NEW YORK: Brands should consider tapping the emerging "learning economy" to fulfil the burgeoning consumer desire for informative and educational content, Mark Addicks, the former CMO of General Mills, has argued.

Addicks discussed this subject as part of a presentation outlining eight new "laws" of marketing at the Advertising Research Foundation's (ARF) Audience Measurement Conference 2016.

More specifically, he suggested that as marketers strive to identify "all the different ways brands can play roles in their consumers' lives", they ought to factor in the ways people are seeking out information online.

"We talk about a brand as a teacher, and we're seeing a learning economy develop," he said. "Consumers are going out to search, because they now control the process, and they're talking context." (For more, including further tips for brands, read Warc's exclusive report: Mark Addicks' new laws of marketing.)

Although popular habits are shifting in this direction, he continued, to date "very few brands" – with the exception of a "few how-to-videos" – are effectively leveraging that trend.

"A brand as a teacher … is a way to reinforce credibility. It's a really resonant, poignant way to give people rewards for being part of your brand, or part of your community," he said.

By way of an example, he pointed to The Big Know, a platform led by "a team of marketers, educators and digital natives helping transform brands into the world's great teachers".

Firms like UnitedHealthcare, the health-insurance provider, and Cambria, a kitchen and bathroom specialist, have allied with The Big Know to create online courses based around topics related to their business.

One underlying strength of this approach, according to Addicks, is that it can inject products and services into a "community of others".

And through providing in-depth content that feeds into genuine passion points, marketers can secure extended periods of attention while consumers "learn from the brands they love" at their own pace.

"Brands see incredible lengths of engagement time. Why? Because the consumer is being met at the context," Addicks said.

Data sourced from Warc