Marketers as TeachersBY Kacie Meixel // Content Director
How identifying learning styles can help you create memorable marketing
How you learn affects how you recall
Humor me for a moment: think back to when you were in school and you had to prepare for a test. You were asked to recall hundreds of pages of textbook material on the Periodic Table or the entirety of Fitzgerald’s 1920s tragedy set in Long Island. If you were like most students, you probably stashed a myriad of studying tactics in your back pocket—flashcards, lecture recordings, mnemonic devices. You even may have argued with your friends about which method was best. But the truth is that, when it comes to retaining information, one size does not fit all.
We all consume, digest, and retain information differently.
Once upon a time, I was a high school english teacher. Following years of studying educational psychology, it was my job to identify, understand, and adapt my lessons to accommodate the multitude of ways in which my students learned. And now, as Content Director with Levelwing, this experience has shaped the way I approach marketing.
Learning styles refer to a person’s preferred way to take in, process, understand, and remember information; and these may have more influence than many realize. These preferred styles guide the way people learn, yes. But they also affect the way we internally represent experiences, the way we recall information, and even the words we choose. What’s more: research shows us that each learning style uses different parts of the brain. Therefore, by involving more of the brain during the process, we actually remember more.
What this means for content marketing
We’re all learners, all the time. By appealing to various types of learning styles within a single campaign, the theory is that we’d enhance the effectiveness of our strategy by reaching more people—regardless of academic ability—and facilitating comprehension, retention, and recollection of our brands.
We have the advantage of utilizing traditional marketing while incorporating new digital approaches and technologies to create a more diverse, differentiated “classroom,” without our audiences ever even knowing we’re doing it.
Because we’re focused on education, for the purpose of this article, let’s assume we’re attempting to reach audiences mid-funnel—in the consideration phase.
The learning styles
Scientists and psychologists have developed a number of different models to understand the different ways that people learn.* One popular theory, the VARK model, identifies four primary types of learners: visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic. Each learning type responds best to a different method of teaching (and in our case, marketing).
If you think back to a physical classroom, students who have a visual learning style often prefer sitting in the front of the room. They may prefer to highlight, or use a lot of connectors or diagrams, create graphic organizers, and may be seen taking more detailed notes which are very organized, often color-coded, or have other ways of making distinctions between the content.
Visual learners prefer to see information in order to visualize the relationship between ideas and concepts to understand them. By and large, their learning comes to pass through their dominant sense ‘sight’. To best reach this audience as a marketer, your core messaging and information should be incorporated visually, within the ad itself. Some tactics include:
- infographics, and
- flow charts.
What’s more, these learners tend to find it easy to visualize faces and places, and even recall conversations based on where it happened. Because of this, very simply, visually-dominant consumers will respond best to creative components that incorporate faces of people and identifiable places (i.e. landmarks, cities, etc.).
Auditory learners consume content by listening to the information presented to them.
Auditory learners listen carefully and often focus on the tone or the rate of speech. In a classroom, these learners benefit by more discussions and exchanging ideas, reading aloud, and even repeating some content out loud. Moreover, they can easily commit to memory and retain when information is presented before them in the form of melody, poem, or a song.
To reach this audience through content marketing, your core messaging and information should be able to be heard. Some tactics include:
- Facebook LIVE (where you’re able to answer questions and engage in real time),
- informational videos,
- radio (especially jingles), and even
- email—although it is text and could be included in the Read/write category (below), it is often written in chat-style with abbreviations, colloquial terms, slang and non-formal language.
Interestingly, aurally-dominant consumers tend to remember names, but not the face or appearance of someone they just met. With that in mind, incorporating a voiceover with the brand name and tagline in video content could be the key to success with these learners.
Reading and writing learners prefer to take in information by reading texts; so this style is centered around repetition of written words. These learners can further absorb information by condensing and rephrasing it.
Not surprisingly, many teachers and students have a strong preference for this mode. Because of this, this style is most emphasized—perhaps unconsciously—in most marketing techniques.
To reach this audience, your core messaging and information should be able to be read. People who prefer this modality often respond well to:
- more structured slide-driven presentations,
- videos with subtitles, and
- website content, inclusive of potential SEO & SEM strategies.**
Consumers with a dominant reading/writing learning style are more likely to remember information if they write it down, even if they don’t go back to read it again. Utilizing engagement tactics like giveaways or form-fills that require users to comment or type out a response will likely stick out in their memory.
Kinesthetic learners absorb knowledge through touch and movement. They prefer to work with hands-on devices and learning aids. In short, they learn best by doing.
In the classroom, students spend a lot of time sitting and more passively learning—meaning, in traditional settings, this learning style is not addressed as much. However, I’ve observed students studying by walking around and talking about various components of the course, or moving while reading.
As marketers, some tactics to reach this audience may include:
- simulations (including both virtual and augmented reality),
- videos and movies of “real” things, as well as
- case studies,
- practice, and
The key is the reality or concrete nature of the example. If it can be grasped, held, tasted, or felt, that is ideal. And because these consumers tend to have to move in order to concentrate, your core messaging must be able to be consumed while moving (i.e. for digital executions, focus on mobile development versus desktop).
Putting this knowledge to work
One thing I’ve learned over time as both an educator and marketer is that both roles require an ability to effectively communicate with others.
There’s more to the art of communication than the use of words. It’s the exchange of information, and helps to connect us to one another. We live life trusting and relying on the sensory cues we receive from our eyes, ears, mouth, nose and skin. Hence the tones and body language that accompany spoken words influence how communication is received.
Because we rely on all of our senses to consume the world around us, communication is interpreted and influenced by many outside factors: personalities, experiences, the way we were raised… and learning styles.
Understanding these learning styles and effectively incorporating techniques within each will allow us as marketers to be better communicators—to meet the unique learning needs of all of our consumers, without alienating a single type, and better facilitate comprehension and retention of our brand messaging.