How Wannabes can outperform the existing platforms

Competition in the e-learning-market has undeniably, so far, not been very fierce. It has been excellent to become a successful education platform without knowing much about education. How long will that hold? Spice Girls show the way for the next step. It´s possible for any unknown teacher to take it and outperform the existing platforms.

Everyone that has done cooking knows that the best cook is not necessarily the best cooking-teacher.

The relatively new, but already large and global, e-learning players now apply basically only two kinds of approaches to their content: either established brands are used, or unknown brands are used.

Having made that choice, then all these platforms leave the very essence of their own business, training, more or less to their subcontractors to decide on.

Coursera, EdX, FutureLearn and others rely on already known universities and companies. Oxford, Harvard, National University of Singapore, Indian Institute of Technology, Monash, Google, Microsoft, Baidu.

MasterClass, TED and others rely instead on already known individuals. Martin Scorsese, Natalie Portman, Gordon Ramsay, Sir Ken Robinson, Michelle Obama, Bill Gates.

Actors of the type Udemy and Thinkific are instead open for anyone to give courses, completely unknown individuals. Maria Johnsson, Ramesh Singh, Li Wang, Mohamed Mohamed.

The approach one adopts sets the framework for what can even be achieved.

The framework one starts off with is also very difficult to change later on. You easily just gets stuck with it.

With already established brands, you get what you can expect. From existing universities for instance: digitalized, previously not digitalized, but already existing, courses. With unknown brands, it can be a bit different instead.

From Udemy, Thinkific and other actors we therefore get courses in such different areas as Reiki, AirBnB-hosting and “The business of dog-walking”. There are, at least to my knowledge, no existing university courses, known companies, or globally famous people, in those areas.

But is this really all we can get from a digital world of education?

Who said that walking a dog is not an art well worth developing?

This way of thinking about content is absolutely fundamental to all these platforms. But common to both approaches is that the platforms themselves actually have no clear opinion about which courses should even exist, nor what courses should look like.

This way of thinking reduces the potential margin of these platforms. Well-known brands want good pay to be involved, and often also control, but sell well. Unknown brands don’t charge as much, don’t expect control, but on the other hand don’t sell nearly as well.

But this way of thinking also reduces the platforms’ ability to develop customer value further. They can only deliver what their suppliers wants to deliver and they neither control how it is delivered.

Over time, therefore, the not-so-well-spread “Spice Girls methodology” will also gain more and more ground.

Here’s how it happened:

Spice Girls: far from just pure luck that they became a success.
  • In the early 1990s, corporate duo Bob and Chris Herbert, Heart Management, decided to create a female equivalent of the boy bands that had become so successful – New Kids on the Block, Take That, Backstreet Boys, Westlife. Said and done.
  • They decided that the group, Spice Girls, would consist of five women with distinctly different characters, in order to attract different customer groups at the same time. It became a wild persona, a gentle, a sporting one etc.
  • They then put out an ad in the music-media for an audition: “Are you street smart, extrovert, ambitious, and able to sing and dance?”
  • As many as 400 women signed up and got to show off, both by singing and dancing, individually and in groups. The auditions went on for several rounds.
  • Several weeks later, the group was composed, consisting of five previously completely unknown persons. One of them was a college student, another nightclub dancer in Majorca.
  • The members then gradually developed into different persona: Scary Spice, Sporty Spice, Baby Spice, Ginger Spice, Posh Spice.
  • The group’s members then moved into a shared apartment and spent most of a year in practicing, with the help of people contracted by Heart Management.
  • Along the way, Heart Management also provided the group with everything from written songs to voice training, dress style and choreography.
  • The group also continuously auditioned for various specially composed audiences – influentional people in the industry.
  • Gradually, the group began to become known in the inner music circles. The industry buzz grew.
  • It got a little messy on the way. One member was kicked, the name of the group, and the melodies, even the contracts, were changed. Along the way, the group started writing songs themselves.
  • In the end, the group actually also left Heart Management and took their destiny in their own hands. They felt that the visions they had developed along the way could not be fulfilled, and contracted their own songwriters and manager.
  • One year later however, they had become so well known in the inner music circles that there was a bidding process between the famous record labels. They decided on Virgin records.
  • A year later, their debut single Wannabe was released. Try it yourself. Isn´t it a really a great, energetic, song that just makes you smile? A powerful piece of art.
  • Wannabe quickly became number one in 37 countries and established the groups global success that lasted until the early 2000s – then the members went for solo careers instead.
  • To this day, Spice Girls is the best-selling girl band in the world. The have become known for what could be called the Girl Power-movement.
  • As late as in 2020, Wannabe was the best streamed girl song on Spotify. But in the early 1990s, no one in the world had heard of them – the members did not even know each other at that time.

What did Heart Management really have that allowed them to create this recipe for such a big success in this otherwise highly competitive industry?

1. Deep understanding of the final consumer.

The choice of, and the development of, persona is a good illustration. Another illustration is the mere understanding of a hidden potential in girls, instead of boys, bands ­– an underlying but not that well developed desire among final consumers at that point in time.

Knowing who to work with, why and how, can be an art in itself.

2. Knowledge of the different components that lead to success in this business.

It is about timing. And what having good melodies, good singing, good dance, the right persona and the right style means actually changes over time.

3. Relationships with others that in turn could contribute to five previously rough diamonds becoming precisely diamonds.

Song writers John Thirkell and Erwin Keiles, producers Michel Sparks and Tim Hawes, stylist Kenny Ho, vocal coach Pepi Lemer, Trinity Studios for choreography, buzz people, record labels-people etc.

Imagine the day when we can see the equivalent happening in the world of education. Someone who creates completely new types of courses, even whole programs, with brand new content, delivered by previously completely unknown, but developed, people. On that day, the established platforms will receive serious competition.

The profit could be far higher than the existing platforms have. And customers might seriously love it.

A different perception on how educational content should be developed can take us far.

What is needed in order to achieve this in the world of digital education?

This type of knowledge in the global digital education world is not yet very well developed. That is why we have not seen this method being used in the world of digital education, yet. We are still in the beginning of the development of digital education – fully occupied by “just becoming digital”.

The learning world is still a long way from the development of the music industry. But no doubt we will get there.

In the end of the day the best and most profitable business will win.

Who is then at this moment best placed to take this step in the digital education world? A former teacher with deep customer knowledge and management experience, and a large personal network.

Could perhaps you be that Wannabe?

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