When you think of Edutainment—after you get past the unusual sound of the portmanteau, you might think of elementary school, Bill Nye the Science Guy, Blues Clues, or Dora the Explorer. But under the fluffy, kid-friendly exterior is a powerful marketing tool.

Edutainment can be an effective content strategy for explaining complex, intimidating, or high-compliance concepts and products. It can unwittingly transform selling into buying and instantly align organizations and and channel partners with customers. That’s why today innovative brands are beginning to view Edutainment as more than just tactical, but instead as a true content strategy.

For insurance, retirement, pharma, biotech, and other high-compliance products and services, edutainment can be transformative. With an ever-tightening regulatory environment, education remains one of the most important elements of marketing for these industries. But education alone can be about as engaging as a brisk read through the DOL conflict of interest rule. Deploying Edutainment as a focused content and brand strategy can infuse engagement and relevance into otherwise sleepy consumer and customer education. It’s also effective with employees and sales and distribution channels for a wide range of education topics from new products to best practices to ideal customer interactions.

Making Financial Friendly
Kelly Brennan, Vice President of Marketing for E*TRADE Financial Corporation says today’s financial marketing shouldn’t only be about promoting a product or service, but should also include strategies that assist with promoting financial literacy and comprehension. Financial products and services can be complex and consumer comprehension is key,” states Ms. Brennan. She feels that edutainment can be an important component of both financial marketing and education.

The popular feature film, “The Big Short” is a prime example of Edutainment, using a dramatic storyline as a context for historical financial education.

Brennan refers to the movie “The Big Short” as a timely example of mainstream edutainment. “Essentially, the movie provided high-level education on topics surrounding the global financial crisis and the housing collapse,” she says. “It explained complex financial concepts in a clear and understandable way. (The movie) very cleverly weaved education throughout an entertaining venue, explaining in simple terms some of the events behind what happened by using drama as the entertainment vehicle.”

Edutainment doesn’t have to be as elaborate as a feature film. It can come in many shapes and forms ranging from video situation vignettes, animations and games (both online and offline), to podcasts, entertaining eLearning programs, and other formats limited only to the marketer’s imagination.

Millennials and their successors offer one of the largest opportunities for edutainment to make a difference–especially when it comes to their financial futures. Their financial skills are more essential than any generation before, especially as student loan and credit card debt in this segment continues to rise, and Social Security hangs in the balance. The financial industry needs new ways of positioning and presenting financial literacy to get them engaged.

Money is an emotional topic for almost everyone. Edutainment can meet people on that emotional plane and guide them to logic with a storyline.

As a general observation, Ms. Brennan believes the topic of financial products and services can sometimes be seen as overwhelming to some people. “Whether they have ten dollars or ten thousand dollars, people become very emotional when it comes to their hard-earned money. It’s their future. It’s about feeling secure. It’s about what financial security could represent in providing for them or their family such as a first home or a new baby. Edutainment can help engage and educate people in a non-threatening way while helping to improve financial literacy comprehension and making it easier to apply those concepts to real-world scenarios.”

Instant Alignment
What can edutainment content uniquely accomplish that pure education or marketing content alone cannot? Lisa Flanary, CEO of Degree of Honor Insurance Company, a fraternal benefits society based in Minneapolis, MN points out that edutainment content can provide consistency for messaging and brand positioning. “It can align all the stakeholders that surround the brand, resulting in instant alignment. These kinds of economies of scale can be a huge advantage…produce one edutainment asset and it can go to an infinite number of touchpoints across multiple stakeholder groups.”

Success is in the Storyline
If edutainment is such a slam-dunk, why isn’t every company using it? Like anything else, it comes down to execution. Michael Halpin, Director of Marketing for Allstate Life and Retirement identifies the cornerstone strength of edutainment as the storyline. “While edutainment works well as an alignment tool, to me it’s more about how much it resonates with customers as they evolve into a state of need in any given category…and how that presents to our internal stakeholders. Edutainment allows us to tell a story in a much richer way than other content approaches. It creates interest in a unique way not possible in other media and other creative approaches. So, it’s a lot more substantial as a content strategy than most people realize.”

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For more information on how Edutainment can benefit your content strategy, contact GroPartners.

Greg French is founder of GroPartners Consulting, author of books and white papers on topics related to brand, marketing, and content strategy.