Despite uncertainty, 92 percent of parents will buy school supplies, the Ad Age-Harris poll finds
Regardless of whether their children will attend in-person or at home, back-to-school shopping is still a must for the vast majority of shoppers, or 92 percent, according to the poll.
Of course, typical desk supplies are still important. While many parents are still waiting to hear whether their schools will reopen, or to decide if they will send their children for classroom instruction, 58 percent say they plan to purchase stationery and desk supplies, 57 percent will purchase cleaning and disinfecting supplies and 52 percent will buy personal protective equipment.
Rounding out the shopping lists are apparel (51 percent), backpacks (44 percent), electronics, including laptops and printers (30 percent) and mobile phones (27 percent). Ten percent of parents plan to make other purchases or buy nothing.
Marketers are paying attention; many have been forced to make campaign decisions in real time as districts announce learning plans for the fall. Uncertainty surrounds the back-to-school season amid the coronavirus pandemic. As Ad Age has reported, districts including Los Angeles and San Diego have committed to distance learning as infections increase. New York City is pursuing a mix of in-school and virtual classes.
As of July 20, back-to-school advertising was down nearly 50 percent compared with the same period in 2019, according to data from market research firm Numerator. Target was one of the earliest brands to begin TV advertising for the back-to-school season; both the Minneapolis-based chain and Walmart are currently running national ads.
Focus on electronics
Many brands are pushing electronic devices in case children end up learning remotely; others, like Kohl’s, are also advertising protective gear such as face masks. Several brands are more reliant on digital marketing, where they are able to localize their messaging to target regions that may have differing back-to-school plans.
Macy’s and Dick’s Sporting Goods both debuted back-to-school campaigns in recent days. Dick’s is promoting its apparel—Ed Plummer, chief marketing officer of the sporting goods chain, told Ad Age that children will still want to look stylish, whether they are on camera or in a physical classroom. Macy’s embraced a similar approach with a spot airing July 26 that shows kids working at home with their parents or playing outside. The commercial’s text reads “No matter how we school, let’s be ready.”