Marketing Professionals


In Part 1 I set the stage by letting you in on the spark for this series. Basically, it started with a discussion to help a colleague in the Sales & Marketing discipline understand the difference between “training” and “information.”

I laid the groundwork by describing a model compiled by a guy named Benjamin Bloom. The overall model talks about 3 main categories:

Cognitive. (Thinking-type learning.)
Affective. (Emotional-type learning.)
Psychomotor. (Physical skills-type learning.)
In Part 2 I drilled-down on the Cognitive category; this is usually the category that most of you who write marketing copy for training programs will find your products and/or services categorized under.

For example, a math tutorial, a presentation skills training program, or a real estate agent training course are examples of training that generally deal with helping someone understand, apply and/or perform certain skills. That’s the stuff of the Cognitive category.

Also in Part 2, I listed the six levels of Cognitive learning.

I took us on a 10,000 foot tour of the first three levels: Knowledge, Comprehension and Application. That’s also when I gave my view that, in response to my friend’s question, “information” can generally be thought of as the stuff spanning the first two levels–Knowledge and Comprehension.

And, while “training” can be a more general term spanning the whole gamut, I tend to differentiate it from “information” by placing it among the stuff of skills development and behavioral change. That means the higher levels of Cognition, specifically, Application, Analysis, Synthesis and Evaluation.

In this last part, I’ll cap off this series by doing a similar fly-by of the top three levels: Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation. I’ll also give examples of each.

Level 4: Analysis.

Here we’re talking about training that develops a level of performance where your consumer (the student) can make distinctions about the subject of the training program.

So, where Level 3 said “show me”, “demonstrate for me”, or “DO (some task)…”, Level 4 says, “Compare and contrast…”, “tell me the differences between…” or “write an essay about…”.

For example, let’s say you’re a student in a course for presentation skills training. Your participation in a classroom exercise may ask you to prepare and present a 7-minute presentation. As far as that goes, that’s Level 3: Application.

However, if the instructor were to ask you to explain the difference between an extemporaneous presentation style and, say, lecture style, then you’ve dipped into Level 4: Analysis.

Level 5: Synthesis.

Here we’re talking talking about training that develops a level of performance where the student is asked to solve some problem that requires combining other training or knowledge. As a marketer writing marketing copy, you might recognize these as the types of training programs that include activities asking participants to work through a complex scenario. These are sometimes called scenario-based training programs.

One example that immediately comes to mind is the type of training pilots go through in flight simulators. Or, to use a military example, war game exercises.

To use a civilian example, I can remember an intense week some fifteen years ago at a training campus of a management consulting firm I used to work for. At the time they operated under the name Andersen Consulting, which was the management consulting arm of the now defunct accounting firm, Arthur Andersen.

The week-long training program included a solution progression in a simulated corporate environment. (Complete with a demanding, surly “client,” office furniture and snarky new wannabe consultants.) Our class was grouped into teams of 6 consultants that each had to meet several times daily with the “client.” Based on a series of Q&A interactions, each team worked to create a final solution that solved the client’s business problem.

As a marketer, you should know that what I described above is the kind of training activity you would expect to find in a Level 5 training environment.

Level 6: Evaluation.

Here we’re talking about a level of performance from a participant that demands they defend a hypothesis or justify a position. It’s expected that at this level, the participant has achieved some degree of mastery of the subject matter; they can dang-near write the proverbial book.

An easy example that comes to mind here is a master’s or doctoral program. At the end of such programs, students are asked to complete some type of capstone exercise where they write a thesis or dissertation and defend it.

Wrapping It Up.

So, that’s it in a nutshell. I laid out the three categories of learning under Bloom’s model. (Cognitive, Affective, Psychomotor.) Of those categories, I focused on the Cognitive domain and explained each of the six levels and provided examples. I also explained a view that differentiated “information” from “training” as the kind of cognitive learning described in the first two levels (knowledge and comprehension). In contrast, I explained a view of “training” as falling in the realm of skills and/or behavior change developed in levels 3 through 6.

