Brand sniff test for Learning Systems Specialists


We have just carried out a sniff test on the brands included in Fosway Group’s new categorization of Learning Systems Specialists (see image below). We did this to see if the brands are clearly communicating their specialisms.

© Fosway Group


This is the kind of activity we do at Insights Media. Part of our marketing accelerator impact assessment involves us carrying out what we call the brand relevance sniff test. For this we spend 30 seconds looking at a brand’s website to see if we can understand what the brand does, who it does it for and how it does it. People tend to spend far less than 30 seconds on a site (and most will probably interact with a brand across a range of channels) but we think this is enough time to get the core message over to visitors and prospective buyers.

We put ourselves in the shoes of customers and prospects. We know that they want to understand what a brand does, how it does it and the impact it has for customers. And they want to reach this understanding very quickly.

So, how did the brands on the Fosway grid score? It wasn’t great. I will give you the good news first: seven brands (33%) did pass the test. They clearly articulated their specialism. So from a buyer’s perspective, I know what the brand does, how it does it and who their customers are.

However, 14 (66%) brands did not articulate their specialism. To be precise, 7 brands (33%) did not and 8 (38%) made it unclear what they did.

Some of those that did not make it clear used the term LXP to describe what they did. However, the term is broad and an LXP offers a wide range of functionality. Brands that are labelled specialists are in fact offering more than one thing when they use the term LXP. The point here is that the messaging is ambiguous. If you are a brand that does one thing very well then you need to communicate that clearly.

Those brands that did not communicate their specialism tended to offer all things to all people. This is not uncommon in the market. In a previous brand sniff test ahead of the Learning Technologies conference, we identified a similar problem – learning technology brands tend to blind people with functionality and/or mix in aspirational statements about learning and the technology. Lots of claims are made and there is little evidence of impact. Style over substance can be a problem here.

It’s interesting that Fosway Group has created this new category. It should help brands clarify their offer and value proposition. Our research shows that some are doing this well but many have a way to go.

If you’d like to discuss these findings or explore how to create clarity around your content and comms then contact us at

The research was carried out between 28/2/20 and 4/3/20.