Lab Notes

The Future of Content is Learning

When the news came in from London, an actual cheer erupted across our humble warehouse district office.

“The 2017 International Learning Technology Company of the Year winner is… The Big Know, from Minneapolis, MN.”

Flashback to 2013.

Our small team was obsessed with two unrelated trends that we believed could converge to incredible effect.

First, in the world of higher education, the industry was abuzz about massively open online courses. Tens of millions of venture capital dollars were flowing, and millions of people around the world were registering for free courses on every topic you can imagine.

Second, in the world of business, marketers were shoveling dollars toward content marketing at an astounding clip. Why? To create truly engaging content with sustainable value.

We started The Big Know to sit at the convergence of these trends.

So we assembled a team of top minds in online education, digital product, and brand marketing to create world-class educational content from leading brands.

Back to the Future

Our team has spent the last three years driving our platform, content production and marketing services forward.

As we’ve built learning experiences for UnitedHealth Group, P&G, Laureate and others, we have kept a close eye on both learning and content trends.

That’s why I’m more convinced than ever… The Future of Branded Content is Learning. Here’s why:

1. Consumers are hungry to learn

Like it or not, you’re in the business of teaching, especially if you’re in healthcare, education, financial services or any sector with long customer journeys or complex product decisions.

If part of your role is to forge and strengthen relationships with today’s consumers or employees, consider the following:

Last year, 78 million people took an online course outside of a formal degree program—that’s 4X the enrollments in every college in America combined.

With the exorbitant cost of traditional education, many have turned to nontraditional content providers to support their development and satisfy their curiosities.

With the rise of YouTube and massively open online courses, great teachers (and lousy ones) are being sought out by hundreds of millions of consumers who spend good time and money to keep learning as adults.

Simply put, companies have the resources and expertise to step in and do it better.

2. Great brands are standing out by teaching

Pro Football Hall of Fame

The Pro Football Hall of Fame recently kicked off a bold content initiative with support from the NFL.

A Game For Life Academy will teach the values of the game (beyond football) to coaches, young athletes and parents, all through gorgeous courses that feel like Netflix.

The online courses are taught by some of the heroes of the game including Tony Dungy, Morten Anderson, Jim Kelly, Anthony Munoz, and more.

The lesson here: deploy influencers as teachers to extend reach and credibility.

The Offseason – 20m Learning Short – Pro Football Hall of Fame


Meanwhile, UnitedHealth Group has built a second-to-none set of courses and activities to educate its members and help them take steps toward better health. The company has also created courses to help providers and employees better meet the needs of the customers they serve.

Through partnering with influencers and topic experts, UnitedHealth Group has built a credible and engaging curriculum aligned to what their members and stakeholders want and need to learn.

United Learning Academy – Courses

3. Employees are consumers, too

We’ve repeatedly heard that organizations big and small struggle to keep employees engaged year-round, especially when it comes to engagement with benefits and well-being programs.

In the age of Netflix, Facebook and YouTube, employees expect more from the content and experiences their employer brings to them. If the content isn’t good, they’ll find it elsewhere. The good news is that employers can step forward with captivating, on-demand learning experiences employees will love.

That’s why we have just launched a new product called Being aimed at becoming the Netflix for employee well-being and benefits education. Being is an ongoing series of employee courses, taught by best-selling authors, academics and celebrities that will allow employers to license, brand, and integrate these courses—sample a course for free.

Being – Employee Education that Elevates

For a fraction of the cost to bring these experts in for a day (and with far more scalability), these courses lift employee curiosity around well-being and health literacy while driving participation and awareness of key wellness and benefits programs (ex: HSA).

Solving for Curiosity and Attention

Both for The Big Know and branded content as a whole, this is just getting started. But I’m certain that this story is going to accelerate and lead to a major shift in how organizations everywhere think about interacting with their employees, consumers and stakeholders.

Human curiosity is limitless, but human attention span is finite. To hold one, you must solve for the other. By providing world-class learning, great organizations solve for both.

A stirred—not shaken—cocktail of cool calculation and wild creativity, Don is the high-beam examination of all things we create, build and release to the world, keeping us on-task, on-budget and all of our work on-point. He’s also a freakishly fine musician, as well as the spark that ignited an online education revolution.

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