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Enrichment day: teaching schoolkids how to brand a business

06 August 2018


In July, several members of the Octopus Group Marketing team visited Epping St John’s School in Essex. Their mission was to teach 180 schoolchildren aged 11-13 about the power of brands, and to get them interested in a possible career helping businesses create brands that people love.

It’s hard to put a figure on the number of different brands that each of us comes into contact with throughout a single day. In the US, it is estimated that the average American is exposed to between 4,000 and 10,000 brand messages on a daily basis.

But when it comes to today’s generation of schoolkids here in the UK, are they aware that they are consuming brands on an almost constant basis? Do they know what it takes to create a brand, to design a logo or come up with a slogan that persuades people to buy something? And, at an age when they’re starting to think seriously about what they want to do in life, have they considered branding and marketing as a career?

Enrichment days give students the opportunity to work on a range of important life skills, and to gain experience in working environments they normally wouldn’t find out about.

For the children of Epping St John’s School in Essex, their enrichment day involved meeting four people from the Octopus Group Marketing team. The aim was to give them the opportunity to learn a bit more about the brands they experience, in a way they’d find interesting, simple and easy to understand. They were also given the chance to apply their learning, by using their skills to create brands and products of their own.

Pitching the brands of the future

First up, to get the schoolkids in the right mindset, it was time to get them thinking about the brands they knew and loved. Next, after a short presentation that covered how design and content comes together to create inspiring brand imagery and slogans, it was time for the assignment.

The schoolkids were divided into different teams and asked to create a product or service relevant to some of the themes Octopus cares about. Next, they had to complete four steps to create the brand for their product:

Step one: design it! The logo, the website, the marketing materials, the packaging

Step two: launch it! Plan an event, some merchandise, some social media activity

Step three: talk about it! Think about how to describe the business or product, discuss what made it unique and what they wanted to be associated with it

Step four: pitch it! Present their ideas to everyone, with the best ideas winning group and individual prizes.

Right from the beginning, it became clear that the schoolkids understood the scope of the project and had plenty to say, both in terms of the products they wanted to ‘sell’ to their classmates and the areas where they thought they could do the most good.

Jen Viccars, Head of Brand and Marketing for Octopus Group, explained: “I was particularly impressed with how plastic-conscious the kids were. They are so aware of the issues around plastic in the ocean and plastic being single use only and going into landfill. Lots of the ideas were either around reusing plastic (into clothes, household products etc) or incentivising people to recycle rather than bin their plastic (with coupons or prizes)”.

“I was impressed by their knowledge about environmental issues and their desire to remedy them. Their social conscience was evident across all of their ideas and conversations, and I enjoyed seeing the lack of cynicism in their thought processes.”
Nick Miles, Marketing Executive

To complete the assignment, and to successfully present their product to the rest of their classmates, the kids had to work on a number of different tasks:

  • Give their product a name, as well as a catchy slogan
  • Be ready to explain what made their product stand out from the crowd
  • Design a logo
  • Work out how much their product should cost
  • Decide who (or what) they wanted their product to be associated with

A number of great ideas were pitched at the end of the day, these included a kinetically-powered fidget spinner with built-in MP3 player and speaker, a high-speed mobility scooter (complete with roll-cage for added safety), a ‘magicup’ branded exclusively for the LGBTQ community, and ‘Tublife’: a hot-tub designed exclusively for pensioners, complete with its own branded swimwear range.

“It was great to see the kids’ creativity and the way they answered questions about their products clearly demonstrated the unlimited imagination they have at their age. The winning pitch would have given Dragons Den a run for their money.”
Emmanouil Zachariadis, Designer

But the products themselves were just a small part of what came out on the day. The schoolkids got a taste of what it’s like to work as part of a creative team, and to understand the value of making a contribution in a team-based environment. They got to work on skills such as listening and building on each other’s ideas, working in a team where each individual has something unique to contribute, to provide helpful and constructive criticism and to present a group idea collectively, without trying to claim credit or lay blame as individuals.

“I was surprised at how savvy the kids were, spotting the hidden messages and having clearly defined ideas about their product and how to market it. When I think of myself at that age all I was into was Thor.”
Stephen Rixon, Head of Creative

It proved to be a valuable exercise for the creative minds of Octopus as well. As Stephen pointed out: “I rarely have the chance to talk about how amazing my job can be, creating beautiful things and seeing people being surprised and delighted was actually a bit of a joy”.

What’s more, the experience could help influence how Octopus thinks about its future customer base. According to Jen, spending the day talking about brands with a different generation was instructive: “I hadn’t heard of 90% of the celebrities the kids suggested to endorse their products. They consume famous people in a really different way to my generation. All the names they suggested were predominantly self-made YouTube stars who have never been on mainstream TV or media.

“The definition of ‘celebrity’ is changing but the level of influence they have certainly isn’t. As marketing professionals, it’s really important to be aware of the perceptions of different generations, and what they value and how they see things.”

To end the day, we asked the schoolkids of Epping St John’s to tell us what they learned from spending the day with the Octopus Group Marketing team. Here are a few quotes:

“I enjoyed coming up with a fun and helpful product and company.”

“I learned how to design logos and make slogans which may help companies become known worldwide.”

“I learned that jobs don’t have to be teaching, doctors, etc, but instead they can be to colour and come up with ideas and slogans.”

“I learned that some jobs can be fun.”

And the brand that proved to be the biggest hit with all the classmates? Well, who could argue with the positive benefits of hot-tubs for pensioners? Expect to see the ‘Tublife’ logo on a billboard near you very soon.