My hope is that, armed with a basic understanding of the information above, then you, as a marketing professional, will have another tool in your utility belt to evaluate the promises you make in the marketing copy written about training programs you’re asked to sell.

Until next time, I wish you success.

In an earlier post, I started addressing a question about differentiating between “training” and “information.” The series was sparked by questions I get occasionally from marketing colleagues who are preparing to write copy for training programs.

I’m using Bloom’s model as the framework. In Part 1, I laid out the three categories:

Thinking-type learning (“Cognitive”),
Emotional-type learning (“Affective”),
Physical skills type learning (“Psychomotor”).
Potentially a lot of big words, I know. I’ll try to keep it at a practical level. In this post, I’ll list the six levels in the type of learning called the Cognitive domain. (things like thinking, understanding, comprehending). That’s the stuff of training programs I usually design, and the type of training about which marketing professionals (at least in companies I work with) write copy.

The six levels of the area of learning we’re talking about here are:


The stuff in yellow will the subject of this post. I’ll hit the green stuff in Part 3.

Level 1: Knowledge.

Books_appleHere we’re talking about the ground floor. Learning at this level is most associated with information and the ability of a student to recall that information. For example, after reading this blog post you might say to yourself, “I don’t get all that ‘cognition stuff’ Mel was talkin’ about, but I get the gist of it. There are a progression of 6 levels…” And then you might go on to try and name the six levels. That’s basically Level 1: Knowledge.

If you’re a marketer preparing to write marketing copy, the way you’d recognize if the product you’re pitching is designed to get the student at least to level 1, is to find out if the program includes student testing around questions like:

“List the 6 levels of learning in the Cognitive domain.”
Or, “Match the definitions listed in the right column with the learning levels listed in the left column.”
So, if you ask me what the difference is between “training” and “information”? I’d say level 1 (and perhaps even level 2) is about information. I view “training” as being at higher levels and more about development of skills and changing behaviors.

Level 2: Comprehension.

BlackboardHere we’re talking about going one step above “knowledge.” So, in the example of seeing whether or not you learn anything from this blog post, you might be able to list the 6 levels well enough. But, the question is, can you come up with your own examples of each level? That’s a key difference from Level 1; being able to explain the meaning of the concepts using your own words.

When writing marketing copy and making claims about a training program helping someone understand a subject area, you want to find out if the design of the training program includes student testing around questions like:

“In your own words, provide at least two examples for each of the learning levels listed below…”
Or, as in an example of a real estate short sale class I recently helped develop: “Given the following financial information for your client, calculate the likelihood of success for this short sale.”
Level 3: Application.

ClientHere’s where it starts getting a little dicier with marketing copy. I’ve seen enough marketing copy that claims “mastery” or “guaranteed improvements in the number of leads…”, when in fact, the training program doesn’t even come close to “mastery” or in being able to guarantee “improvements” in performance.

In level 3, we’re talking about whether or not a training program tests for how well a student is able to apply the concepts she/he has learned in the training program by actually performing those concepts during simple scenarios on the job (or, at least in a realistic simulation of that person’s job).

Using my customer audience, for example, we might have a program that teaches real estate agents the components of an effective listing presentation so as to succeed in converting a prospect to a client. And, they may even “get it.” But, when we evaluate students for level 3, we want to be able to see or otherwise reasonably observe whether or not that agent can actually deliver the listing presentation in a manner consistent with how we talked about it in the training program.

So, when writing marketing copy and making claims about a training program helping someone improve their performance on the job, then you want to find out if the design of the training program includes student-testing similar to things like:

Roleplay scenarios: “Pair up with a classmate and take turns delivering a listing presentation to each other.”
Or, “Conduct a listing presentation with the instructor and respond to any objections given by the instructor during your mock presentation.”

As you can see, level 3 gets a little more involved in the process of doing the stuff that was taught. Typically, someone would also be on hand to evaluate the performance. These types of student assessments are relatively easy to do in a live classroom environment. But, when you’re writing marketing copy for training programs that are delivered via electronic media (web, CDs, DVDs, and so on), it’s an area where you want to get a little more cautious.

