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That's Edutainment: Why You Should Create Content That Educates and Entertains

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Cruising at an altitude of about 30,000 feet does funny things to your head. Perhaps it's the canned oxygen, or the gentle, massage-like rumble of the seat. In my case, it could just be flying anxiety coated with a gooey layer of the realization of my own mortality.

In any case, my husband and I were sitting on a Delta flight when I saw something I have never seen before. We watched a flight safety video.

Well, yes, of course, I've seen one of these before, but this one was different. It was actually... entertaining and funny! And a pleasure to watch. I smiled as I listened to the people around me chuckle in unexpected delight. It was all a little surreal. I mean, there's nothing fun about tray tables, exit rows, and flotation devices, right?

When the video was over, my husband proceeded to curse me for making him so in tune with brands that are doing the right thing. Thanks to my obsession with my work, he now recognizes the unique and unusual. And more so, he appreciates it. So, of course, I took this as a teaching opportunity to share a word he had never heard before: Edutainment.

Education + Entertainment = Edutainment

Edutainment. What a perfectly delicious combination of two words we regularly use: education and entertainment. If I think back to my very first recollection of such a thing, it would certainly be Sesame Street or Schoolhouse Rock. They were mesmerizingly entertaining, and yet I always learned something.

To this day I often hear myself humming, "Conjunction junction, what's your function?" Which could attest to my chosen career path, I suppose.

I think we've mastered the market on finding creative and fun ways to hold the attention of our youth while educating them along the way.

When Did We Get So Serious?

But then for me, something happened. Somewhere between learning life lessons from Fat Albert and Shel Silverstein, and becoming a grown-up, things changed. Knowledge was no longer hidden in whimsical characters and stories. The tone changed. And it suddenly all felt so... serious.

So, how did Delta take a plane of approximately 200 adults and get them to actually pay attention to the flight safety requirements? In sharing scenarios of potentially deadly circumstance, the video somehow brought feelings of ease and quiet enjoyment. No scare tactics. No guilt trips. Just an engaging, relatable story with bits off quirky humor woven in for good measure. And in this story, Delta successfully held the collective attention span for five whole minutes.

Now, I'll be honest. I'm not typically a Delta customer. My encounter with this brand was brought on by the right date and the right rate. But when I opened up the Delta Sky magazine and read that the safety video was brand new this month, I appreciated it even more. The airline was also soliciting feedback via their social networks and using YouTube to promote their ingenuity. Brilliant! Facebook comments range from plain ‘ol “LOL” to full out reviews like “Great job!!! Such creativity and still being respectful of the material. I thought it to be hysterically funny!!!”

What Makes Edutainment Entertaining

So, what's the key ingredient to good edutainment?

It's the story. It’s imagineering new ways to articulate your brand’s personality to build a better relationship with your customers. These days, I can't scan any of my typical sources for content strategy without seeing some reference to storytelling. Why brands should be doing it. Why storytelling sells. Why consumers want to be entertained. And I've yet to tire of it. It's like I've been part of some radical underground group that's finally garnishing mainstream attention and majority consensus.

All of a sudden, the collective light bulb has been turned on.

Shared knowledge is one of the building blocks of establishing trust with a brand. So to attract and keep customers, you need to educate them along the way. But how do you do that without quickly entering Snoresville? After all, we adults, just like toddlers, have a fairly brief attention span. And with the current levels of constant stimulation and the rising number of ways to absorb information, a brand basically needs to be the prettiest girl at the dance to even stand a chance of being noticed.

If your educational content reads like stereo instructions, you're in dangerous territory. Consumers want to be entertained. They want a brand to take something as mundane as deodorant and turn it into a star-studded show. Old Spice rejuvenated an entire brand on this idea.

Remember this ad?

Edutainment takes a brand story and creates positive links for prospects between the brand and their overall experience---and this part is important---in a NON-obvious way. Success lies in appealing to both the rational and emotional sides of your target audience. Delta's tongue-in-cheek approach to delivering federal safety regulations shows the quirky personality of the brand while relaying important information.

So, did a funny flight safety video motivate me to purchase a Delta flight? No. But did the brand endear itself to me during our brief time together? Yes. And am I talking about my experience? Yes. And will Delta be in my decision set for my next travel date? Absolutely. And you still can’t buy that.

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Michele Miller leads content strategy for Solutions Innovation at eBay Enterprise, eBay company specializing in creating, developing, and running online shopping sites for brick and mortar brands and retailers.

LinkedIn: Michele Miller

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  • by Heidi Wed Jan 9, 2013 via blog

    Thanks for sharing, Michele. And love your great examples. Another brand that's leveraging the winning edutainment (I've been calling it infotainment) formula is Air New Zealand. They started w/ body paint, and their latest capitalizes on The Hobbit -

  • by Carla Wed Jan 9, 2013 via blog

    I am also a big fan of the new Delta in-flight safety video. They have retooled their brand and experience in recent years and this injection of humor was just right -- serious where it needed to be (how to use the oxygen) and light-hearted where it appropriate (i.e. stowing your carry-ons).

    I've always followed a strategy of the "5 Es" when planning an event or presentation. I now believe this needs to extend to creating content. My E5 strategy is:
    - Educate
    - Engage
    - Excite
    - Entertain
    - Empower

    Obviously depending on the subject some areas may get more emphasis than others. I think the Delta and the Old Spice examples that you use both deliver on all 5 points to some degree.

    Long gone are the days when we're just trying to communicate!

  • by Jasmine LeDeaux Wed Jan 9, 2013 via blog

    Great article!

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