Case study: O2 Learn

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Before moving into the world of marketing, O2 head of brand innovation Gav Thompson was a teacher. His experience in the education sector was formative, particularly so for the telecoms company’s latest diversification – O2 Learn.

“All teachers have at least one amazing lesson inside of them,” says Thompson. “The best teachers have hundreds or thousands.”

Thompson’s brainwave was to bring the best of these lessons to the masses online, most importantly for those students who lack access to quality teaching by more conventional means.

Teachers are encouraged to upload short videos of themselves teaching a particular topic. The lessons can be searched for by subject, education level or keyword and then students rate them. The idea is that the best lessons come to the top and the not-so-good ones sink to the bottom. Thompson’s ambition is eventually to have the whole of the national curriculum on the site.

Though the principal audience is intended to be secondary school students, O2 Learn’s marketing is also targeting teachers, as the site provides a repository of ideas for lesson plans. Much of the communications work done by O2 has been through the National Union of Teachers and the brand has also distributed £300,000 in fortnightly prizes to the teachers and schools submitting the best lessons, as an incentive to upload content.

Since launching in November 2010, more than 1,000 lessons have been submitted to the O2 Learn site, which Thompson says has had about 1 million views from 250,000 unique users. He adds that market research found that the project engendered a more positive impression of the company for 96% of people.

Spurred by the feedback, he believes that projects of this kind could represent “the future of brand marketing”, as companies seek to embody what they stand for through their actions rather than by asking consumers to trust their advertising messages.

Although O2 Learn is free, it gives the company an early foothold in the education sector. Thompson confirms that the brand will one day move into the growing market for supplying elearning products, although he points out that O2 Learn is not currently intended as a vehicle for this and would not be used as one unless there was demand from teachers to access other products or services through the portal.

Similarly, the portal is not designed as a “Trojan horse to get into the classroom”, Thompson adds. “We are not going to use the O2 Learn database of teachers to ask if they want to buy a tablet computer or elearning pen. That would be very cynical and is not why we are doing it.”

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