Monday, March 31, 2008

Sex Sells--Tutoring?

This would not have been on my radar, but thanks to Joanne Jacobs, I have learned that sex appeal for Hong Kong tutors is a primary (but not exlcusive) marketing ploy.
Angela Yiu and Stella Cheng spent weeks meeting with fashion stylists and photographers before deciding on the mini skirts and high heels to wear in their promotion campaign.

They're not models peddling perfume or sports cars. They're English tutors who earn good money helping secondary school students pass Hong Kong's grueling exams to get into college.

"Their long legs are the most beautiful ones in the tutorial industry," said Ken Ng, head of Modern Education, one of the city's biggest tutoring businesses. "This is our selling point."
Long legs are not the only requirement, teaching ability and knowledge matter too.

The tutoring business in Hong Kong is big business and like most big business, appealing soley on skill, knowledge or your product's direct qualities, only gets you so far. A few decades ago, cars were no sold by hot looking men or women, but by the car itself. Now, models help sell cars, food, and all sorts of products. Why would tutoring or educational services be any different? It isn't even in this country.

Colleges and universities already do it. Maybe not as explicitly as Hong Kong tutoring services, but physical appeal and attractiveness is considered when putting together marketing campaigns. There are two places where this happens, recruiting brochures and the television infomercials that are played during football bowl games and the NCAA basketball tournament or other special events.

In each medium there is almost always an attractive group of students in class or out and about on the campus (almost always racially balanced as well--which is just as much a lie). Classrooms are always pretty, with attractive instructors and a classroom filled with beautiful people. What you don't see is geeky, overweight, hungover or unattractive people in those scenes. Sure, in the voice over, lip service is paid to high academic standards, world class faculty, broad course selection, etc. But you don't hear the words, you only see the hotness on display. In short, the visual message is "come to our school and see these beautiful people and places." While I can't say that I chose to go to the University of Maryland or Catholic Law School because of the attractive women in the brochure, but I can't say I ignored those pictures either.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with this appeal and I don't intend to insinuate otherwise. But we shouldn't be so shocked if Hong Kong is a little more focused than America on using sex appeal to sell education.

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