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Gatsby & Kindred raise the bar for T-levels, learn more

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By The Drum | Editorial

December 4, 2023 | 8 min read

Parents were reticent to let children study towards the new T-level qualification. So Gatsby worked with Kindred to raise the profile of the new technical qualification and improve the prospects of future generations and their work picked up the Data & Insights trophy at The Drum Awards for Social Purpose. Here is the award-winning case study.

Example of the campaign work

First launched in 2020, T-levels are a relatively new qualification designed to give students a great technical education and better prospects. The two-year course is equivalent to three A-levels and combines classroom study with a 45-day industry placement to prepare young people for the world of work. By 2024, there will be more than 20 T-level subjects available to study in colleges and schools across England.

Gatsby research showed that although young people may want to do a T-level, parents are reticent to let their child take a qualification they haven’t heard of. To enable young people to take a T-level, we first had to convince their parents.

Working with Gatsby and research institute Britain Thinks, we established SMART objectives that would help us solve this problem, to be achieved after the first of a two-year campaign:

1. Awareness: increase the proportion of parents who have heard of T-levels from 41% to 49%

2. Approval: increase the proportion of parents who would support their child taking a T-level from 75% to 79%

3. Action: of those who see the campaign, 78% of parents should say they’ll take action

Strategy

When developing our strategy, we spent a lot of time talking to parents and found that what truly unified this group was the simple desire for their children to be happy. One focus group participant’s input became our rallying cry, keeping us focused on developing a strategy that was led by data but able to win hearts and minds; “I just want my kids to love who they are, have happy lives and find something they want to do…”

We built on existing client research with our series of focus groups and further quantitative and qualitative research to draw out key insights in line with our 6Cs (consumer, category, culture, conversations, company, channels) model.

Looking at our audience as consumers, we tested Marks & Martin’s Messenger Effect Theory in focus groups and found they gave varying levels of credence to information depending on who delivered it, meaning our campaign required a mix of hard and soft messengers. Our focus groups perceived Gatsby themselves as hard messengers and helped us identify other parents as an important soft messenger.

When discussing the category in focus groups, A-levels dominated conversation. They were talked about as the default option for many young people. For T-levels to be considered an alternative, we needed to create fame.

The concept of teenage rebellion came through loud and clear in our focus groups’ discussions around culture. All the parents spoke of their teens as young adults with strong views and preferences. What emerged was a sense of ongoing conflict between parents and their teens. Parents felt they struggled to challenge their children’s views without having all the answers. Our campaign had to give them all the information they needed to challenge decisions that may already be made.

To uncover existing conversations on T-levels, we analyzed two years’ worth of social media data including mentions of T-levels and found little to no conversation taking place among our audience. A key take-away from our focus groups was how easily sold on T-levels our audience were once they’d heard about them, so we knew we needed to create a campaign with talkability to harness the power of word-of-mouth.

Although our focus groups had helped us identify a need for a mix of hard and soft messengers, there was no desire to raise awareness of Gatsby as the company behind the campaign. Our groups told us their credentials as education experts and government partners help support the campaign’s messages, but the focus remained on the qualification.

Finally, we built a picture of the channels right for our audience through additional research and tools such as YouGov Profiles. We found they still get their news from traditional channels like TV and radio, while also preferring newspaper websites over print. They’re heavy social media users and have higher radio consumption than the national average. Our strategy was clear. Build fame and understanding of T-levels using hard and soft messengers, while showing we understand the audience’s position.

Our creative was built around the conflict identified in our focus groups, playing on that universal truth of parents and their teens being at loggerheads when it comes to decision-making. Our line ‘T-levels. One thing parents and teenagers can agree on’ positioned T-levels as an easy win for parents and teens alike, with our campaign hero film and bringing this exact conversation to life in a touching yet humorous way.

This creative was developed in conjunction with a further set of parent focus groups and qualitative testing and was the clear winner of three options. Parents told us they saw themselves in the creative, liked that it was humorous, and that it would catch their eye and encourage them to find out more.

We worked with Total Media to activate an innovative paid media strategy that included high-reach national channels like video-on-demand and radio alongside high-impact, more targeted channels like out-of-home, social and digital. Our out-of-home activity was planned to appear only on commuter or public transport routes around schools and colleges where T-levels are available, ensuring no wastage and maximum impact.

Results

The campaign is measured using the GCS outputs, outtakes and outcomes model and incorporates twice-yearly, nationally representative research with parents conducted by Britain Thinks – the very research that allowed us to set benchmarks and SMART objectives from the outset.

While the outputs and outtakes were impressive; 8 million hero film views and over 112,000 website sessions, it’s the outcomes that showcase the scale of the impact the campaign had on parents – exceeding all KPIs:

Awareness:

Awareness of T-levels among parents increased by 15 percentage points (41% to 56%), exceeding our target (49%).

A quarter of parents (24%) recalled seeing the campaign, with print and broadcast media the most common place it was seen.

Approval:

Of those parents who had seen the campaign, 85% said they’d support their child taking a T-level, a 10 percentage point increase from our baseline and exceeding our target (79%).

Action:

79% (up from 73% baseline) said they’d take one or more of our desired actions as a result, exceeding our 78% target.

These results shaped our plans for the campaign’s second year (live now) which uses similar channels to build further fame for T-levels while using more targeted channels like social to build deeper understanding of the T-levels offering.

Client testimonial

Evidence and insight have been at the heart of the T-levels campaign from its inception. It was born from insight that showed a potential barrier to young people taking a T-level would be that their parents were unlikely to trust a brand-new qualification they’d never heard of. Extensive testing with our target audience informed the creative route and our central insight – that T-levels are one thing parents and teens can agree on – is the golden thread binding all campaign content together. And the proof is in the impact, the first twelve months of the campaign have seen awareness of T-levels among our target audience increase by 15%, and campaign recognition by 24%. As a charitable organization, it’s crucial we work with people who share a passion for our cause and want to deliver real-world impact. Kindred certainly do that, and I know they will continue to harness data and insight to great effect.

Harriet Evans, Agency Project Manager, Gatsby

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