What Happened: Microsoft is no stranger to the classroom and spent many of its earliest days getting young converts to the PC over the Apple by giving software and computers to school systems. Now it’s looking to encourage the youngest web users to forsake Google for Microsoft’s new ad-free “Bing for Schools” program. The initiative for K-12 is aimed at promoting digital literacy and is coupled with stricter filters to make sure adult content doesn’t sneak through. The beta version was tested in the five largest school districts in the U.S. and is being used by 4.5 million students currently, according to TechCrunch.
What This Means for Brands: Marketers have often looked at budget-crunched schools as a captive audience of minds waiting to be influenced. There have been instances of math-related counting games that had children using popular candy or cereal brands to learn their 1-2-3s, and there was environmental curricula supplied by certain energy enterprises that weren’t necessarily the most scientifically accurate. Those misfires shouldn’t mean schools and companies don’t share many common values—even if some misguided programs clearly have nothing to do with education. Well-educated students with inquiring minds and strong work ethics become the employees and leaders of tomorrow. Helping schools is a clear-cut example of how companies can work together with communities and various stakeholders toward common goals. To make the grade, however, the programs they provide must truly meet the educational needs of the school and the pupils. Microsoft’s Bing program is blatantly in its own self-interest, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If it weren’t, Microsoft might be inclined to drop it at some point in the future. The company also went the extra step to provide an ad-free environment and one with amplified safety elements. What teacher won’t tell you that kids don’t need any more distractions than they already live with? Getting rid of the advertisements and inappropriate content deserves at least a B-plus.
Contributing to TRENDING items are Ephraim Cohen, Sarah Gordon, Lydia Herrera, Jeff Maldonado and Abby Ray.