Beyond Back-to-School Spending: Teachers Are Brand Loyal

School spending is big business. Teachers spend an estimated $1.75 billion per year on school supplies from classroom budgets and out-of-pocket expenditures. And marketers know teachers—and parents—spend a lot of their own money on school-related products and services.

In a previous post, I talked about the trend of teacher out-of-pocket spending on school supplies for their classroom. In this post, I’ll dive into more detail on the findings from our latest research on teachers’ school supply purchases and why brands and retailers should pay attention to this consumer segment.

Supply Lists Are a Guide for Brands and Retailers

School supply lists can serve as a useful guide for the products teachers and parents are buying, down to the specifi­c brands and the retail outlets and stores where they shop.

Teachers are a brand loyal group and often have a list of tried-and-true brands of school supplies. In fact, 73% of teachers said they sometimes, usually, or always include specific brands on their school supply lists. Some of the most commonly requested brands are: Crayola, Play-Doh, Elmer’s, Fiskars, Expo, and USA Gold. Requests go beyond instructional supplies, and those, too, are often requested by brand, like Ziploc, Lysol, and Kleenex.

77% of teachers usually shop at their favorite stores because they carry the brands they like.

Our Teachers As Consumers research found that teachers prefer to shop at big-box discount and department stores, including Walmart, Target, Dollar Tree, Kohl’s, and Costco. Many of these types of stores have official partnerships with school districts, and some allow teachers to post their supply lists or even wish lists directly on their website, making it easy for parents or the teachers themselves to purchase products directly from the brand’s website (think a wedding or baby registry).

some schools have retail partnerships

When Are School Supplies Purchased?

Marketers often allocate their sales and marketing efforts to one distinct “back-to-school season.” And although lists are released over the summer, so classrooms are ready the first day of schools,  our research found buying decisions and purchases are being made all year round.From budgeting plans and product recommendations to instructional materials and school supplies, teachers are always evaluating and consuming. Plus, more decisions and purchases are being made by classroom teachers, both with school budgets and out-of-pockets funds.

Though most school supply lists are finalized between March-June, and distributed to parents over the summer, the back-to-school selling season starts long before August AND school purchasing continues throughout the school year.

school supply purchase decisions

Teachers are Looking for Brands to Provide Supplemental Resources

Teachers request an average of 18 items total on school supply lists, and each school has an average of 6 different school supply lists (taking into consideration separate lists per grade, and for art, music).  Get on the coveted list by being a preferred brand for teachers.  How can you gain the attention of a teacher? 

Get in touch all year long, since decisions and purchases are being made not just during the traditional back-to-school season. But don’t limit your communications to product promotions. Brands should be reaching out to teachers with helpful materials all year long. How can your product be integrated into a science project or craft? What ingredients is your product made from and how can students learn from your brand?

Create free supplemental resources for teachers to use in the classroom like posters or videos or providing educational guides or articles to help teachers do their job better. It pays to win over teachers’ trust and support; they have a strong influence over their extended community of students, peers, and families who hold their opinions with high regard.

61% of teachers report they have shown their support for a product, service, or company by becoming a “fan,” “friend,” or “follower.”

Brands like Lysol, Elmer’s, and Quill are doing exactly that by working with MDR’s leading media brand for educators, WeAreTeachers, to craft unique campaigns for teachers and ultimately turn them into loyal customers.

Check out our Beyond Back-to-School Infographic to learn more about school and teacher spending and how your brand can capture the attention of educators!