Unacademy's branded content strategy: A case study for brands to learn how to engage with youth culture through content

In today's BuzzInContent's weekly section ‘Content & Culture', Hamsini Shivakumar and Kanika Yadav of Leapfrog Strategy Consulting, write how the edtech major is leaving no stone unturned when it comes to branded content. The brand has created content ranging from long-term content IPs to web series, from music to chat shows and others

Hamsini Shivakumar
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With the rise of edtech platforms such as Unacademy, Byju’s, Testbook, etc., education and methods of learning have undergone a transformation. They are no more confined to one’s study table and filling pages after pages of practice. Nowadays, students have access to illustrative lectures, fun quizzes, and interactive projects that assist them in the process of learning. Just as innovative as their methodology towards education is, the edtech platforms are also producing refreshing branded content that is redefining learning. In this piece, we look at the content produced by Unacademy.

Established in 2015, as an alternative platform to provide coaching for various competitive exams, Unacademy at present is one of the leading e-learning Indian companies. With its free and paid programs, the platform has reduced coaching expenses to a great extent. Apart from making coaching affordable, it also provides a chance to anyone and everyone who is interested in teaching. The platform then posits itself as a great equaliser in and of the field.

Unacademy’s concentrated approach towards producing branded content can be gauged by its various launches such as Chamomile Tea with Toppers, " target="_blank" rel="noopener">Aspirants, Officers on Duty, Unacademy Unwind, and even its anthem- ‘Crack it!’. In less than six years, the brand has dabbled with talk shows, musical programmes, interviews, web series, etc. This myriad of content from Unacademy serves as an attempt to engage the new with a culture of education. It expands upon the brand’s core idea of unlimited and affordable education.

As opposed to conventional coaching institutes that mostly advertise through big posters announcing their results or achievements, Unacademy invests in organising comprehensive summits with the likes of Dr Kiran Bedi among speakers. According to their self-declaration, the brand wishes to make the otherwise gated culture of Indian education, accessible. Apart from providing affordable services and products, Unacademy meaningfully employs branded content too to achieve the aforementioned aim.

#1 Officers on Duty

With over 50,000 subscribers, this particular YouTube channel by Unacademy demystifies some of the most coveted posts in India. Comprehensively shot videos from a day in the life of various officers from the civil services uncover the everyday realities and challenges associated with these jobs. Most importantly, they successfully build a narrative that is far from tags of reputation and prestige that come attached almost naturally with the civil services. Alternatively, videos on this channel are embedded with a sense of “it’s possible!” as they recount the journeys of ordinary people through hard work. Similar videos have also been produced by Unacademy on the lives of doctors and engineers, too.

#2 Chamomile Tea with Toppers

Somewhat in the same tradition as the last channel, Chamomile Tea with Toppers is a channel by Unacademy that features casual conversations with toppers from exams such as NEET, JEE, CDS, UPSC CSE, etc. Interviews on this channel are structured like a chat show and differ in vibe from the usual topper interviews that most education platforms produce. Hosted by an engaging team of content creators from Unacademy, the show is accented by questions on a multitude of topics ranging from the preparation process to hobbies to even a rapid-fire! 

#3 Aspirants

Produced with The Viral Fever (TVF), Aspirants is a five-episode long web series that revolves around three ‘aspirants’ of the civil services exam. Although the series opened to mixed critical reviews, it was well appreciated by the audiences as reflected by a 9+ IMDb rating. It comes in the same tradition established by other series based on competitive exams like The Kota Factory (2019) and Laakhon Mein Ek (2017). These series often become popular and are loved due to the resonance they are able to espouse among present and past students.

#4 Unacademy Unwind

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Launched in collaboration with MTV, Unacademy Unwind is a series of 10 episodes that features original and re-makes of songs by musicians such as Benny Dayal and Lucky Ali. With this production, Unacademy introduces a whole new dimension to the process of learning —the one about unwinding! The brand positions the act of relaxing as an important element of studying. The show also aptly conjoins music with education as music has often been linked to concentration.

Engaging with youth culture

Apart from very obviously reflecting the brand’s values, the content by Unacademy lies at the nexus of youth and learning culture. As per Unacademy, education is not limited to the pages of one’s textbook. By engaging with their consumers or learners through content, the brand adds value to the process of learning. It attempts to equip its consumers with the ability to analyse their career goals by showing people in those respective careers. Content of this kind increases the value of Unacademy’s product and services as consumers become more invested by having a refined answer to the perpetual “why?”

Unacademy’s content is directed towards a young and youthful vibe. Their ‘topper’s talk’ takes place in laidback cafes as opposed to a panopticon-like arrangement where the toppers are placed behind a podium or a dais. As per Unacademy, everything within education and everyone from that field is approachable and their content serves to break that aura of speciality around achievers. The content thus hints, “if they can, so can you”.

Production of relatable content like a web series that mirrors a student’s everyday problems sensitises the long preparation journey. It further gives a sense of collective belonging that can often eschew one in an online learning platform. So, the branded content here also plugs the gaps that might emerge due to the nature of a brand’s offerings. Furthermore, formats like web series or musical programmes provide the mind with a much-needed entertainment break.

Branded content by Unacademy complements its products and services well as the content furthers the goals of a holistic vision of education. Spread across a whole spectrum of genres and formats, the content serves well to both guide and entertain. It aligns with Unacademy’s ethos as a brand that is to redefine education. The branded content here strives to provide reasons behind education, simplify the process, and then presents the wherewithal to achieve it. By giving access to relaxing vibes through cafes or musical ensembles in their content, Unacademy tries to ensure that their consumers do not come out as number crunching or formula cracking zombies at the other end of the process.

Edtech platforms can thus produce a whole lot of content that can complement their services, i.e., lessons, lectures, mock tests, etc. Branded content of the kind that Unacademy produces can possibly work wonders for the brand image and reinvigorate the brand values. It goes well with the philosophy that most edtech brands aim to embody which is to give a conceptual understanding to learners. Content such as chat shows or musical programmes can eventually become markers that set a learning platform apart as illustrative or interactive diagrams are now already available at all places.

Unacademy Content & Culture