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Branding STEM

Brands, Opinion

May 12, 2016

Thanks to our upcoming school science fair, I spent a few hours this week brushing up on the scientific method. My last brush with science experiments was my first year of college, where I tried to knock out any required non-major courses as quickly as possible. I did well enough in math and science courses, but I was just never excited about them. They were the classes I needed to get through so I could get back to my reading. If you don’t work in the fields of science, technology, engineering or math, (collectively referred to as STEM), then you probably don’t have much use for it in your daily lives, either.

So I was pleasantly surprised by how much fun I had watching my daughter work on her science fair display this weekend. This was the first year she was able to participate in the fair, and her enthusiasm for the project was contagious. She spent hours recording data and noting her observations, and was excited about every step. Besides her science class in school, she has so many other places where she’s exposed to STEM subjects as something fun and engaging, and not as a chore, that she’s able to find real joy and excitement in the process.

When Geoffrey Klein wrote about Nerd Brands, he spoke about how the “popular” brands today would have been the “nerd” brands of yesterday. Our world has changed, and so has our perception of the innovators and makers of our technologies.

Google “best jobs 2016,” and you’ll find lists from such authorities as the U.S. Department of Labor, US News & World Report, The New York Times, and Fast Company of the most in-demand jobs, and the best jobs based on criteria such as median salary, growth opportunities, future demand, stress-levels and work/life balance. Read a few of these and you’ll quickly see that STEM careers dominate every one.

Brands are capitalizing on that shift, and job forecasts, to sell products and encourage education in the STEM fields. If you read our TOMS blog, you’ll see we have a lot of love for brands that make doing good a part of their business model.

For girls and young women, especially, there are myriad toys, games, books, TV shows and movies that make the STEM fields look super cool.

Project MC2, whose tagline is “Smart is the new cool,” has produced a line of dolls, science kits, and a TV series centered around a group of STEM-minded girls. Dannica McKellar, an actress, mathematician and education advocate, is one of the stars. If these Barbie-like dolls aren’t on your kids’ list, maybe GoldieBlox are. In 2012, they went viral when they borrowed the Beastie Boys’ “Girls” to show what girls could do with their building sets. They share the same goal of increasing the number of girls who take advantage of the opportunities afforded when you hold a degree in the STEM fields. Even our current favorite movie, Disney’s Big Hero 6, showcases a team of tech lab students who use their knowledge to become superheroes, no special powers required.

These brands are changing how we talk about these fields, and the people who get excited by science, technology, engineering and math.

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