America doesn’t recycle like it should. Despite the billions spent on recycling infrastructure, the nation’s recycling rate has hovered around 34% for the past two decades - far less than that of other developed nations.
The psychology behind America’s recycling reticence is complex, but environmentally concerned companies are getting creative. Take the PepsiCo Recycle Rally: By enlisting teachers at more than 4,900 schools, the Fortune 100 brand has recycled 100 million plastic bottles and aluminum cans since 2010.
Why did students and families across the country suddenly start listening to the recycling refrain? It wasn’t because a beverage brand asked them to; it was because their teachers did. In a way that almost no other profession does, educators have America’s ear.
Tap Into the Power of Teachers
How, exactly, did teachers help Pepsi’s recycling campaign succeed? Educators are ideal brand ambassadors for three reasons:
1. Educators teach students and parents.
In a time when consumer trust is hard to come by, people trust their teachers. In fact, 70% of U.S. respondents to a Gallup poll said that grade school teachers have 'high' or 'very high' ethical standards.
Because teachers have the trust of students and parents, they're able to break through to families on important issues like roadway safety. For example, the Ford Motor Company Fund partners with educators to present the Ford Driving Skills for Life program to teen drivers. At a recent virtual event, teachers and Ford brought essential driver's education to more than 2,500 students.
2. Educators are grade-A consumers.
Teachers aren’t just desirable influencers; they’re also desirable consumers. Educators are a mostly female group with college degrees and disposable income. Their mean household income is $114,800, compared to $81,100 for the general population.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, educators also read more than the general population. Barnes & Noble caters to that affinity by offering a B&N Educators program, which encourages teachers to bring the B&N brand into the classroom via book fairs, contest resources, and discounts.
Fortunately, you don’t need to be a book brand to get on a teacher’s good side. Educators spend an estimated $1.75 billion per year on school supplies. Just be sure your product actually offers classroom value: Teachers are too smart to be swindled by inauthentic sales pitches.
3. Educators advise administrators.
In addition to the funds they spend directly, educators also help administrators spend roughly that same amount, from school budgets to supplies. All told, teachers have the single greatest say in how America spends its education budget of $11,800 per student per year.
Teachers are on the front lines, trying tools in classrooms before they’re bought for entire districts. When they find something that works for their students, they want other teachers to benefit from it, too. That’s why brands like Adobe partner with educators to provide digital technology resources to teachers: Teachers and administrators want their students to get a head start with software that’s standard in many design and modeling fields.
Want Teachers on Your Team?
Thankfully, teachers aren’t a hard group to reach. If you’re looking to team up, start by getting to know them. Sign up for groups like WeAreTeachers on Facebook, and get a feel for teachers’ content preferences on sites like SchoolLeadersNow.
Once you’ve got the insights to build an authentic campaign, create content or offer products that give teachers a helping hand - like Barnes & Noble and Google have done. Be responsive to teachers’ requests for additional materials or discounts; remember that they’re building America’s next generation on a budget.
Teachers are at the heart of their communities. Don’t let a mutually beneficial partnership opportunity go to waste.