January 30, 2020
Case Study

Marketing is Teaching: 3 examples of high-performance marketing that worked by educating the customer


Marketing gets a bad rap.

It’s thought of as trickery. Or a way to scam people.

At its heart, though, effective marketing is teaching.

Read on for examples from an addiction treatment center, an aftermarket engine lubricant, and an over-the-counter probiotic.

by Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute

(As seen in the MarketingSherpa newsletter. Click to get a free email subscription to the latest from MarketingSherpa.)

I love stand-up comedy. I was recently watching Tiffany Haddish’s Netflix special — “Black Mitzvah.” In the special, she refers to herself less as a comedian and more as a teacher. “I want to teach. That’s what I’ve been put on this planet to do: teach.”

She showed that good stand-up comedy can be teaching. After all, you’re relating a life lesson.

Which got me thinking — good marketing can be teaching as well. Marketing is often just thought of as selling. Trying to convince (or even worse, trick) someone to do something. Instead, what if you taught your customers more about your product? Your solution? Your industry? Most importantly, how they can get the value you seek.

Well, it would probably look like these three examples of successful marketing we’ve put together to help get you started down this path or inspire your next campaign with a new idea

Example #1: Teaching about what to expect garners 220% increase for addiction treatment center

One common marketing misconception is that long copy or landing pages don’t work. Customers are impatient. They won’t read something long.

Flint McGlaughlin, CEO and Managing Director, MECLABS Institute (parent organization of MarketingSherpa) recently presented a good counterexample in The High-Performance Landing Page: 3 ways to maximize conversion with the power of coherence.

An addiction treatment center had a fairly short landing page.

Creative Sample #1: Control landing page for addiction treatment center

The MECLABS Institute team engaged in conversion marketing services with the addiction treatment center and created a treatment landing page. The treatment was much longer than the control.

Creative Sample #2: Treatment landing page for addiction treatment center

The treatment landing page generated a 220% relative increase in leads. That’s right, the longer landing page performed better.


Well, contacting an addiction treatment center is an activity fraught with uncertainty and anxiety. Essentially the landing page was somewhat of a teaching tool. It explained treatment therapies, addiction recovery programs, and what a typical day was like at this treatment center.

People, in general, may not read long landing pages or copy about addiction treatment centers. But you know who does? People interested in addiction treatment centers.

You can dive deeper into this experiment by watching Flint McGlaughlin teach key lessons from it in the below video …

Example #2: Teaching about how an industry works nets 3,000 new customer leads for lubricant company

You likely intimately know the ins and outs of your industry. But don’t assume your customers do. The average person makes way more purchase decisions in a day than they have time to thoroughly research or be well versed in.

Take engine lubricants, for example. Unless you’re a real enthusiast, this is a largely opaque industry you’re not thinking about much.

AMSOIL is in this industry. The company formulates and packages synthetic lubricants, fuel additives and filters. Which means, customers will choose to use its product after buying something else — a snowmobile perhaps or a motorcycle. It also means that someone else often gets to talk to the customer first.

“Original equipment manufacturers’ (OEMs) warranties along with unscrupulous dealerships were negatively affecting sales of our company’s aftermarket lubricants. Dealerships actively discouraged customers from using any product but their chosen brand. Customers frequently complied, scared they would void their warranty. This was untrue,” said Daisy-ree Quaker, digital content marketer, HireDaisy, an outside consultant to the brand.

“Our web page did little to help, it was filled with marketing-speak and legalese. Our challenge was to raise customers’ awareness about this issue in a measurable and meaningful way,” she said.

Creative Sample #3: Original AMSOIL landing page meant to address warranty anxiety

The team created an educational marketing campaign called “Runs on Freedom,” which encouraged customers to use whatever product they wanted in their vehicle. The campaign primarily promoted the category; the brand was secondary (it was in the brand colors and promoted through brand channels).

“As a culturally conservative organization, the inherently confrontational, in-your-face nature of the campaign required a significant internal sales job, to get the thing off the ground,” said Parnell Thill, Senior Marketing Manager, AMSOIL.

The campaign included a public service announcement-style video that ran on social media. The video had a call-to-action to get free decals that sent customers to an updated landing page on AMSOIL’s site that explained warranty issues. The page had been refreshed to tie into the campaign and help address customers’ warranty anxieties with clearer communication.

Creative Sample #4: New AMSOIL landing page meant to address warranty anxiety

The page was also promoted by social media advertising with the campaign message that mentioned the free decals that customers could order through the landing page as an incentive CTA.

