In 5th grade,my history teacher was a relic with a red book and pencil. At the end of each lesson, he gave us homework: “Memorize page 23-25.” At the next lesson, he would open his red book, close his eyes, drop the pencil on one student’s name. The remainder of the hour, that student was questioned for 1 hour. The outcome of that questioning determined the the grade for the remainder of the semester. When your name was called early in the year, you never opened the book again. When your name was called late, your short memory was on fire for 6 months. None of us really learned anything during that year. None of us liked history.
In 6h grade, a new history teacher was introduced. In the first hour, he recreated in vivid details life in ancient Rome: How the upper class lived, how the slaves suffered, what it was like to walk the streets of Rome. On that day, history became my favorite subject.
There are teachers who teach subjects. And teachers who teach students.
The same division can be found in advertising. Most brands teach subjects. They have an agenda, a curriculum. They need you to know about the torque of their cars, the silkiness of the product, their fat percentage. They look at the world like the relic teacher: You listen to what I have to say and you will learn.
The second category of brands are concerned with what their audience wants and needs. They develop a narrative, they are involving and entertaining. They care to educate their audience in ways that suits them best.
What’s mind-boggling about our business is that we all encountered terrible and great teachers, representing the most basic rules of communication and salesmanship. Still, the majority of us act like relics.