtail the menace. We just need to carefully use the power of storytelling.

Thus, it's a win-win situation for three stake-holders - students, educational institutes and advertising agencies.

Let's think it over. This is an open ended debate.

(The author is senior account executive with Contract Advertising, India.)

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