“Historically, the vast majority of marketing thru schools has been targeted at kids,” says John Driscoll, vice president sales & business development for School Family Media Inc., a Showcase Sponsor of the 2009 M2Moms®-The Marketing To Moms Conference.  “But the landscape has changed and the majority of consumers now believe that promotional materials/programs should no longer be aimed at students, but aimed at teachers and parents.”

In fact 81% of moms surveyed by School Family Media support corporate sponsored educational materials/magazines that come thru school and are targeted at parents and 92% support product samples distributed to parents at open house nights, etc.  Working through school PTO/PTAs ensures thru school marketing success.  These groups have the ability to disperse information in a relevant and credible social environment conducive to authentic networking and WOM—outside of the classroom and outside of curriculum time.  How have top brands found success through schools?

The most important thing a brand can do to ensure success is to make sure that whatever thru school program they are doing brings real value to the end user whether it be teachers or students or parents. “Often times brands come to us with what they perceive to be a compelling program or offer and they are missing the most important ingredient. What is in it for the PTO group?” says Driscoll.  School Family Media actually has a litmus test they use for their clients that makes sure there is a very clear and direct benefit to these groups in terms of providing tools or resources that help them connect with and engage parents and families at their school.  “It can be as simple as providing samples of a healthy snack. For example we just did a program with Chiquita where they provided groups with free samples to share with parents/families (along with coupons) at PTO and PTA hosted events (i.e. Family Movie Nights) of their new Chiquita Fruit Bites,” says Driscoll.  “The snacks made the event even better for the groups and Chiquita had the opportunity to provide sampling and coupon distribution into a highly targeted market segment as well as the halo effect and implied endorsement that comes from providing the program through the school environment.”

Another key ingredient to success?  Make sure the program is long term.  “Brands will best be served if they avoid trying to do short term promotions or programs and make more of a long–term year to year commitment where schools and parents come to associate the brand with helping schools and students.”  Driscoll sites such popular programs as General Mills’ “Box Tops for Education” and Target’s “Take Charge of Education”.  In both cases, the brands have made it easy for moms to help their schools through purchasing specific products and/or using a proprietary credit card.  In addition to being highly successful at building brand awareness, the programs have also helped the brands increase market share and revenue.

As experts in helping brands with their thru-school marketing strategies, what is School Family Media’s next exciting project?  “We are in the midst of developing what we are calling our Healthy School Kids Program. In essence it’s a network of PTO and PTA groups at K-8 schools who are interested in providing their parents with information, tools and resources that help them keep their kids healthy and thriving and successful in school.”  School Family Media will be providing health and wellness brands with several unique vehicles including Healthy School Kids Sampling and ‘Thrive’ Healthy School Kids custom publications.