3 Lessons Education Marketers Can Learn from ‘Bill Nye the Science Guy’

Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill!

If you grew up in the ’90s, you know what comes after that chant: a half-hour of zany experiments, world-renowned guests, and, most of all, real science.

Like no science show before or since, “Bill Nye the Science Guy” inspired a generation of scientists, engineers, and conservationists. Its mission was to “produce a show that gets kids and adults excited about science so that the United States will again be the world leader in technology, innovation, and sound management of the environment.”

Lofty goal? It sure was.

Today, the United States may not be the world leader in technology, but that isn’t to say that the show missed its mark. In fact, “Bill Nye the Science Guy” was so popular that it’s been rebooted by Netflix for the 21st century, now titled “Bill Nye Saves the World.”

Intentionally or not, “Bill Nye the Science Guy” set the bar not only for science television, but also for education marketing and media. It was crafted with an objective, a clearly defined target audience, and rules that supported its objective statement. Sounds a lot like marketing, right?

Bill Nye the Marketing Guy?

Despite being decades old, some of the rules behind “Bill Nye the Science Guy” still contain sage advice for education marketers. Let’s talk through it, shall we?

Rule No. 1: All the science we see has to be real science.

Bill Nye banned “molecular resynthesizer machines that perform magic tricks.” Not sure what that is? It doesn’t matter.

The point is that Bill knew presenting his audience with fake science would have been a betrayal. Much like Nye’s viewers, educators deserve honest, unfiltered advice. Slippery marketing language can ruin the credibility of not only a science experiment, but also an entire company.

Educators see themselves as guardians and champions of “their kids.” According to our research, they spend an average of $381 of their own money on classroom supplies each year. The bottom line? They’re smart and serious about their students’ education, so don’t try to fool them.

Rule No. 2: The ‘Science Guy’ is always himself.

Nine out of 10 teachers agree with the statement that companies should act ethically. Nye would undoubtedly agree. Bill Nye is the Science Guy. He’s not playing a role; he’s an actual scientist.

Just like Nye, marketers have to be real with teachers. That means being genuine, helpful, and responsive to their needs. Take your cue from Brandee Johnson, president of LimeLight Marketing, who told Chief Marketer, “Follow the rule of ‘give, give, ask.'”

Giving can take different forms, from product discounts to lesson ideas. Our “Teachers as Consumers” report found that 46 percent of teachers like or follow brands on social media to receive discounts. If you’re looking for a low-cost place to start, try sharing classroom tips on social media, publishing a newsletter with craft ideas, or providing a printable poster. Above all, be authentic and do more than just ask teachers to buy a product.

Rule No. 3: The host interacts with guests, kids, other scientists, and celebrities as peers.

Like all of us, educators prefer to buy from people they like. The Science Guy is funny, easy to understand, and approachable, and that makes people more open to what he’s teaching. He’s personable — not pitchy.

Check out WeAreTeachers on Facebook, and you’ll notice that the page isn’t plastered with posts trying to make a sale. It’s a place teachers go to tell stories, get lesson ideas, and give advice. The WeAreTeachers team posts inspiring, funny, or helpful photos and videos with hashtags that get teachers talking.

Just don’t be condescending or critical of teachers, no matter the channel you’re using. If they’re interacting with your company, it means that they’re looking for a relationship. Recognize that, and you’ll find teachers to be much more receptive to your messaging.

Bill Nye may not have singlehandedly saved the world, but there’s no doubt that he inspired kids and teachers. If marketers can be just as authentic, substantive, and respectful, they, too, can win over teachers. And if teachers have the right products in their hands, they can help kids dream bigger and reach higher. When kids dream bigger and reach higher, maybe we’re all saving the world one marketing campaign at a time. Lofty? Sure, but it’s worth a shot.

Not sure how to get in teachers’ good graces? Download MDR’s free guide, “Marketing to Educators: What You Need to Ace the Test,” and reach out if you’re still stuck. Have thoughts on volcanoes or marketing to educators? Comment below!

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