Sony, iVillage Partnership Deemed Success for Online Courses

Of consumers who took recent iVillage online courses sponsored by Sony, more than 15 percent ended up buying a Sony product. The results, expected to be released today by online course provider Powered, point to the potential of consumer education to forge a bond between brands and their prospective customers.

The 10-week effort had iVillage providing courses on scrapbooking, digital photography and keeping your children safe on the Internet. As part of its sponsorship, Sony presented occasional information and links to its relevant products.

“The content is completely product-agnostic. The content doesn’t hype anybody’s product. It’s really not an advertorial,” said Dave Ellett, chairman and CEO of Powered. “At the appropriate contextual point we do merchandise [the sponsor’s] call to action. Consumers can click through to see more info and buy online if they choose to do so.”

Webinars and other online educational efforts have become established elements in the business-to-business marketing process, but online courses are less commonly used in the business-to-consumer arena.

Of consumers who took the iVillage online classes, one third said they’d given Sony products more consideration than they would have otherwise. More than 70 percent of students opted-in to Sony’s email program as part of the registration process. More than a quarter of students clicked-through to Sony microsites during the course.

While the courses were ongoing, new content was posted twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays. After the new content was posted, users could interact with it anytime. They also were able to ask questions of expert instructors as part of their participation.

Powered recently commissioned researchers Next Century Media to assess the impact of online courses. The company found students who complete online courses are 29 times more likely to buy the sponsor’s products compared to those exposed to traditional media advertising. When compared to those exposed to direct marketing, the students are five times more likely to buy the sponsor’s product. The researchers surveyed 200,000 consumers who participated in online courses run by Powered.

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