Branding & Public Education

I was reading Seth Godin’s blog earlier this week (by the way, I highly recommend it) and came across an article on his post-industrial view of universal public education. Seth shares how many factories insisted on child labor because they simply couldn’t afford to hire adults. The trade (in creating child labor laws) was to allow kids to learn the skills necessary to be the best possible factory workers.  Large-scale education was never about teaching kids or creating scholars. It was invented to churn out adults who worked well within the system.  Of course, it worked. Several generations of productive, fully employed workers followed.

“Part of the rationale to sell this major transformation to industrialists was that educated kids would actually become more compliant and productive workers. Our current system of teaching kids to sit in straight rows and obey instructions isn’t a coincidence–it was an investment in our economic future. The plan: trade short-term child labor wages for longer-term productivity by giving kids a head start in doing what they’re told.” – Seth Godin

What does this have to do with Branding?

In any industry, workers have learned to accept status quo and comply with what society deems relevant. One of the first questions I ask my clients is, “what makes you different…what sets you apart?” It may seem like a silly question, but in a world obsessed with task driven status quo…consumers secretly long to break rules and try something new and innovative. Is your brand similar to our public education system…set up to create machinists and followers, or is your brand offering consumers the opportunity to reach beyond the walls of conformity and self-martyrdom.

Of course being different just for the sake of being different would help no one. Innovation is only successful when it propels one into a better life.  Differentiating you from all those folks out there who try to do what you are doing and pinpointing exactly why you do it better is key. What makes you different? Why is your brand unique? This is your brand’s essence; the inner workings of your brand’s character.

For the record…my wife & I are heavily involved in our daughter’s school and are working hard to make sure that her and her friends have ample opportunity and support to change the world.

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