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Millennial Parents Navigate Disruptive Innovation Strategy in K-12 Education

Frozen Food Brands are Taking a Bite out of this 57 Million Student Market Opportunity

It’s never been a better time for brands to develop disruptive innovation strategy than now. For Millennial parents, their world is filled with disruption, especially regarding their children’s education. Frozen food brands are helping Millennial Mom fill the nutrition gap in her tightly-packed schedule.

Growth in Disruptive Innovation Strategy Educational Approaches Prior to COVID-19

Before COVID-19 disrupted traditional classroom education in March 2020, a number of disruptive trends had been rising for years among families with K-12 students. These included public charter schools (estimated at 3-4 million students), home schooling  (estimated at 1.8-2 million students) and more distance learning complementing traditional classrooms.  One expert on the topic wrote in 2017:

Disruptive innovation…isn’t going to replace traditional schools…All types of schools- traditional and charter alike – stand to benefit from this disruption as it amplifies the capacity of their teachers to better serve their students.”

Millennial Parents Less Satisfied in 2020 with School’s “Online First” Education Strategy

Fast forward to the 2020 school year, and we find that K-12 parents, many of whom are Millennials, are less satisfied with their child’s education. It’s an open question how taking all or most of their classes online is impacting the 57 million K-12 students in the US.  

While it could be that the online classroom is the ideal training for future work and life needs, and that early exposure to online learning may help a greater number of today’s K-12 students gain proficiency or thrive, parents are skeptical.

Moreover, there are huge differences by income level in satisfaction and online access. In 2018, a Walton Family Foundation study found that almost 40% of Millennial parents said their child was only getting a fair or poor education. And 56% of Millennial parents earning less than $30,000 per year said that their child’s school is fair or poor, while only 10% of Millennial parents earning over $125,000 were critical of their child’s school.

Reading and Supporting Literacy: Access to Age-Appropriate Books

Millennial Parents Navigate Disruptive Innovation Strategy in K-12 Education

Access to age-appropriate books (and use of those books) is a time-tested strategy supporting reading. 

So, does a Millennial parent who is schooling from home in 2020 have access to age-appropriate books to use?

According to Reading to Kids, a Los Angeles based non-profit that I’ve volunteered for, the answer, is “no” for many low-income students. 61% of low-income homes do not have age-appropriate reading materials for children.   

Millennial Parents Prefer Online Reading, but Reading Comprehension Can Suffer

Among adults, reading mainly online (rather than from a book) can impact how we read and think, so we become better at “power browsing” and worse at “deep” connections. 

Many Millennial parents prefer online reading for themselves.  A 2019 meta analysis across studies found that reading comprehension is greater from reading printed material than online, (note that the study author personally prefers reading online), and there is a tendency to “read too fast” and “consistently overestimate… reading comprehension.” 

Parents Reading Aloud to Children: How Well Suited to Screen Time?

Millennial Parents Navigate Disruptive Innovation Strategy in K-12 Education

The important practice of a parent reading aloud to his/her child can be done from a book or a device with a screen. This allows the Millennial parent to stick to their preferred medium, the phone.

While the book itself suggests reading as the activity, the phone or tablet does not. It’s an open question as to how many Millennial parents read aloud to their children from mobile phones, computers, or tablets, as  compared to reading from books. 

Classroom Educational Strategy of Practicing Reading Aloud by Students: How Well Supported in Online World?

Another study found that the time honored practice of having students practicing by reading aloud in the classroom in a “purposeful, intentional” way should be given more emphasis in elementary classrooms, especially among students who are struggling to read.

To make this happen without a book, the student will need to read from the screen. When schooling and learning to read at home online, does the K-12 student have access to a screen larger than a mobile phone to dial into their classes?  Do they have a reliable Internet connection?    

Educational Strategy of Writing with a Pencil or Pen on Paper…Fewer Reps?

And then there’s writing. I well remember arriving on Cornell’s Ithaca campus in summer 2014 and the dean of students saying his big tip for students was: “write it down” (his big tip for parents was “leave.”)  He encouraged students to “write it down” because there is research showing this is better for encoding the information.

In fact, Millennial parents, their children, and other adult learners alike are encouraged to take notes with pen or pencil on paper to better retain the information.  

However, my hunch is that far less notebooks, pens and pencils were purchased this fall for K-12 students who are schooling completely online or partially online.

Parents Care about their Child’s Education. Moms Have a Higher Standard

Marketing to Moms Coalition quantitative research found that both Millennial moms and dads rate the quality of their child’s education as quite important.  But moms rate education quality even more highly, giving education quality a 9 or 10 rating (out of a maximum of 10) while dads gave education quality a 7 or 8.

Moreover, Millennial moms are more likely than dads to be the ones providing support at home for schooling, along with the food fuel required (i.e., breakfast, lunch, snacks) for their student to power through the  at home school day. 

Frozen Foods’ Disruptive Innovation Strategy for Millennial Moms

Millennial Parents Navigate Disruptive Innovation Strategy in K-12 Education

Brands are well advised to focus on Millennial Mom with disruptive innovation strategy that meets the disruption in their lives.  While this might seem obvious for brands directly in the education space, there is a major opportunity for food and other brands to tie in.

Frozen food sales are at an all time high and the American Frozen Food Institute is encouraging moms:

“ Working from home with children in the house since March has had its challenges. Now, add staying on top of your kids’ distant learning during the workday? That stretches your bandwidth even further and, no, we’re not referring to your download speed. Ensuring your kids have a healthy, filling lunch can be tough under the best of circumstances. Let frozen foods optimize your bandwidth.”

What’s Your Brand’s Approach to Disruptive Innovation Strategy in Education?

21% of Millennial parents believe the purpose of education is to prepare students with life and social skills needed for adulthood.   Millennial parents will reward brands that have strategies to meet their needs in the disrupted K-12 education market.  Frozen foods provide just one example.  There will be many more.

What’s your brand’s approach to disruptive innovation strategy?

To learn more about Insight to Action’s research-based approaches to brand and innovation strategy, contact us.