Making STEM Accessible Through Content: Q&A with Team GoldieBlox
Jordan Kelley, Content Director, BrandStorytelling.tv
In honor of Computer Science Education week, GoldieBlox, the media and entertainment company using storytelling to make STEM fun for kids, teamed up with Microsoft MakeCode and YouTuber Nicole Laeno to produce a DIY arcade game coding tutorial. Kids are encouraged to watch the entertaining and educational video and then code a game of their own with Microsoft MakeCode Arcade. The video and partnership both align with GoldieBlox's long-standing commitment to making science, technology, engineering, and math more accessible, specifically to young girls, and to disrupt "the pink aisle" in toy stores. Brand Storytelling caught up with GoldieBlox Founder/CEO Debbie Sterling and team to learn more about this awesome brand content partnership with an emphasis on learning and storytelling:
Where did the idea for Code Along come from?
The idea for "Code Along" came when Debbie was frustrated by the lack of female-hosted coding tutorial videos online. She had made it her New Year's resolution to teach herself how to code, and when she started searching for "how to" videos on YouTube, most of them had 30-something male hosts with a "brogrammer" attitude. Debbie realized there was an enormous white space on YouTube, the world's #1 video search engine, to provide more diverse role models in coding and have them help make coding more inclusive.
Over the past 2 years, GoldieBlox has seen enormous success with its "how to" video series, "Hack Along", featuring young female influencer hosts giving DIY tutorials on trendy STEAM activities. "Hack Along" has helped GoldieBlox's YouTube channel grow to over 670K subscribers of kids and families looking for fun and educational activities. Debbie and her team decided to try and replicate the success of "Hack Along" in the coding world, with "Code Along".
When and how did Microsoft partner with you on this project?
GoldieBlox and the Microsoft MakeCode team had been in touch for a couple of years discussing various collaboration opportunities. The teams began talking about Code Along in June of 2020 and quickly decided to do a pilot test of the concept and launch it during Computer Science Education Week (December 2020).
What was the division of labor? Who built the tutorial? The marketing? Who produces video?
GoldieBlox produced the tutorial video, marketing campaign and also designed and developed the MakeCode arcade game that was used for the campaign. Microsoft MakeCode provided notes and feedback on the tutorial video, the arcade game, and also created a custom landing page and tutorial for the arcade game on their website.
When was TikTok star Nicole Laeno brought on to participate?
GoldieBlox has a longtime relationship with Nicole Laeno, who has appeared in many GoldieBlox projects over the years and GoldieBlox approached her at the very beginning of the project to have her be the host talent and get her creative input. Nicole was involved every step of the way - from learning how to code on MakeCode to helping design the arcade game and personalize it. We intentionally selected Nicole, a coding novice, to be our host for the tutorial because we really wanted to counteract the 'intimidating expert' teacher with someone who is learning for the first time with the audience, who is showing viewers its OK to make mistakes and showing viewers coding really is for everyone.
GoldieBlox is a leader in youth STEM toys, education, entertainment and media - videos and interactive experiences like Code Along feel like a natural incorporation into the Goldieblox Media Universe. What do you do to stay fresh and innovative while continuing to maintain GoldieBlox’s cohesive brand voice?
For the last several years, we've built a unique expertise in making STEM fun and inclusive for all kids through entertainment, digital gaming, toys and curriculum. We judge our success by how effectively we are able to drive excitement and engagement with kids and we compete with the most popular children's toys and media brands in the world to grab kids' attention. We constantly stay fresh and innovative in the space because we are always listening to our audience and finding new ways to make STEM learning fun and relevant to them. We have a "cast of characters", like Nicole, that we work with frequently on all sorts of projects, from teaching coding like in "Code Along", to learning about engineering by going on a field trip to NIKE's headquarters and meeting the female engineers who designed the AirMax shoe. We work on all types of programs but the common thread is always that we generate real enthusiasm from kids because we speak their language and we love to drive large audiences to the projects we do so that we can have a massive impact.
How have brand and influencer partnerships benefitted GoldieBlox and contributed to your mission to make STEM fun?
Brand and influencer partnerships have been a tremendous accelerant to our mission. As it turns out, there are so many brands and influencers who share our passion for girl empowerment and STEM education. We love collaborating with like-minded organizations who want to work with us on campaigns that can both drive huge scale and huge social impact. You know, the phrase "advertising to kids" has become so taboo, but the reality is that when GoldieBlox advertises to kids, we do so in a way that gets them excited about STEM and teaches them something new. Whether we're working with Paleontologist, Myria Perez, to show how she cleans fossils with a Kids' Spinbrush toothbrush, or with TikToker Nicole Laeno to show kids how to code an arcade game using Microsoft MakeCode, our purpose-driven campaigns are helping change the narrative about girls and women in STEM.
GoldieBlox is on a mission to close the gender gap in the fields of science and engineering. How important is it for any brand or company to operate from an internal set of goals, ethics, and values, as opposed to allowing external forces to dictate best practices?
I think it's critical for companies to have a set of values and ethics they stand for and to have various ways to reinforce those beliefs - both internally and externally. Customers are now accustomed to researching the companies behind the products they purchase - looking for brands that align with their values and valuing them at a premium. It is also an incredibly important factor in recruiting and maintaining a motivated workforce, especially Millennials and Gen Z. Having those set of values as part of the company's DNA and made publicly available to all makes a huge difference as opposed to it coming across as reactionary. I think people can tell the difference.
About Jordan Kelley
Jordan Kelley is the Content Director at BrandStorytelling.tv. He's an essayist, editor, and observer intent on mapping new media trends and disseminating the most relevant information in the world of branded content. Jordan is a lover of stories and an avid consumer of new media.