As a copy writer, you should know level 3 is more difficult to pull off in a virtual format. Though, when it’s done properly, it’s usually pretty cool. It’s cool because it can involve social media tools like group forums, online chat, webcams, or WebEx type interactions. I’ll save examples of that for a future post.

So, just to cap it off, unless there are the kinds of roleplays or two-way interactions suggested above, I think you’d be stretching it a bit to write marketing copy that claims something like, “Buy this course and you will be able to improve your presentation skills and gain more clients…” That type of copy would, in my opinion, just simply be untrue. That is, unless the training program provides for some type of live evaluation of student performance (there’s a word for it: “synchronous”) where the instructor observes the student performing the required skills.

That’s a lot to soak in for one post. I’ll hit the other levels (Analysis, Synthesis and Evaluation) in Part 3.

Until next time, I wish you success.

1_plus_1I was pleased to have been tapped recently by a colleague, a marketing professional, who works with a company that delivers “training and education” via online channels. Specifically, the web. He wanted to understand how I differentiate between “training” and “information.” To his credit, he wanted to ensure his marketing messages were synced up with what his company’s products actually delivered.

When consulting with sales and marketing professionals who work for companies that create training products and programs, I try not to be a “training purist” when discussion goes to “positioning” their product for the market. There’s no better way to get them to shut down than for me to be hard-nosed about adult learning theory.

But the fact is, there is a tendency on the part of some sales and marketing professionals to stretch claims about the skills that a training program supposedly delivers to consumers. Having said that, I rarely see this stretch being made on the basis of deceptive intent or sinister puffery. Rather, I see it more as unfamiliarity about the different levels–and types–of learning that take place.

In this article, I list types of learning using Benjamin Bloom’s work as a model. In Part 2, I’ll list some of the levels within one of the learning types. When I elaborate, my intent is to keep the examples, terms and jargon down to a practical level. In that way I don’t (yaawwwwnnnn) bore you with pedagogical language (see how easy that is?) that often bores the crap out of me.

Here’re the types of learning under Bloom’s model:

KnowledgeCognitive. Think: what do I know? And how well can I apply that knowledge in the real world?
To use the practical example of driving a car, this would be similar, say, to having ingested the information in the DMV driver’s handbook. And then being able to recall some of that information either for a written test or to recall it while you’re on city streets (whether in the driver’s seat or in the passenger’s). Your recall might include information about a red octagonal sign as meaning “stop” or that double yellow lines mean not to cross over into an the adjoining lane. The degree to how well a learner applies that information in the real world is another matter. One which I’ll address in Part 2 when I list the levels of cognitive learning.

GymnastPsychomotor. Keeping true to our driving scenario, psycho-motor skills relate to physically maneuvering the vehicle on the road, or successfully executing a parallel parking routine. This area includes coordination and use of motor-skills. Development of these skills require practice. Other examples might include: Shawn Johnson’s ability to execute a gymnastic routine, or Michael Phelps’ ability to properly position his body to maximize fluid efficiency while swimming.

AngerAffective. The skills related to keeping your–or even “the other guy’s”–road rage in check. Or, perhaps the emotional discipline a driver is able to exercise in order to keep from responding to an incoming text message while simultaneously operating a motor vehicle. Basically, this area deals with the manner in which we deal with things emotionally. It may also include values, motivations and attitudes.
The summary above is a 50,000 foot view of the types of learning. Within each type, there are different levels.

In Part 2 of this series, I’ll address those levels, specifically as they relate to the learning type listed as cognitive learning.

The reason I’m hitting that primarily is because it most relates to questions I often get from marketing professionals selling an online training program. Messages related to these programs tend to make claims about its ability to improve a learner’s success on the basis of knowledge gained or skills improved in a particular subject area; messages that fall within the scope of cognitive learning.

My hope is that, armed with a basic understanding of the different types of learning and the different levels within those types, marketing professionals will have another tool in their utility belt to evaluate the efficacy of the promises they make about training programs they’re tasked to sell.