Friday, January 30, 2015

Mismarketing the Core

Reader Rafe Gomez works at VC Inc. Marketing, "a provider of multimedia Sales Inquiry Optimized content." I tried to google "Sales Inquiry Optimized content" and discovered that VC Inc not only provide this service, but are the only people on the internet using this phrase.

Whatever his bona fides in the world of fancy huckstering, Gomez does offer an interesting perspective on Common Core. Specifically, he approaches the Core as a product that was not very effectively marketed, and in this blog piece, he presents the Five Marketing Lessons That the Common Core Initiative Should Have Followed. It's an interesting look at the reformsters' issues from a different discipline's perspective.

In general, he suggests that "the Common Core proponents didn't perform their due diligence," and were more intent on getting the Core launched and "disrupting" public education instead of "bulletproofing its contents, perfecting its pedagogy, and proving its value to implementers (teachers) and end users (students, and by extension, their parents)." Here are his five lessons.

1) Inspire bottom up innovation.

If the true goal of the Common Core's architects was to devise high-quality academic standards that prepared public school students for college, career, and life, they should have enlisted teachers to formulate, test, and refine such standards themselves that were appropriate for their respective grade levels.

Facebook was designed and implemented from the bottom up. It may seem obvious now, but nobody was telling Zuckerberg to go design this thing-- he just set out to fill a need. Involving teachers in the creation of the Core would have resulted in a better product and created much more traction with the people who were actually going to use it.

2) Disrupt productively

Gomez gives the Core more credit than it deserves, saying that it's too early to make the call on whether it's productive or unproductive. We know it's unproductive, which just goes to prove his point. A bull in a China shop is disruptive, but not in a creative or productive way.

3) Deliver undeniable 360 degree benefits

The best marketing is product that provides something that people want. Gomez offers LinkedIn as his example. It launched and it took off because it provided something people wanted and it delivered on that promise well.

Gomez is again generous to the Core.

Though the Common Core has many laudable goals, its clear-cut advantages have yet to be realized. With no universally agreed upon benefits to speak of, it's not currently possible for the Common Core to attain rapturous LinkedIn-like buy-in among implementers (teachers) or end users (students and their parents). 

The laudable goals may be arguable, but Gomez is correct in saying that part of the Core's problem is that it hasn't delivered anything useful. If it worked, and worked well, Bill Gates and other cheerleaders could save their money, because teachers would be pushing the Common Core on their own.

4) Listen, adapt, and improve

Successful companies include a feedback loop in their marketing, a way for them to assess how well their stuff is playing to the audience and adjust accordingly. Gomez offers the example of Ford's messed-up MyFord Touch, but my mind went straight to New Coke. After marketing the living daylights out of it, Coke could have sworn that the public could either buy the new stuff or go thirsty. Instead, they listened, adapted, and fixed the problem.

Common Core, of course, has no such capacity. The creators wrote it, copyrighted it, and dispersed to other profitable jobs. If you have a suggestion about the Core, you can talk to the wall, write your idea down and bury it wrapped around a warty toad leg under a full moon, or call the Common Core help line. Ha! Actually, only two of those three solutions are actually possible. Guess which one isn't (hint: it involves a phone).

5) Respect and thrill your customers

Gomez mentions Amazon's fifth consecutive year in the Wall Street Journal customer service hall of fame. People love amazon because it busts its ass to make its customers happy (we'll set aside for the moment exactly how happy they make their employees). Gomez suggests that CCSS could have used Amazon's desire to thrill (and he calls Common Core a "curriculum," inadvertently underlining how CCSS has also failed in the clear messaging department).

But unfortunately, the pursuit of servicing and satisfying their "customers" (teachers, students, and parents) isn't mentioned in any of their marketing collateral. And as discussed above, respecting and thrilling their customers doesn't seem to be an element in their implementation protocol.

For a marketing guy, Gomez sure has a way with understatement. This point is solid, and it actually makes me a little sad to contemplate how used we are as teachers to working in a world where being amazing and awesome and thrilling and respectful are adjectives that we don't even expect to encounter.

Interesting to contemplate the failures of Common Core from another perspective. Also interesting to realize that even though we think of the Core as something that has been sculpted and marketed with the power of a mountain of greenbacks behind it, even that marketing push has been poorly done. Not only are the Captains of the Core rank amateurs at education, but they are marketing amateurs as well.


  1. Now I'm wondering.

    Bill Gates, when at Microsoft, was able to sell a product (Windows) not arguably better than others available by marketing the hell out of it. I wonder, given the poor marketing of CCSS, how much he really believed in it.

  2. I think they weren't trying to sell the CC, they were just going to cram it down our throats and expect no complaints or else....maybe they have been reading Hitler's play book....I would have been a bad Nazi....guess that's why I am part of the Resistance to all the CCrap.

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