Teaching Kids So They Can Teach Us

As crazy as it may seem to readers living in some parts of the country, kids start going back to school in a couple of weeks in much of the South. If you’re a parent, the words “back to school” have likely triggered the “cha-ching” of your mental cash register as it totals the cost of new shoes, jeans, book bags and the long list of required school supplies so conveniently provided by your local big-box store. But if you are a marketer, you could also be hearing a different kind of “cha-ching,” because kids are a powerful source of social influence, and one of the best ways to leverage that influence is through a classroom education program.

According to a past Green Living Pulse study (now part of our annual Eco Pulse study), just over one-third of Americans have been encouraged successfully by someone else to become more environmentally friendly or adopt a new sustainable habit. And the strongest social influence on sustainable behavior we found was “encouragement from children/grandchildren” (32%). In fact, kids had a stronger impact on respondents than “seeing others they admire making changes” or “getting encouragement from friends.”

An in-school education program is nothing new. I began my career in banking many years ago, and one of my jobs as a young marketing communications director was to visit local elementary schools and (try to) teach kids about saving money. I say “try” because the curriculum materials were borrowed from the state bankers’ association and were not very engaging. In addition, I had no teaching experience. Needless to say, it got loud and my results were mixed.

So I thought that I would share a couple of good examples from companies who are doing it right.

Many utilities have an in-school education program, but one of the best I’ve seen is Georgia Power’s Learning Power program. Elementary, middle school and high school teachers can schedule an age/curriculum-appropriate “In-Class Field Trip” with a GA Power Energy Efficiency Education Coordinator. And they are GOOD! We invited a coordinator to present a lesson at Shelton’s Inner Circle Symposium last year. We got to participate in a simple hands-on experiment and learned how heat transfers and how insulators work. Our conference attendees had a blast, and I was reminded of how much fun learning can be.

learning power

This is obviously a great program for teachers, because they get a little rest with part of their required science curriculum being taught by a very entertaining (and knowledgeable) guest teacher. It’s great for the kids, because they’re having fun learning about electricity generation and home energy efficiency, and it’s great for their parents because the kids take home energy savings tips and a simple home energy audit homework assignment – which becomes a topic of conversation at the dinner table.

And that’s critical, because our Energy Pulse 2011 study found that 71% of parents who said their children had initiated conversations or promoted changes on one or more environmental issues said that the discussions had resulted in changes in behavior or purchase patterns in their homes – that’s some powerful impact. Earlier this month, results were published from a study that found educating children made a definite (and lasting) impact on household energy-saving behaviors.

Shelton has completed testimonial video work for another school education program sponsored by SunPower, a leading solar company based in San Jose, CA. SunPower Horizons™ is a STEM education enrichment program designed to spark students’ curiosity in science and technology. The program, built to complement a school or school district’s purchase of a solar energy system, trains educators and offers classroom instruction for K-12 and college-level students, giving them hands-on opportunities “to build problem-solving skills and connect the dots between difficult math and science concepts and real-world applications.” This program is not only doing good, it’s good marketing – they’re creating their next generation of buyers and positively influencing parents who could become buyers today.

If you’re not already running a program that teaches kids so they can teach the rest of us, get it started today!


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Posted on

July 21, 2016

About the Author

Lee Ann Head

Lee Ann Head

Lee Ann started Shelton Group's research department in 2000 and paved the way for us to become the insights-grounded creative agency we are today. After 17 years leading our research team, she recently moved to New Orleans, handing down the title of Vice President of Research & Insights, but remains an integral part of that team as she continues to oversee client projects and proprietary studies.

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Suzanne Shelton

President and CEO

Suzanne is the voice and the vision of Shelton Group. Drawing on her extensive experience in energy and the environment – and 25+ years in the marketing and advertising industry – Suzanne provides high-level strategic insights for our clients and guidance for our research and creative departments. She regularly speaks at conferences around the country, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and the International Builders’ Show, and serves as a guest columnist for publications like Fast Company, Green Builder and GreenBiz.com.

Susannah Enkema

VP Research & Insights

Susannah directs our research team and plays a key role in extracting the nuggets of information that pave the way for recommended marketing strategies and creative approaches. Susannah has nearly two decades of market research and strategy experience, including her role as president of SE Consulting, where she led the services for the likes of DIY Network and the makers of GORE-TEX®.

Laila Waggoner

VP Client Engagement

Laila leads our client engagement process, overseeing activities from both a strategic and a tactical level to ensure our work generates desired results – and clients’ satisfaction. She brings 25+ years of marketing leadership experience to her client relationships, with particular expertise in the homebuilding and remodeling industries as well as member-driven organizations, such as the Vinyl Siding Institute and Plastics Pipe Institute. Before joining Shelton Group, she led strategic marketing teams for Owens Corning’s insulation business.

Matt Brass

VP Creative

Matt steers the creative department in concepting, designing and producing campaigns. He ensures sound strategy and deep insights inform everything his team develops, and works closely with the accounts department to ensure copy and designs will meet our clients’ goals. As a designer and filmmaker himself, he’s also a principal contributor to all of Shelton’s in-house photography and videography work.

Courtnay Hamachek

VP Operations

Courtnay oversees our day-to-day operations to keep us running smoothly and support our growth. She establishes project management systems and processes to help our teams anticipate bottlenecks, prevent process issues, and keep projects on time and on target. Courtnay has built extensive experience over 25 years in all aspects of marketing, from account services and project management to design and production.

Mike Beamer

VP Business Development

Mike joined our team to help provide strategic vision and foster our agency’s growth by overseeing new business leads and managing agency marketing and website content. He arrived in Knoxville steeped in energy efficiency and renewables – he previously led client service for an agency division in Boston dedicated to marketing communications strategy and branding for B2B and B2C clients in that space.