Creative Sample #5: AMSOIL Runs on Freedom postcard and decal

marketing is teaching5

The paid promotion on Facebook targeted a lookalike audience of AMSOIL’s current followers and fans of powersports equipment, motorcycles, snowmobiles, dirt bikes, etc. The team pushed paid promotion with a first push in the spring to raise awareness in time for spring oil changes, a second push over the 4th of July holiday weekend (there were close to 1,000 form submissions from that weekend alone), and other focused times when manufacturers came out with new models of their bikes or snowmobiles.

“To date, the Runs on Freedom campaign continues to deliver, not only leads and sales, but a brand vocalization that differentiates us, not only from competitive peers, but our own historically reserved brand tone,” Thill said. “Even though our traditional, competitive narrative is: ‘Our products are functionally better than yours,’ in the eyes of the targeted consumerate, that message paled in comparison to the message of ‘You can run whatever lubricant you want — don’t let The Man push you around!’ This rig Runs on Freedom!”

The campaign increased unique pageviews for AMSOIL’s warranty explainer page by 305% year-over-year, and the average time on the page improved from 48 seconds to three minutes and three seconds (a 235% improvement).

The campaign generated more than 4,000 requests over nine months — close to 3,000 of which were first-time customers. One ardent fan of the campaign even got a tattoo on his arm.

Creative Sample #6: Customer’s tattoo inspired by AMSOIL Runs on Freedom campaign

marketing is teaching6 

Quaker and Thill attribute the campaign’s success to taking a step back and trying to think like the customer — what do they need to learn? And why does it matter to the customer?

“I teach in the MBA program at a local, private college. I have been saying for decades that good marketing is much more akin to education than it is to salesmanship and, as such, firms that organize their sales and marketing efforts as a combined resource are doomed to get one or both wrong, due to the exclusively distinct skill-demands of each. Any org that has a ‘VP of Sales and Marketing’ is clearly underappreciating the nature of both,” Thill said.

“Even when the material you have to work with is not that sexy (we had to rebrand a warranty campaign for a motor oil company, it doesn't get unsexier than that!), you can build a compelling campaign by asking: What do your customers care about? How does this piece fit into their story? How does this connect with their beliefs or values?” Quaker advised.

Example #3: Teaching to dispel health misinformation increases purchase intent 12.5% for over-the-counter brand

Some industry topics aren’t as well known simply because they involve complex topics or expertise that the customer doesn’t have, like the above example.

Others need education because the topics are either taboo, have a stigma, or are embarrassing. While the internet has gone a long way to helping spread information about these kinds of topics (it’s less embarrassing to search for an answer online than it is to talk to a pharmacist), the internet is also a far less reliable information source.

Hence, brands can distinguish themselves by providing reliable information while opening up a conversation about certain topics.

Here’s an example courtesy of AZO, an over-the-counter urinary and bladder health brand owned by global consumer health and wellness company i-Health, Inc., a subsidiary of DSM Nutritional Products. The brand was launching a new feminine probiotic SKU called AZO Complete Feminine Balance® Daily Probiotic and was seeking to create awareness among millennial women. The brand chose an education-based strategy.

 “With 75% of women believing some misinformation about yeast infections and 50% of women feeling embarrassed by their vaginal issues, AZO sought to open up the conversation and normalize women’s vaginal health issues,” said Kimberly Howard-Thomassen, Senior Vice President, Group Director, The Thomas Collective, the brand’s creative marketing agency.

The team created a video-focused digital campaign called Crushing Facts that shared fact-based education on topics usually shrouded in secrecy and misinformation. The campaign aimed to empower women through an understanding of their health and provided consumers with the information they needed to confidently own their health choices.

Creative Sample #7: Educational videos by AZO

marketing is teaching7

The videos ranged from short-form videos (:06 and :15) to long-form videos (1:00), and there were also articles, infographics, influencer content and social media content (paid and organic).

"As a brand, education is an important value, but how you do it is equally important. It has to address a problem and sometimes multiple. For us, it was getting over the barrier of the nature of the topic as well as correcting information. And by doing that, the content drove advocacy because of its authenticity to our audience’s needs,” Howard-Thomassen said.

The digital campaign ran across multiple platforms, including media in over-the-top (OTT) and programmatic digital video (Hulu, Adobe and Amazon) along with social, native and organic channels.

The campaign generated a 15% increase in brand awareness (exceed the benchmark by 400%), 18% increase in brand favorability (800% above benchmark) and 12.5% increase in purchase intent (550% above benchmark). Consumers reported they found the brand to be smart, knowledgeable, approachable and caring.

“Focus on a key insight that shows how your product provides value, and then provide more value. Value that is outside of your product. Consumers expect more from brands, and the brands that understand that, win,” Howard-Thomassen advised.

Related Resources

Introductory Guide to Developing Your Customer Theory [an interactive worksheet]

Content Marketing: Startup's focus on how-to content results in a 1,365% increase in unique website visitors

Content Marketing: Encouraging sales and upsells at the point of purchase

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