Issy NancarrowIssy Nancarrow shows how great marketing can engage consumers, with tips to harness these techniques for L&D.

How do we ‘make’ learners engaged? It’s not something that can be forced. For decades we’ve been trying to tackle learner engagement and encourage a passion in learning. Recently we have been making head way with utilising the fundamental principles of marketing. Tools and approaches in the marketing sector are aimed at triggering behaviour change. In the learner context these marketing approaches can be transferred and used to increase the impact of internal communications.

What we can learn from the big guys

Google: Make the learning accessible

One of the fundamental aspects of successful marketing is making sure that the buyer or audience (in this case the learner) can use little to no effort to access a resource. If Google did not provide an easy and accessible user journey, the users wouldn’t access the content.

The Towards Maturity benchmarking research of 2015 showed that 25% of learners are prevented from learning because they can’t find what they need. High levels of effort in the user journey are preventing people from engaging.

Coca Cola: How to use all points of contact with the learner

For those who recall the Pepsi challenge, it was a taste test across the UK to reinforce people’s preferred drink between Coca Cola and Pepsi. The results showed that over 50% of people preferred Pepsi. Considering that Pepsi carried out the research, this was not surprising.

The response of Coca Cola was to get themselves closer to the buyers than Pepsi. They systematically increased their points of contact with potential buyers from branded drinks fridges in shops to reseller contracts with large organisations. Coca Cola became easier to purchase and sales went up. They changed buyer behaviours despite buyer preferences.

In the learning context, these points of contact are tools to promote learning. They range to anything and everything, from water coolers, to lobby TV screens.

Proctor and Gamble: Reaching out to hearts and minds

Proctor and Gamble reach out to the hearts and minds of people in their day-to-day lives. They incentivise their audience to act using two key elements, fear and pleasure. They carefully construct their messages to explain how their products improve people’s lives and solve pain.

In a work context people need an incentive to step aside from their usual activity and learn. This pain/pleasure principle provides learners with a compelling reason to engage in training. It may be that it will help them to follow new regulations or find IT systems less time consuming.

How to make this work

Through the research carried out by Campaign Learning over 2015 and 2016, involving providers, organisations and thought leaders. The FLAG model has been developed to provide guidance on using a marketing approach to engage learners and increase organisational performance.

FLAG Model


Top Tips


Filter through the noise and be heard

Look at all the points of contact that you can utilise to reach out to your learners. These may include intranet, email, toilet doors, water coolers and advocates.

One quick tip: Consider all the networks of people, both the social and professional networks. Map out the people involved in passing on messages. Here you will be able to identify where you have advocates and where you need advocates.


Engage the learner. Make them stop, think and reflect on a day-to-day basis.
What messages and imagery are you using to provide an incentive to engage in learning? Make sure these communications have a strong visual brand with clear and simple messages. Make your communications continuous and engaging.

One quick tip: Work out what your staff pleasure/pain points are in relation to the learning. Make this message resonate simply and clearly through all your communications.


Accessible messaging that sits right in front of the learner’s eyes.

How easy is it for people to access the learning and build it into their day-to-day lives? Mobile accessibility is just one aspect of this, the user journey must be simple and engaging.

One quick tip: see how many clicks it takes before you get to the course you want to promote. On a website if it takes more than 3, you have lost most of your audience.


Keep the business performance objectives in mind.

Make sure your messages resonate with leaders in your organisation and your organisational objectives. When learning interventions are promoted internally be sure that the leadership team can see a clear link between your learning intervention and their overall goals. This will help to gain their buy in and increase the perceived value of your work.

One quick tip: Where possible use data to prove your impact to the leadership team to gain their support in the future.

Issy NancarrowIssy Nancarrow has a passion for making sure that marketing practices are put to better use, through increased efficiency, proven results and a wider range of implementation. She is Managing Director of Campaign Learning, which was founded by the marketing experts of Nancarrow Partnerships.

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