Tara Hirebet
May 3, 2013

Why Asia will never be too cool for schools

Strong demand for education among Asian parents means marketers can get ahead by offering products and services that help children excel in their studies.

Tara Hirebet
Tara Hirebet

In 2013, as the Asian consumer arena continues its rapid evolution, don’t forget that values such as education will always be a priority for Asian consumers.

But like most traditions, Asia’s love of learning is getting a modern update, from e-learning apps and platforms, to making education entertaining and interactive.

Whatever your consumer category, if you market to children and families, there’s an opportunity for you to offer parents the edge their children need to compete and get ahead in life.

Tight competition is the factor driving this trend. For example, India has 567 registered universities serving a population of 1.2 billion. Compare that to the UK, where more than 300 higher-education institutions serve only 60 million.

The harsh reality is education and a degree isn’t a given in Asia, it is a privilege, and even for those who can afford it there is fierce competition among millions just like them. With such stiff competition, parents will seek out any product or service that could give their child an advantage, and get them a head start in life. In Singapore, 46 per cent of parents believe extracurricular tuition is necessary for their kids to outperform their peers (Blackbox Research, July 2012).

As urban living gets increasingly expensive, and one child families become more common, parental aspirations and finances will be focused on that one child, which means they will pay more and start their kids younger (nowhere is this more prevalent than in China, with their one child policy.)

Here are four ideas to help your brand embrace Asia’s love of learning:

1. E-learning

Offer access to valuable general knowledge and educational materials via pre-loaded apps, community platforms, or SMS-based models for lower tiers. My Education is a free pre-loaded Samsung app for Indian students available on Samsung Android phones in India. It offers over 10,000 free videos, textbooks, assessment papers and education information including national board exam results, scholarships and a geo-tagged college directory.

2. Edutainment (offline and online)

Create tech-enabled and interactive spaces to make learning fun. And use the seamless interactivity of QR Codes, 3D and AR to take knowledge and stories and turn them into live, animated or gamified experiences.

India’s largest watch and jewellery brand, Tata Titan, will roll out 160 'edutainment' stores for the country’s 330 million schoolchildren aged 15 and below. The centres are being positioned as “after-school education through gadgets and technology” and will feature themes like history, brought to life via 3D, augmented reality and other simulated experiences.

Kark is a Singapore-based mobile and tablet platform for children betwen 4 and 12 years old. It uses QR code-enabled trading cards to bring topics including science and the weather to life. Each repeated scan of a “cloud” card creates different results, from fun facts to audio explanations, and transforms one cloud to multiple clouds and finally rain.

3. Brain food and fuel

Can you create nutritional food, or menus that provide brain food or body fuel to help a child grow, develop or progress? During January to February 2013, the Horlicks Mission Exams programme ran in 21 Indian cities, with a range of workshops targeted at students, teachers and parents to teach them good nutrition, effective study skills and stress management, all under the Horlicks banner of 'Brain Ready, Body Ready.'

4. Mature and grown-up 

Any products aimed at children today should provide models for better living, and inspire them to be better, smarter, more successful grown ups. Launched in Singapore, in April 2012, the Playmoolah game platform, teaches kids how to manage money within a gamified environment, where parents can monitor their kids’ financial literacy. In January 2013, the company also launched Moolah, an app designed as a wish list. It helps kids manage their finances and learn about impulse control, so that they can better track and budget for their "goal".

In contrast, Mattel had to shut down its flagship Barbie store in Shanghai because Chinese parents found the original Barbie to be frivolous, sexy and strong: not a good alignment with the smart, sweet and soft ideal of a Chinese woman. Though Mattel did introduce a new Chinese Barbie named Ling, who was black-haired, bookish and career-minded, the move came too late.

In short, though your brand may not be in the education industry, knowing that education is a key priority spend for your consumer and their child is vital. Want Asian consumers to invest in your brand and its future? Then show your love of learning, and your commitment to their child’s future.

Tara Hirebet is head of Asia-Pacific at Trendwatching.com, "an opinionated trend firm that scans the globe for the most promising consumer trends, insights and related hands-on business ideas".

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