Exclusive Marketing Week research shows that marketing in education is still seen as a peripheral activity on which expenditure is relatively low but where room for expansion is huge. Tom O’Sullivan reports from the chalk face

For many people Easter means religion, chocolate eggs and school holidays. But for marketing directors it is also the time to add the final touches to next year’s budgetary wish lists which increasingly include at least one of the aforementioned – schools.

Exclusive research for Marketing Week provides the first real snapshot of the state of the market for marketing-in-education programmes. Last year, some companies were criticised by the National Consumer Council for producing educational materials that were biased, “plastered with company logos” and encouraged children to eat fast food.

The criticism came as the NCC launched guidelines for future marketing-in-education schemes which placed the spotlight on a potentially controversial area and estimated the value of the market at 300m.

While the sample group for the Marketing Week survey, 49 companies, is too small to extrapolate figures and draw broader conclusions for the whole market, it highlights some of the main issues facing companies involved in this area. Some, including Sainsbury’s and Boots, which have both been criticised for the educational schemes they have run in the past, refused to take part in the survey. So did Marks & Spencer, Kellogg, BP and Lever Brothers.

The failure of 450 other companies to respond could be due to previous criticism, the sensitivity still attached to marketing in schools, confusion about who has responsibility for marketing-in-education initiatives within companies or, in some cases, the fact that they do not consider it relevant.

But it is clear that for the 49 companies which took part in the survey, including BT, Barclays, Dixons, London Electricity, Whitbread and WH Smith, the priority target market are the UK’s 8 million school children aged five to 15, rather than students in further or higher education.

More than 90 per cent say they have invested some of their marketing-in-education spend in one or more of the UK’s 30,000 schools. A further 12 per cent admit it is parents they are targeting through the school children. A recognition of the “pester power” phenomenon, which is estimated to generate sales of up to 8.4bn in the UK alone.

The two main objectives of companies launching schemes were to build company or brand awareness and educate consumers about a company’s products or services. Significantly, many of those who had set the objectives were not satisfied that they were met. While brand building was an objective for 75 per cent, only 49 per cent were satisfied it had been met, and for the 45 per cent of respondents who said educating consumers was essential, only 31 per cent were happy with the results.

Johnson & Johnson, which has dropped out of educational marketing despite the relative success of its SwimSafe campaign to support its Kids brand, says: “Marketing through schools is not the right activity for a young brand with limited budget.” WH Smith has also dropped out, citing a lack of funds.

The survey also reveals an apparent lack of accountability for money spent in educational marketing.

When questioned about expenditure, 88 per cent of companies could not say how much they spend, for instance, on voucher collection schemes, 65 per cent could not give their spend on sponsorship and more than one in four did not know how much they spent on resource materials – despite the fact it is the number one activity.

Even assuming that some companies are unwilling to give an accurate spend figure for fear of being accused of bribing or exploiting children, the figures suggest that there are still a substantial number of companies which do not scrutinise their spend on educational marketing as closely as the rest of their marketing activity.

They may feel it is too small to warrant much scrutiny. Or more worryingly for those which argue that educational marketing should form part of a full programme, it may be seen more as a “good thing to do”. After expenditure on resource materials in schools, the next largest chunk of marketing spend for the companies surveyed, 43 per cent, is channelled into direct charitable donations or gifts – an area which has little if any tangible marketing benefit. That is despite 70 per cent of marketing directors identifying cause related marketing as a priority in a recent Business in the Community survey.

There is also little uniformity across companies in terms of the person responsible within an organisation for developing educational programmes – there are 15 different job titles given for the person responsible within the companies surveyed.

The survey also reveals that the “majority of activity is being undertaken by organisations in marketing channels but using budgets other than marketing”. This suggests that spending decisions in an area of increasing marketing importance are dependent on non-marketing budgets – possibly grants, charitable trusts or some other form of fund. This may explain why the relative level of spend among the 49 companies surveyed – estimated at less than 1m – is so low.

Only four per cent spend more than 250,000 on resource materials, while six per cent spend a similar figure on sponsorship. The average for the budgets being spent, and declared, is between 10,000 and 50,000 per project. In contrast, more than 50 per cent of the sample companies have annual marketing budgets of more than 5m and 61 per cent have turnovers in excess of 100m.

Almost 80 per cent provide resource packs, ahead of charitable donations as the most favoured activity, while 35 per cent of the companies surveyed are involved with sponsorship and free product samples. There were relatively few, 12 per cent, investing in till voucher schemes – a reflection of the comparatively small number of retailers which took part in the survey.

Alarmingly for specialist educational agencies, most of the companies surveyed – of which two-thirds have been involved in education for more than three years – became aware of the potential of marketing-in-education through “colleagues within their company” rather than marketing agencies. Only 16 per cent used an agency, whereas 55 per cent of prompts came from a mixture of colleagues, the marketing press and “others”.

But only eight per cent of companies were alerted to the potential by teachers, despite the fact that many companies identify teachers as the main route into schools for resource material and promotions. In a recent survey of 100 teachers in the Schools Consortium, 93 per cent said they believed that companies should seek more advice from teachers.

Almost half of the companies either employ an education liaison officer (22 per cent) or a corporate community affairs officer (27 per cent) to keep marketing departments abreast of developments in education.

The survey also tried to assess what companies wanted from schools to make the schemes work better. Smith & Nephew, quoted in the research, believes that “the key problem is reaching the target market… it would reduce the time selling-in to individual schools if schools re-organised themselves into groups to select our services”. But this view was countered by other respondents. “It’s not their function to do so,” says one anonymous supermarket. “Why should they,” argues the Meat & Livestock Commission.

But according to Poise Marketing business director William Anderson, one of the organisations involved in commissioning the research, pooling is already happening. Poise represents the 50-strong Schools Consortium which has previously adopted marketing-in-education programmes from among others Dixons and Johnson & Johnson.

Marketing-in-education is still seen by many companies, even those with experience in the sector, as a peripheral activity. There is confusion within companies about where responsibility lies and expenditure is still comparatively low.

But there is enough to suggest that the mood is changing. Those companies already involved are poised to benefit.

This survey was commissioned and jointly funded by Marketing Week, Poise Marketing/The Schools Consortium and Business in the Community. It was conducted by Compass Marketing Research. Its intention was to gain an insight into the extent of marketing-in-education schemes and investigate the motives of the companies involved.

The top 500 UK advertisers were mailed. The sample group of 49 companies included: London Electricity, Berol, BT, Barclays, Whitbread, Virgin Retail, Thorntons, Sharp, Smith & Nephew, Mazda Cars, Madame Tussauds, Meat & Livestock Commission, Johnson & Johnson, Henkel, Eagle Star, the French Tourist Office, Eagle Star, Dixons, Calortex,

WH Smith, Telewest, Somerfield, Mercury, Beiersdorf (Nivea), Great Mills, Research Machines and the Bristol & West Building Society.


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