“Edcuation” and “consumers” don’t go together

I always get really, really worried when I read or hear the phrase “we’re going to educate our consumers” about our brand. Why? Well, first because we’re supposed to be solving problems and making life easier for our consumers, not asking them to go to brand school. Second, because any attempt to educate consumers is going to a) cost you a lot, b) not be very effective.

Well, here are Vodafone at it. I read in Marketing that the brand is “Planning to educate consumers to use the full range of mobile services on offer, rather than simply calls and texts”. The campaign will use digital, direct mail, outdoor and TV ads. There will also be experiential activity to demonstrate that you can set up mobile email in 2 minutes. That sounds like a whole lot of education.

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What Vodafone are really thinking is more like: “You stupid bloody consumers! If only you use the frigging internet on your phone, as you do in the business plan that justified blowing billions on a 3G licence! Sit down and let us tell you again what you’re supposed to do”. The problem they and other mobile operators face is that after years of effort and millions of marketing money, data usage on mobiles (for web surfing and email) is still very small.

Of course, there is another, much better way to get people to use more of your stuff. And that is to make your product so easy and nice to use that people want to. They don’t need education. This is what has happened with the, you knew it was coming, iPhone. Check out these killer stats as reported in the FT. On the O2 network, only 1.8% of non-iPhone users get through more than 25MB of data usage a month. I guess Vodafone is not much better. Well, have a stab at what the same figure is for iPhone users on O2. What do you reckon. 10%? 20%? Maybe even 30%?

Nope. Its 60%.

This is a seismic shift in consumer behaviour. And it came about because you don’t need to be educated on how to surf the web or send email on an iPhone. Its really easy, and it works. More than that. Its actually a nice experience. Check out the options below: which looks nicer to use?

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And with the new Apps store of easy to download and use applications, the iPhone is set to make another leap forward. I posted on the App store here.

The other smart thing Apple did with O2 is to have unlimited data usage built into the, pretty pricey, monthly tarrifs. So, you don’t even think about checking the weather, stock prices or news, you just do it. As part of their education drive, Vodafone are now following the iPhone lead and offering the same sort of inclusive data tarrifs. So, next time you hear “consumer” and “education” in the same phrase, beware. And ask if a better route is not to make the product or service nicer, easier and more affordable to use.