While most of us fantasize about our special celebrity dinner guest as a hypothetical, MasterClass as a platform has made this fantasy a bit more realistic! MasterClass is an online school open to all students of any area of expertise: acting, cooking, sports, etc. One of its most enticing factors is the line up of A-list celebrities as your personal teacher into their specialized craft. While MasterClass is not synonymous to a dinner party of open conversation, it brands itself as a fully immersive learning experience for those who subscribe to it, still offering exclusive information that most people are dying to learn about. Especially amidst a pandemic that forces most people to stay inside and readjust to online learning platforms, MasterClass’s original branding fell right into place in 2020.
MasterClass is a fairly young platform, having first launched in 2015 by David Rogier and Aaron Rasmussen. At the time of its launch, MasterClass only had 3 classes to offer, but now has an impressive list of classes ranging from fashion to gardening to screenwriting, taught by some of the most esteemed names in their field. In order to access the classes, MasterClass functions as a subscription-based service. It is $90 to access one class for an unlimited amount of time (until you finish your course). While MasterClass stopped offering a monthly-based subscription option, they still have a $180 per year subscription option to access as many classes as you want. While $180 is a lot of money to spend on a single subscription service, it is still more enticing to pay this yearly subscription price than the $90 one, where they have a very limited amount of material for one user. Yet, MasterClass in general has a limited amount of classes for its consumers. Unlike other learning platforms like SkillShare and The Great Courses that have a seemingly unlimited amount of courses and materials to go through, MasterClass has a definitive end to its services. And while its limited content might not bode well in its“quantity,” it offers consumers a visible end to their subscription, not presenting as a never-ending blackhole of $180 a year.
What is interesting about MasterClass and its price range is that, by appearances, it seems too expensive for the average online consumer to pay. In this generation, there is a large emphasis on “quantity” over “quality,” offering more content for a cheaper, more economical price. So this begs the question, how is MasterClass succeeding as a ‘high end’ service amidst a more financially conscientious consumer base?
The answers to this can be surmised by its branding strategies. MasterClass has been branded as “first-class” content, nodding to the influencers and celebrities partnering with MasterClass, the high quality of video editing and graphics, and the amount of additional course materials per class. MasterClass brands itself as a brand “you can trust” without ever having to explicitly state their credentials. The trust as a brand mostly comes from the culturally accepted assumptions based on the face-value branding of MasterClass (again, a referral to the celebrities involved). This emphasis on “trust” as a platform acts as a justification for the higher pricing, ensuring the consumer that they are getting what they pay for. In sum, this platform focuses on quality over quantity.
Another interesting detail in MasterClass’s advertisement strategy surrounds their diction when referring to their ads on other websites and platforms. Instead of calling these video promotions “ads,” they call them “trailers.” The term “trailer” can be directly correlated with the type of people that are in the video promotions, like Natalie Portman, Gordon Ramsey, Spike Lee and etc., celebrities who are mostly seen in actual movie/television trailers. But MasterClass’s stated intention of branding their ads as trailers is geared more towards its completely immersive and quality learning experience that they brand themselves as. This claim implies that even their 2 minute promotional video provides the consumer with quality services that other brands and learning platforms cannot offer.
It is impossible to ignore the exclusivity that MasterClass promotes in its essence as a service. They promise unique and quality instruction and classes, from some of the greatest minds of our time. With a reputation such as this, it goes without saying that MasterClass does not make this content accessible to everyone. Though online learning platforms pride themselves in accessibility and convenience, MasterClass reminds consumers that this accessibility and convenience does not come without a price. With the high price and elitist status, MasterClass does seem to perpetuate a classism in internet accessibility of services, bringing socio-economic status to the forefront of internet regulation. In other words, you get what you pay for, and MasterClass promises that the price is worth the product.
Campbell, Courtney. “The 10 Most Popular Classes to Take from Celebrities on MasterClass.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 12 Oct. 2020, www.usatoday.com/story/tech/reviewedcom/2020/05/08/the-10-most-popular-classes-to-take-on-masterclass/3097833001/.
Duffy, Jill. “MasterClass Review.” PCMAG, www.pcmag.com/reviews/masterclass.
“MasterClass Online Classes.” MasterClass, www.masterclass.com/?utm_source=Paid.