Here it is late-July… hotter than Hell. Literally.
More than 35 years ago, I remember my marching band re-grouping and beginning another season.
We would gather together early in the morning and practice no later than 9am to avoid the summer Georgia heat.
Back then the school year would begin around the third week of August.
The newspapers right now are full of the Back-to-School ads. The commercial breaks on cable nets from Cartoon Network to TLC to Nick at Night are filled with Back-to-School spots.
When I went over to Target to pick up some items the other day, the seasonal section of the shop had transformed from outdoor furniture and gardening supplies to notebooks, backpacks and iPad computer cases.
Soon school will be back in session and the morning rush hour traffic congestion will be back in full force… but at least the kids will be gone from the Starbucks I venture to for my morning coffee.
Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal had a great article about how colleges are putting in programs to manage the “let go” point between new students and their helicopter parents.
The title of the article read: “Helping Mom and Dad Let Go”
It was fun reading it.
The article very directly quotes college leadership that the issue of the helicopter parents is rooted more deeply with the parent’s inability to let go than the student’s dependency on the parent.
The article features a picture of a young son smiling and a parent sobbing at an orientation gathering where the new students are being dismissed to go be students.
I would not be surprised if that son is not whistling, “free at last, free at last.”
And if not that tune… then “100 bottles of beer on the walk, 100 bottles of beer…”
Rodney Johnson, executive director of parent services at George Washington University is quoted in the article about the challenge at-hand…
“Our job is to take the gas out of the helicopter, so that by the time their children become seniors, that helicopter is grounded, and the students can take care of themselves.”
I will never forget how several students in the classes I have taught have shown up regularly with their moms tagging along.
I also will never forget answering my cell phone one evening and having a parent demanding that I share their child’s test score before the child received the grades the next morning.
On more than a dozen occasions, I have had to explain to a parent that they have no right to know their child’s grades…their child is an adult and they have a right to privacy.
More than 90% of colleges and universities have specific staff teams designed around helping the helicopter parents cut those cords.
Twenty years ago, parent-specific programs were rare and hard-to-find.
I know for academic institutions there are little positive outcomes from this Boomer-Millennial co-dependency phenomenon.
BUT… marketers… there are opportunities for you!
(1) Concierge service is an opportunity point of entry with Millennials groomed by their helicopter parents. Without a question, W Hotels might have been the first ones to see the future unfold as their brand foundation support beam.
(2) Personal, real, human assistance is driving Millennials to use travel agents. Millennials post the highest use of travel agents of any generational group… even more than their grandparents.
(3) Retailers should chuck the term “salesperson” and put on the hat of “personal assistant” to help the Millennials pick out everything from their wardrobe to new home décor… and just FYI… we are talking about the retail salesperson working at the Target-like retailers…not the custom tailor shops!
(4) Healthcare players… everything from docs to doc-in-the-boxes to dieticians should be jumping at the chance to transform from care-givers to fitness coaches. Obama-care pays for “proactive wellness” and healthcare players need to take hold of the Millennials whose helicopter moms are still making the lunches to take to work.
There are even more great opportunities and I would list them out… but then again, those ideas can be a great revenue source for EXPERIENCE over the course of the next several years!
Its hard to believe that it has now been close to 10 years ago, but my comrade Hope Schultz and I took on a project back then of a new bedding product that primarily was targeted to college students.
We went out and spoke with students at Northwestern, Vanderbilt and the University of Georgia.
While the key insight uncovered in the chat groups with the kids signaled great opportunity for our client… now that I think back about it, maybe that key insight could be used today in those university parent services program.
Those helicopter moms and dads just cannot let go.
BUT alas, the bedding those kids sleep on each and every day and night on campus just might be a parental calling.
The key insight we uncovered?
The average male student changes the sheets on their bed… once a year.
The average female student changes the sheets on their bed… once a semester.
I am not making up what we heard.
If I were a helicopter mom right now… I would be dashing over to Target and buying up several sets of sheets, a 5 gallon jug of detergent, overnight shipping boxes and pre-paid return envelops…
Sounds like a great “back-to-school” promotional opportunity to me.