Last week, we ran a poster campaign in our school to promote Hack Club. The strategy was to post vague but colorful posters around the school, and gradually add new things to the posters until we have a full Hack Club poster. This isn't meant to get more people to join the club in the short term, especially since we're already halfway through the first semester and people's schedules are full. Rather, the point is to make sure everyone in the school knows what Hack Club is, which is far more important for the club and its reputation in the long term.
This campaign was inspired by a video I saw called The Science of Thinking. In it, Derek from Veritasium explains that your brain is composed of a "Drew" brain and a "Gun" brain. The Drew brain is your working memory, which checks things to make sure they're correct, and stores information short-term, but is very lazy. The Gun brain is the part of your brain that automates tasks it has already learned. One example Derek brings up is the "Un" campaign that rolled out in Sydney. Appealing to Drew and making that part of the brain work harder actually makes an advertisement more memorable than an advertisement that appeals to Gun because it's so different from what we normally consider an "advertisement".
I wanted to avoid including anything that indicates this is a coding club, even through to the final poster. This sounds counterintuitive, since I'm trying to get people to join a coding club, but what I've found is that people immediately say "Oh I don't know that, it sounds scary" as soon as they hear anything related to coding. I think this is because people see coding as something that you have to be super smart to do, or something that is super complex, so they're intimidated by it. But if this is a club where you go to make things, it sounds a lot less scary. Thus, the Make campaign was born.
I also created a QR code from Hack Club's mascot, Orpheus, that led to that website, and printed out flyers with it. This time, I actually managed to print 15 pages (90 flyers). This really got people talking. Here's the vague site.
I decided not to do anything on Thursday. I wanted to make sure I wasn't introducing too many new things before some people got a chance to catch up on the previous day's things. So, on Thursday, I took a break and let people keep scanning the QR codes that apparently weren't picked up by the school's cleaning crew on Wednesday night.
Friday and Monday
We have a new intermediate school opening up in our district, and we had Fall Break early this year so that the faculty at the current intermediate school could move everything over to the new intermediate school. Because of this, we didn't have school on Friday or Monday to promote.
But that wasn't all we did. We also redesigned our club's website and sent out an email to everyone who entered their email on the website during the QR code day. We had about 15 legitimate signups, so 15 people receieved this beautiful email.
I considered printing out more small flyers that changed "Maker" to a bunch of different skills/interests (like on the club's website), but I decided against it at the last minute because I didn't want to spam the students at my school with flyers. The first two got so many people talking that I felt like a third one wouldn't be as effective, especially since by this point it was revealed that it was promoting Hack Club.
What worked and what didn't
I think this poster campaign was a huge success. I constantly heard people talking about it in the hallways as I passed by, and we already gained two new members this week even though the campaign just concluded. What I am sure of is that everyone in the school knows what Hack Club is, because they associate it (and I hope they will continue to associate it) with the colorful posters that I put up for one week. Again, this campaign was not about gaining new members as quickly as possible. It was about creating a new school image for Hack Club that associates it with making fun things rather than programming specifically or malicious hacking. It was also about making sure everyone actually knew about Hack Club, since we only recently officially renamed ourselves to Hack Club. I am 100% sure that we acheived this goal.
That said, some very surprising things were revealed to me during this campaign. I found out that many people didn't want to visit beamaker.glitch.me because (this is real) the link had the word "glitch" in it and people were afraid it would glitch their phones. I really didn't expect this and it really shocked me when I heard from someone that "many people saw the posters but everyone was afraid to go to the website". Maybe I should have put the site on repl.it instead, or even registered a custom domain temporarily.
I also found that people were afraid to enter their emails (even their school emails) in the beamaker site because they didn't trust the site and they feared that it would somehow "hack" their email (this was before they knew this campaign was for Hack Club, too, which made it even more surprising). I guess I should have known this in hindsight, but I also don't know if asking for their name or school ID (e.g. mine is stancium) would have worked better. Regardless, we got 15 legitimate signups, and many of these signups actually came on Wednesday evening, which means people took the QR codes home and scanned it when they found time at home! I think that really shows how engaged the students were with this campaign. Many of these signups were from people I didn't know, too, which means many of the 15 didn't just scan it from my Instagram story.
One big thing worth noting about the flyers was that it's very likely they didn't reach the majority of students in the school during the campaign. I'm sure everyone in the school encountered them, since they were literally spread out all across the school, but many of the flyers ended up being on the floor. As a result, I think most of the students only saw the three different posters that were hung up on the walls. It's not too big of a deal, but it's worth noting since I spent time designing and printing these flyers. The takeaway from this is that if you're going to make flyers, make a lot of them and be aggressive (like literally hand them to people in the hallways). I didn't want to do this because I felt it would be more effective if people found the flyers on their own, but I think that was kind of naïve and idealistic thinking. It didn't severely affet the impact of the campaign, but it still could have been done better.
Overall, I'm very happy with how this campaign turned out. I don't think I can ever do something like this again since the magic would be lost if I did it a second time, so I'm very happy with how much I made of this one shot. It took lots of time and printer ink, but I think it was worth it.
Hack Club meets on Wednesdays from 3:30 to 4:30 in Mr. Cullen's room. If you go to the West Lafayette High School, I hope to see you there sometime :)
P.S. Thanks so much to my friend Amogh and some awesome Hack Club leaders from the community for their super helpful feedback on each of the posters and flyers. And special thanks to Amogh for printing some of the posters out when I ran out of ink.